'My Husband Is In Prison, How Do I Tell Him I Want To End Our Marriage?'

"I don’t think I’ll ever feel for him like I once did."
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Long-distance relationships are tough, even more so if your partner is in prison. And doubly so, if you were having issues with trust and commitment beforehand.

Time away from your other half may make you reconsider the relationship. This week’s reader, Amy, has decided to call it quits with her husband.

“My husband and I have been together for over 10 years during this time he has cheated on me twice. First when we were still just boyfriend and girlfriend, with the mother of his child, and then about six months after we got married. I chose to forgive him,” Amy shares.

“The second time he cheated he got hooked on drugs and ended up picking up some charges and now is serving three years prison time. He has been incarcerated for about a year and a half.

“During this time I have started to lose feelings and can’t stop thinking about his infidelity. I know this is a bad time to tell him I want a divorce, but I’m not happy. We share two children together. I don’t think I’ll ever feel for him like I once did and I no longer want to be his wife. How do I express this to him?”

Clearly Amy has decided she does not want to continue with the marriage, so how can she break this to her husband who is in prison?

Counselling Directory member Katerina Georgiou tells Amy that it’s first worth acknowledging how complex and distressing this situation is “and it’s a credit to you that you care about it enough to write in and find support.”

What would you say to this reader?

Georgiou wants Amy to know that her feelings are valid and there’s nothing more excruciating than feeling like you’re living a lie and continuing on as if things don’t matter when they do. “On the other hand, you’re mindful of how this might impact him in the predicament he’s in. What I can gather from what you’re saying in your message is that you care,” she says.

Counselling Directory member Deborah holder thinks Amy should have a conversation with her partner before making any decisions. “Before acting on your decision to end the relationship it may help to talk through your feelings towards your partner with someone else” she says.

As an alternative, you may find it helpful to write a letter to your husband that you do not intend to send,” Holder adds.

“The exercise of putting your thoughts into writing may help you to clarify how you feel, focus on the most important parts of the problem and also try out ways of saying things that you are afraid you will find hard to express.”

How can she communicate to her partner that she wants to end the marriage even though he’s in prison?

Holder explains that communication is a huge problem for those with loved one in prisons. They’re often far away and many people can’t always afford to travel to other end of the country to visit.

“In practical terms you may want to let your partner know in advance that you have something important to discuss when you visit,” she says.

“While you have been grappling with this for some time, he may not be aware that there is a problem or that the problem is this serious.

“Try to be honest as possible with yourself and your partner. A misleading narrative will not be helpful in the long run even if it feels like a solution now. Is his infidelity the reason for ending the relationship? Or have you fallen out of love for a complex range of reasons including but not only an early loss of trust.”

Though it may be difficult, Georgiou emphasises that there’s infrastructure in place to support people in prisons. “Most prisons have in-reach therapy services, from one-on-one and group therapy, access to support helplines and opportunities to speak to trained fellow listeners trained on the Samaritans Listener scheme,” she says. “All this to say, don’t fear he won’t be supported.”

How does a partner being in prison affect a relationship?

Holder says that a partner going to prison can create an imbalance in the relationship. “The gap between their respective day-to-day life experiences is wide, while one person’s life continues and the other finds theirs on hold,” she says.

“This creates a huge imbalance in the relationship as each person deals with very different challenges that the other may find hard to understand.”

Holder continues: “The biggest impact of a prison sentence is loss – loss of emotional connection, loss of physical intimacy, loss of financial stability, loss of trust, of a sense of safety and sometimes loss of status in the community or of faith in the system.”

Georgiou believes it depends on the nature of the relationship in the first place and what criminal charge they’re on.

“A destructive or poor relationship won’t suddenly become better with time and distance,” she says, “and likewise, a relationship that was loving can grow stronger as time apart gives both parties time to reflect.”

Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK

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