Families of the incarcerated look forward to the release date but reunification isn’t always smooth and easy. In this post, we discuss the challenges wives face when husbands are released and provide tips to overcome them.
Two factors contribute to the challenges the wife faces. One is difficult past experiences with her husband and the other is her expanded role in the family during his incarceration.
To reunite successfully, the couple should understand that things have changed and they themselves are now different people. Their family too has changed as children grow older. Husband and wife will have to renegotiate their roles in the family and if they are not on the same page, reunification may not be successful.
Communication: While he is in prison, the couple will need to work together to maintain their relationship as a couple. Staying in communication will be a challenge for both, but especially for the wife who now has more on her plate.
Wife’s role is now bigger: With her husband away, the wife has to care for her children and their home, in most cases, alone. She needs to make decisions without the support of her partner. Mom also is now the sole person responsible for the preservation, strengthening and ultimate growth of the family. She is taking on a lot and this makes her a stronger mother and braver person in general.
Husband’s role is now less: In prison, her husband is in a new environment with different rules and its own challenges. He is no longer providing for the physical needs of his family and can no longer provide emotional support in the way he was used to.
Preparing for reunification
Reunification as a goal: Preparing for reunification should start from the time of incarceration. If possible, the couple should agree to work towards reunification. This helps them to look to the future. It would lessen the pain of separation, even if incarceration is lengthy.
Keeping the family together: Incarceration can be stressful for the children and mom maintains the family while the father is incarcerated, by nurturing the mental and emotional health of the children.
When dad returns, the entire family can focus on reunifying as the family has persevered and grown positively. If she is successful in keeping the family strong, the issues that may occur at reunification will be less.
After the husband’s return
Practice patience and listen: The couple should remember their experiences during the husband’s incarceration were very different. Patience is needed to learn what each other went through and it may be very difficult to talk through the experiences.
Communicate: As a couple, they may need to relearn how to communicate. Carving out time to reconnect away from family and friends after he comes home to give yourselves time to reunite.
Manage expectations: Both husband and wife may have different expectations of what happens after reunification as life is now different. Before reunification, counseling is helpful to prepare the couple and the family. Having conversations about the future helps to manage expectations.
Take time to adjust: The husband will need time to adjust to life outside of prison. It might be very different on the outside depending on the length of incarceration. Kids will be older and they are going to need special time to reconnect with their dad.
Renegotiate roles: For the wife, the change of role after reunification may be the biggest challenge. Her responsibilities when her comes home will change because now it will be a shared partnership once again. More importantly, her husband will be relearning his role in the family, and compromises will be key as the couple readjusts to being a family unit.
When reunification isn’t desirable
Some families completely sever contacts with the incarcerated person for reasons like moral issues around incarceration or domestic abuse. Reunification is sometimes undesirable but the father may have the right to a relationship with his children. Go to the National Domestic Violence hotline for help or call 1-800-799-7233.
Do you you need more information about family reunification support in Illinois? Do you have questions about what we shared in this post? Please use our Building Families Together contact form. You can also email us at email@example.com or call (630) 465-4268. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through the links at the top of this page. Find out more about our Fatherhood Reentry Program on our Services page of our website.