One in every 34 adults in the United States has been incarcerated, is currently incarcerated or is under supervision of some kind by the Department of Corrections, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Therefore, if you are dating there is a possibility you will run across a man with a record or one that has been recently incarcerated. Understanding some of the possible issues that you may face will be key to dating success.
Patience Is Important
If someone has been incarcerated many times, over a long period of time it can affect his emotional maturity. He may lack the ability to communicate effectively, meet other people’s needs, manage his anger or even form attachments. Being honest about your concerns is important, but nagging, yelling or sulking can cause a bigger problem. Try not discussing issues until you have had time to calm down and think about the possible reasons for his behavior.
Provide Security and Comfort
You may want dating to be adventurous and like to change things up to keep it interesting. However, someone that has been incarcerated for a long time or many times may find change difficult to deal with. Keep in mind he probably had the same schedule in prison, hung out with the same people, had very few decisions to make and was constantly being told what to do. So keeping a set routine can help him feel comfortable. You may think getting out of prison would be the happiest day of his life, but it is actually very stressful. Re-learning even simple things like how to use a cell phone can be overwhelming. Now that he is out of prison, being sensitive to his needs for respect and privacy can help him feel secure with you.
Consider Mental Health
Undiagnosed mental health issues are a common problem in the prison population. About 56 percent of state prisoners have mental health issues, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That doesn't mean that 56 percent have serious problems, just that they may suffer from some form of mental health issue. If you notice your boyfriend is having difficulties, then suggest counseling; offer to go with him to talk to someone. Even just reading articles together on possible causes of his feelings would be a positive way to support him.
Don't Take Manipulation Personally
Manipulation can be part of an inmate’s daily life, even if it is just to get a larger serving of food or is done to maintain personal safety. This can translate into manipulating family, friends and partners when he gets out. It becomes a habit and is therefore not always done on purpose. Lying, or just omitting information, can be considered manipulation as well. While these issues can be trying and difficult to understand, if you understand the root cause and try not to take it personally, it can help unnecessary arguments or hurt feelings.
Based in Spokane, Wash., Stacey Denny has been writing articles since 2005 in the "Los Angeles Times" and for various websites. She has been working with men and women transitioning from prison to help them rebuild their lives. She is a certified family development specialist and owns her own transitional living house.
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