Dating someone who just got out of jail comes with some unique challenges – it’s far from a ‘normal’ relationship.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have an awesome relationship and build your perfect future together though.
It’s going to take a little patience and understanding, but as long as you’re open to helping them adjust to life on the outside, I’m sure it’ll work out.
Here are 11 tips to help when dating someone who just got out of jail and they’re adjusting to freedom and being in a relationship:
11 Tips When Dating Someone Who Just Got Out of Jail
1. It’s Going to Take Them Time to Adjust, Be Patient
The most important role you can play is that of being patient.
Doing time behind bars is tough, even for short stays. It has a huge impact on people mentally, and adjusting to life outside is incredibly difficult.
Even some of the things we take for granted such as using a smartphone, talking about movies, experiences, etc, may be things they can’t relate to.
This makes ex-prisoners feel isolated and out of touch with society.
It’s going to take time for them to form new habits and become part of society and the local community.
As long as you’re there to provide support and reassure them that everything is going to work out, I’m sure it will.
2. Most Inmates Experience Depression when Released
Depression and mental health issues are extremely common among prisoners and ex-prisoners.
Part of the reason is that they may feel isolated from family and friends, have trouble finding a job, and face discrimination on a daily basis.
This can lead to them feeling like they’re not good enough or that they don’t belong in society.
Another reason is that they’ve been locked up and confined to a small space and set rules for a long time.
The human brain is negatively affected by social isolation and this results in a person’s general mental health declining.
3. They May Struggle with Communication
In prison, men, in particular, do not have anyone to communicate with on a deep or personal level.
Sure they have other inmates and sometimes a cellmate they get on well with. But generally speaking, it’s seen as a sign of weakness for a man behind bars to open up.
So, you’re going to have to be patient and accept the fact that when dating an ex-inmate they may not open up and talk to you for some time.
This often gives the impression that they’re not interested romantically and is difficult for a lot of people to see past.
But if you’re into this person, it’s worth working with them on their communication issues and helping them get to the point where they feel comfortable opening up.
4. They May Struggle with Affection
Another issue that is common with ex-prisoners is that they find it difficult to be affectionate.
You have to take into account that they’ve been locked up without any form of physical contact with the opposite sex.
On top of this, they’ve also likely had to put on a tough front and suppress their sensitive side around other prisoners.
This is often one of the main reasons dating an ex-con doesn’t work. Hopefully, they’ll open up to you and explain how they feel so you can work through it.
5. They Will Be Tempted to Fall Back Into Bad Habits
One of the most difficult things ex-prisoners face is staying away from the old habits that got them in trouble in the first place.
Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, gambling, or something else – it’s going to be a temptation they’ll have to face every day.
You need to be supportive and understanding to try and help them resist bad temptations, while also being firm in your expectations.
You could also easily end up involved in their risky behaviors if you’re not careful, too.
6. Don’t Be Offended if They Want to Spend Time Alone
You’re going to have all the buzz and excitement of being in a new relationship and want to spend all your time with your partner getting to know them.
But don’t be surprised – or offended – if they’re withdrawn and want to be alone more than they want to spend time with you.
This doesn’t mean they’re not as excited as you are to hang out and get to know you better, it’s the result of being institutionalized.
Ex-prisoners have become conditioned to being alone and spending time with themselves.
No matter how much more they enjoy spending time with you, the effect of being locked up takes time to shake off.
7. The Struggle To Not Reoffend Is Real
When someone’s been in prison, it’s not as simple as just getting out and never looking back.
There’s a real struggle that goes on to try and make sure they don’t re-offend.
The recidivism rate in the US is around 60% and more than 50% of ex-inmates find themselves going back to prison.
This is because the majority of prisoners are released back into the same environment they were in before they went to jail and they don’t have a strong support network.
You will play a huge role in helping them to not re-offend. It’s often a big responsibility to shoulder, and something you need to be prepared for.
8. Society Might Not Be As Accepting
You might be willing to give your partner a chance and understand that they’re not the same person they were when they committed their crime.
But society, in general, might not be so forgiving.
You could find yourself the target of discrimination and judgment because of who you’re dating.
This is something you need to be prepared for and accept that it might happen.
There is also the added complication that you might come across people in the community that were victims or affected by their crimes.
Everyone has a past, and in the case of ex-cons, their pasts tend to have a larger ripple effect and follow them around.
9. Your Friends and Family Need to Be Understanding
You might find that your friends and family are judgmental and not very accepting of the fact you’re dating an ex-prisoner.
This is something you need to be prepared for and accept that it’s their problem, not yours.
It can be difficult to stand up to family and friends, but you should do what feels right for you.
Remember, as long as you’re happy with your decision, then that’s all that matters.
10. They Might Be Demanding
Ex-prisoners are used to getting their own way and having things done for them.
So when they’re released, they might expect the same from you.
Take into account that they might not have anything and you – like a lot of ex-cons’ partners – find themselves giving more than they receive.
This can be anything from financial support to helping out with day-to-day tasks, to just expecting you to do everything for them.
It’s important to set boundaries and expectations early on so they know what is and isn’t acceptable.
11. They Might Not Be Able to Get a Job
This is one of the biggest problems facing ex-prisoners and it only adds to the pressures you face as a couple.
Not being able to get a job can lead to all sorts of other problems, like financial difficulty and not being able to support themselves.
It also means they might have a lot of time on their hands which can lead to boredom and getting into trouble.
You need to be prepared for the fact that you might have to support them financially and that their job prospects might be limited.
Image credits – Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.