I have an amazing group of friends who love me unconditionally, but they never fully understood my decision to stand by my fiancé who was incarcerated. He served a long sentence in federal prison. They cautioned that I was missing out on many experiences as I waited, but never lectured me. I always defended our relationship, telling friends that we had a plan and I had many happy years with him to make up for it. If only I could have seen the future.
Within five days of his release to a halfway house on the opposite coast, he decided he needed freedom. He abandoned and cheated on me never to be heard from again. My friends showered me with comfort and love. However, I didn’t feel like they could relate to my situation. They didn’t know what it was like to become institutionalized right alongside your partner. For years, I lived by visiting room rules, government-monitored emails and 15-minute phone calls. I did that time with him, and none of my friends have ever been in that situation.
I didn’t know who to turn to. So I did some Internet research and came across a website dedicated to prison wives. This site had a forum for break ups among prison wives and girlfriends, and their loved ones. These women understood the broken promises and the betrayal. They too had waited for that special day when their husband or boyfriend would be released. Many of us had been involved with prior gang members, drug users or career criminals.
I finally felt normal among this group of women. We were all at various phases of the grieving process. I read their stories and felt their heartbreak. Each woman had her own tale of sorrow: a man that came home for a month then left her for a younger woman after she waited on him for 10 years; a woman who waited five years then drove eight hours for his release only to have sex with him and never hear from him again. I read through their stories and then decided to post my own. It was the first time I publicly told my story, admitted that it was over, that I had been used and abandoned by the person I was most loyal to.
In total, I received 119 public messages along with numerous private messages from some very special women. I had women from all over the USA, Europe and even Australia uplifting me, sending words of encouragement from the bottom of their hearts. I was no longer alone. I had found a sisterhood. These women were my biggest cheerleaders.
Having this support system was crucial for my healing. They encouraged me to wake up every morning and keep moving forward. They were blunt and honest about my situation but also compassionate. On days when I wanted to look at his Facebook page or contact him, they kept me strong, reminding me that I was only prolonging the grieving process.
I realize now that there are times when we all need support, and it might just come from sources we never imagined. I bonded with these women, these strangers, due to our intense loyalty and love toward men that were never worthy of us. I owe my sanity to this special group of women as they pulled me through the worst moments of my life by simply existing as a united front on the Internet. I’ve learned to not leave another woman behind. We need to stick together, to encourage, empower and uplift one another during our struggles. For every hardship you face in life there is another woman facing the same who would welcome and needs a friend.