In the first two years of her husband’s incarceration, Monica wrote two to three letters a day. She sent numerous cards, books, magazines, and lots of money. She couldn’t afford these things, but felt compelled to send them. She sat by the phone, stalked the mail carrier, and rarely left the house. She handled all of his affairs. Monica drove ten hours round trip every two weeks for a one-hour visit and did so cheerfully even on an hour or two of sleep. When Monica was from away home, all calls were forwarded to her cell. She’d promised her husband she would always be there for him and doing so meant never missing a call.
One Sunday morning, while warming up for Sunday worship, Monica realized she’d forgotten her phone. With ten minutes left before the start of Sunday service, she ditched her commitment to lead worship and went home to retrieve it. The possibly of missing a call was too great. Monica ate, breathed and slept; commissary, visits, calls. She never went out with friends and even stopped taking their calls for fear of holding up the line, despite having call waiting.
Forgetting to take her phone off vibrate, after leaving class one night, Monica missed her husband’s call. Though her husband understood, Monica was devastated. She’d failed him. She felt, she’d let him down.
Monica was in the advance stages of “Super Spouse Syndrome”.
Super powers are necessary when dealing with an incarcerated partner such as being: clairvoyant, omnipresent and equip with powers of persuasion. Super Spouse Syndrome forces us to try to fix the side-effects of incarceration. Though many of us do no set out to be a “super spouse”, along the way something kicks in and we are driven to idealism and perfection. Before you know it, we are attempting to leap tall prison sentences in a single bound. How is a super spouse created?
- Naysayers- People who doubt we can do it. Friends, family, or that inner voice. We feel as if we have something to prove and we work to validate our position– “Nothing is going to stop our love”.
- Time- We try to make up for “lost” time. We feel as if we owe it to them; overcompensation.
- Pressure- Comparing ourselves to other wives. Opinionated friends and family. Keeping up with Joneses. We have a sense of obligation; this is what we are “supposed” to do.
- Traditions- Add to all of this the “traditional” role of wife, girlfriend, or partner; one who lovingly cares for, respects and encourages their partner, fixes their ill-wills, shows them affection, and passionately loves them; a homemaker, who joyfully does chores, raises kids, and doesn’t complain.
Weeks later, Monica missed her daily post office drop. It wasn’t enough to have the mail carrier pick up her letters. She had to physically drop them in the mailbox. Monica was frustrated with the $500 phone bills and the rigors of living a married life on a single girl’s income. The proverbial “S” on her chest was fading and the real Monica was shining through.
Being a super spouse is not without its consequences. We will experience:
- Stress- The demands outweigh the resources we have to deal with it.
- Fatigue/Burn Out- Stress drains our energy. We don’t sleep. We push ourselves to do everything NOW. We don’t allow time to refuel.
- Anxiety- We fear we are not meeting up to expectations. We are not doing things “right”.
- Discouragement/Depression/Doubt- We are worn down emotional with worry, stress, anxiety; We feel hopeless. Can we really do this?
- Anger/Resentment- We began to resent the reasons for our stress.
Super spousers are always on the edge of a melt-down. Minor incidents become a crisis. The good news—Super Spouse Syndrome is easy to cure.
- Talk to your partner. Ask their expectations. You may find you are doing far more than what they require. If two letters a week are acceptable and you are writing five, let go of three. Accept his input. If you seek to do more than what is necessary for his happiness, examine the reasons why.
- Learn how to say “no”. As in any relationship, using the word no is acceptable. Stop creating impossible ideals; have a relationship not powered by incarceration. Ask yourself is it realistic to say yes to everything?
- Push back peer pressure- People love giving advice. Keep the inner workings of your relationship to yourself. Note: The wives you are emulating are probably in the midst of the syndrome and in case you haven’t heard, the Joneses are faking it.
- Take a day “off”- Spend the day doing nothing. Pamper yourself. All things prison related is off limits. Decompress.
- Prepare for a non-perfect life.
Monica equated the amount of work she put in to her efforts with how much she loved. The demands of her earlier routine were not something she could maintain over time, nor something her husband expected. Five years later, Monica writes whenever she feels the need, whether one letter a week or a month. She visits when finances allow and their every day calls have been scaled back to a more manageable level. She has achieved perfectionism within her reality. “Super spouse” Monica was trying to cram years in to minutes, now she uses minutes to create moments within the years.
Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a regular woman doing extraordinary things. All super heros have weaknesses that do not make them any less super. We have to find a balance that works for us, when fighting the never ending battle of truth, justice, and the prison way.
Are you suffering from Super Spouse Syndrome?
Join us tonight on blogtalkradio as we discuss this.