Today is a pretty nice day, I plan to take a walk to a nearby park and maybe sit out and think about some things. 

Times like this remind me of how nice it is to be free, and sometimes I think of guys I knew while I was incarcerated. It was several years ago since I was in prison, but it is a part of me that will forever define me.
 And because of that, I care about guys in prison who need help, but I also care about those on the outside that have loved ones in prison. So when I blog, I try to give you both sides, understanding that there are two sides to a story.
 Last night I got a couple of emails from some readers that told me about the relationships they had with a loved one in prison. A couple of days ago I made a friend on myspace who told me about her relationship with an ex offender.
 Those two stories did not end well, as both seem to have both dissolved.
 When I read something like that, I pay attention to what the person is saying, and how the relationship failed. The pattern seems to be the same, something I have seen many times, and it get me very disappointed. I really feel sorry for that person who wanted to help a guy in prison, only to be let down.
 And then I get upset, because I KNOW that there are a lot of guys in prison who are using people outside of prison. Not all of them, but for every one that does, it reinforces the stereotype that every guy in prison is using a woman to get what he wants…until he gets out of prison.
 I have readers that do have successful relationships with an ex offender, but if you asked me to give you a percentage of those that work to those that don’t, I might say about 30% work, and 70% does not.
 Why? I think one reason is because sometimes the person on the outside did not guard their love.
 “What do you mean by that”
 Let me explain…and oh, if you don’t like reading long posts, you need to go ahead and leave now…this one may be long, but it will be as long as I can blog this out.
 There is a saying that I heard that seems to fit perfectly with this situation; I am going to say it then discuss it in relations of prison relationships. That saying is this:
 Giving is the best form of loveNow immediately some of you are going to get this confused, because you are thinking about material giving, and there is a lot of truth to it, but because we are talking about a prison relationship, there are exceptions to that. Sure, you can GIVE your loved one in prison a card, or GIVE him some money, or GIVE him a magazine subscription, or even GIVE him your time to call you at your expense.
 But prison love goes much, much deeper than that. It has to be a two-way street, not a one-way street. You give that man your love and attention and material items… so what does he give you?
 If giving is the best form of love, how does your man show you that? Now, here is something that needs to be addressed…SAYING “I love you” does NOT always mean that he loves you.
 “But he’s giving me his word”
 Yeah, so what’s his word worth?
 I can tell you anything if it gets me what I want, because if I think you believe me, then I might be able to use that to my advantage. An inmate can tell 10 women that he loves them, but he is giving them his worthless word. And let’s be sure, it is worthless if his heart is not into it.
 I don’t like arguing against inmates because I have been there and I know how bad it is, but I cannot defend an inmate who takes advantage of a person who is giving them part of their life for him. It makes me mad because that makes it harder for me to do what I am trying to do. The word of an ex offender becomes less and less with every ex offender who uses a person for their own gain.
 That pisses me off, because I’m trying to do my best to help, but it becomes harder to get support because people have been “burned” by ex offenders.
 So how can you read the signs? How can you avoid this problem before it happens? You go back to that saying, “Giving is the best form of love”, and apply that to your man.
 There are two sides to a relationship; you and him. And a successful relationship has to be about 50/50. Understand this though, it does not always have to be 50/50, because there are going to be times where your other half falls, and you have to be there to help him, just as you would want that help if you fell. It’s called support.
 But when you look at a prison relationship, you have heavy restrictions on what you can expect. But that does not change the fact that you still expect him to give you some form of his love. Otherwise, where is his love for you?
 I said this to some people with prison relationships, and I want to continue to say it, look at the fruit of your relationship with him. When you are in contact with him during phonecalls, visits or letters, what are you getting out of him? If you are sowing love and encouragement, are you getting that back in his hope of a better future?
 What is he SAYING to you? Is he giving you his heart?
 If not, then I ask you, where is the love?
 I am reminded of an example that I have shared before, of a lady from a prison support site that emailed me a few years ago about her loved one. She was disappointed in him because she felt he was “seeing” another girl, and found out it to be true. She tried to confront him via letter and phone, and he never apologized, but rather rationalized it. She told me that she was going to visit him and confront him about it.
 I strongly advised against it, and I told her that maybe it is better to cut the relationship, since there seems to be nothing to gain by facing him like that. She went anyway, and the next email I got from her informed me that she had to go to the hospital after he slapped her in the middle of visitation.
 I was very angry that this jerk would haul off and hit her during HIS visitation, but in her earlier emails, the signs were there that he was not giving her any love at all. But she held on, hoping against hope.
 That jackass gave her nothing to prove that he loved her, rather used her for what he could get. Unfortunately there are many guys like that, and the signs are right there in front of many people’s eyes.
 What is he giving you? What he SHOULD be giving you is his heart.
 When you ask him questions about his future and his life and personal things, listen carefully to how he responds. Many times an inmate will tell you whatever you want to hear, but very few people can lie to themselves. Once, yes, maybe a couple of times, but eventually a person will betray themselves if they are not telling the truth.
 If a guy in prison truly loves you, he will give you his heart. And yeah, I know prison is hard and guys have to be tough, but no man has ever been born without a sense of love…we ALL know how to love, and we all desire to be loved. An inmate that truly loves someone will give that person his heart, even if on the phone for 10 minutes, or during a visit, or in a letter.
 If a person loves you, he will give you his heart. Giving is the best form of love. Are you receiving that? It’s easy to tell if you are. Simple test:
 Are you happy after you talk to him on the phone?
 Are you happy after reading his letters or cards?
 Are you happy after the visit?
 Don’t get that confused with “missing him”. You can miss someone and cry, but that does not mean you don’t love him. In fact, you missing him supports the fact that you love him. But it has to be a two-way street. Now, if you feel the opposite after contact with him, that is a strong caution.
 If you feel confused because he said some things that upset you, or disappointed in what he last said to you or mad at something he wrote in a letter, then you need to weigh that carefully. Grant a man grace if he says it once and apologizes for it sincerely, but twice or more may be a pattern. Lots of people have loved ones who are like two people; one day they seem really nice, the next they are upset at you, questioning YOUR loyalty to him.
 Lots of people have problems with this, and it makes their lives harder, trying to love a man in prison who may or may not really love them. There is a line that I want to share with you that goes like this:
 “if it brings pain in your life, don’t be afraid to let it go”.  No man has the right to bring pain or confusion or discomfort to your life. That isn’t love at all. How is he respecting the love you have for him? If he can’t give you sincere answers and be committed to your love, then maybe it just isn’t there for you.
 “But I want this to work, and I don’t want to give up on him”
 Then you deserve a medal, and you have my standing ovation for caring for a guy in prison. It isn’t for everyone, and many pen pals find out the hard way. But let it not be said that it can’t be done. There are guys in prison that really are confused and don’t know if YOU’LL be there when he gets out. It is a frightening thing to reenter society with nobody by your side.
 Which seems to lean on the idea of prison relationships for security. How many inmates have people they are holding on to only for security purposes? I mean, a guy doing time is going to need a job, a place to stay, money, clothes and things like that. Who can provide that for him if he has no family? Society won’t, so you have an individual who has to find ways to survive. Sometimes that means using someone’s love to their advantage.
 But not all inmates are like that…but for every jackass that does that, it makes life harder for ex offenders who DO want to find success in life, or those who really are looking for love.
 Ask yourself this, “what is my loved one in prison giving me”. If it is excuses, double edged answers and statements of confusion or blame, then I urge you to either try to find a way to get him to be honest with you, or leave him be. The foundation of love starts at the giving of a commitment…is he giving you a commitment?
 You have to guard your love, because for humans, it is the strongest part of the body, but it is the easiest to manipulate.