I have been vacationing the past week and blissfully away from the Internet for most of the time. But before I left I’d made note of an article about Amy Friedman, a journalist who fell in love with an inmate — a murderer and former drug dealer — and who recently wrote a memoir about her seven-year marriage to him, Desperado’s Wife.
I struggled with not being judgmental about it — can it really be true that most women are attracted to bad boys or so “crazy for romance” that they will fall for a killer? — but then it became something much bigger than that. I was curious to know more about what would make a woman fall in love with a man in jail (and as much as I’d love to say “a man fall in love with a woman in jail” evidently it’s much more of a gal than guy thing, despite the presumably hard work of dating websites like Meet an Inmate and Inmate Connections).
Yes, there can be a pathology to women like Friedman who fall for an inmate; many have a “wound,” as Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside author Bridget Kinsella says or have a “need for a safe, idealized, romantic fantasy of love” that “transcends judgment” as Women Who Love Men Who Kill author Sheila Isenberg says.
Still, as one woman notes, how much do we really know about a person we meet online or on the street; being incarcerated for a drug offense or murder at least offers us some info. And there are about 2 million people in jail.
I turned to the forums on Prison Talk, a website for those wih incarcerated loved ones, and what grabbed me were the answers to the post on why women fall in love with inmates. While there were various responses, the recurring theme was this: I saw him for the man he is.
If that is true, what keeps us from seeing a man or woman for who he or she is outside of prison? Is it because sex — or “other stuff” — happens too quickly and complicates things? What keeps people on the “outside” — not incarcerated — from seeing the “real” man/woman?
“I know that I have the ability to have this intense, close, intimate relationship with someone I can’t be sexually intimate with, and that might help me to be more trusting and able to take a leap of faith with someone else.”
- Is there an upside to having a constrained relationship?
- Can we access intense intimacy and truly learn about the “real” person without having to fall in love with someone in the slammer?
- Does getting sexual too quickly impact self-disclosure or cloud our judgment?
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