I am a 30-year old single black female who happens to love a felon.
He comes from a good family, but has always wanted to live his life the wild way and with the wrong crowd. He was a star basketball player in high school and was being heavily recruited by a lot of powerful universities for basketball. His senior year he and two of his friends committed a senseless crime and he was sentenced to four years in prison. He did about two years and was released and attended community college. This is where we met.
I was always the shy type and kept to myself. He was very nice and kind. I found him to be very intelligent and one of the few men that I could actually have a conversation with. I was cautious at first in dealing with him because I knew of his past and knew my family would not accept me bringing home a felon. I wanted to be his friend, but on my own terms and I think this hurt him and led him to distance himself from me.
It was a sad day when I realized that a few months after our friendship ended he was arrested again and would have to finish his remaining sentence plus more time for the crime he had just committed. I was devastated, but deep down in my heart I missed him and for some reason I wanted him to know that I loved him. We exchanged letters and phone calls back and forth and kept in touch with the promise to try again once he was released. He was released about five months ago and we have gone on several dates and spent time together, and he has promised me that he will not return to prison or get in any trouble.
My friends ridicule me because I am a professional employee with two college degrees, and they feel as if I am settling. I have dated before and after him and no other man compares to him and the way I am treated. It has only been a few months since he has been out, but he is making a lot of strides to rehabilitate himself. He has enrolled in a trade program and is volunteering as a mentor at a local group home. I don’t want to be negative, but I still have doubts about whether or not this will last and if he will indeed stay out of prison. I am afraid of what my family will think, but I truly love this man with all of my heart. He has started to talk about marriage and children. I think life with him would be great if he stays on this path. What should I do? – Dating A Felon
Dear Ms. Dating A Felon,
I’m on the fence with this because we all have a past. I know several men who have gone to prison and rehabilitated their lives and have not returned. But, there are many more men who just can’t seem to get their footing in society, and keep returning to prison because of several circumstances.
Now, here’s where you’re going to find yourself in a jam with him. Your man will not be able to pursue a career as a white-collar professional because of his felony. He can’t work in banking, become a lawyer, or teacher, or be employed with any Fortune 500 company. Those are the facts. He can find a trade job, which is excellent that he is enrolled in a trade program, and they do pay extremely well. But, will that ever be enough for you or him? What’s going to happen when you are out earning him in money, and you advance in your career with the various job titles? Or, a better question is what’s going to happen when he can’t find a job due to his felony record? How will he and you deal with the constant rejection, him not earning and making any money, and he’s dependent on you?
There are lots of questions, and lots of emotional and mental things he is going to be challenged with as he faces the world as a felon. I don’t want you to get caught up in trying to save him, become his therapist, psychologist, mother, and nurturer, yet, forgetting your role as a sole girlfriend. When you’re caught up in his life and trying to ‘fix’ him and his problems, because you will find yourself wanting to help him and trying to save him, it will put a strain on your relationship. He will resent you, others, and himself. He will blame himself constantly, and others for not giving him a chance and hiring him.
I understand your family members and friends concern about you dating a felon. They want the best for you, and well, uhm, he has committed another crime which sent him back to prison. The recidivism rate of men returning to prison is very high, and your man just proved that he is part of that rate. Will he commit another crime? What will happen when he can’t find a job and need money? How will he handle the pressure of being an adult and things coming at him from all sides with problems, issues, and challenges? Will he be able to handle them without returning to a life of crime?
Lastly, I don’t like when folks make promises. Folks promise all the time they will not cheat, lie, or to do something, yet, they break them, and are unable to keep them. And, your man promised you that he will not return to prison or get into anymore trouble. That’s a promise he shouldn’t make and he doesn’t know if he can keep. He should say that he will work hard at not returning to prison, and work hard to not get into trouble anymore. It’s going to be an ongoing battle for him, just like an alcoholic and drug addict in rehab. They work at it every day of their lives. They can slip at any moment, and your man can too.
He does have a pattern: Commit crime, go to prison, get out, go to school. Repeats steps 1 thru 4. He did it the first time, and now he’s doing it again. When people show you who they are, believe them.
I would hold off on the marriage talk, and continue dating. It’s only been a few months, and he got that fresh-out-of-jail-and-I’m-going-to-turn-my-life-around smell on him. He needs some time to readjust to society, get the lay of the land, and see how this new course takes him. He really needs to work himself right now, and take things slow. He needs to pace himself, and find some groups, therapy, and other resources that can help him stay on this path. You can’t do that. It’s not your job. He has to want it. You can’t make it him want it. This is his journey, and you can accompany him on it, but don’t make it your journey. He knows you’re a good woman, and you’ll hold him down, but are you willing to hold him down? You know your worth. You know your value. If after a few more months, and possibly a year or so you feel the same, and after he’s gotten a taste of what life is like for a felon, then take it to the next level. But, make sure he has a job, some stability in his life, and he is someone’s therapy or counseling. He needs someone who is a professional in helping men deal with unresolved issues in his life. Don’t get caught up in trying to be his savior because you will lose yourself and I will be getting another letter from. – Terrance Dean
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