From ex-con to ex-lover

From the end of 2021 to November of 2022, I was in a relationship with an ex-convict. While I know that sounds crazy, he told me he was wrongfully convicted. Despite his innocence, he spent 15 years in prison. And the cherry on top of it all was I knew all of this before deciding to enter a relationship with him. I wanted to write my story in order to share what I learned from dating an ex-con.

When I first found out he spent 15 years in prison, my stomach dropped. My first thought was how hard it must be for him to adjust to society after spending so long locked away. I also started worrying about what or who happened to him while in prison. And then the thought of he hasn’t had the same life experiences that I have had came to me. But what I didn’t expect was how this would play out in our relationship.

The first few weeks were like the honeymoon phase. I couldn’t get enough of him. I was trying to see him every other day when I was off work and kid-free, and spending the entire weekend with him on my kid-free weekends. We would text often along with plenty of video and phone calls. Honestly, I thought I won the lottery. And despite his past, he was a successful professor about to get his Master’s in theology. The man spent Sundays preaching as a guest preacher at churches as well as grading and lesson planning. It didn’t even seem like he spent any time in prison.

Then things started to shift. First, he started comparing me to the person he created in his mind from reading this blog. Then he started comparing the first few weeks to the current time we were in. See, he didn’t have a car (yet), so I was the one driving to him 3 out of the 4 weekends in a month. Then, on the 4th weekend, he would complain about the long train ride he had to take to see me. I found it a little annoying but I continued to do my part and push on since I was starting to really like him.

Then in April, he got a car and broke up with me over text message while I was at work. He blindsided me, and I ended up crying in the staff lunchroom at work. I told him to send me the ticket to my graduation back in the mail. Hours later, he was calling and begging to let me talk to him in person. He came over, despite me not wanting him to since I had Aria. So, he met Aria and then explained to me how he took some bad advice from his ex. She had told him to break up to see if I would fight for the relationship. Since I didn’t “fight” the plan backfired and he regretted his decisions. Also, why he didn’t just talk to me rather than asking an ex for advice flabbergasted me. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of our demise.

I can’t explain to you why I gave him another chance after the text message breakup. The only explanation I have is that I had fallen in love with him. And with the thought of our future together. And this wasn’t the only time we broke up. As time went on, he became harder to communicate with. Our phone conversations became very one-sided. It felt like I had to carry every conversation. He wouldn’t tell me much, and often it felt like I was trying to pry information out of him. As I became more vulnerable, he became more clammed up. He started giving me unsolicited advice on my life, lifestyle, and career/education goals. He didn’t like how much I socialized with my friends. He didn’t like how I prioritized things in my life. And he didn’t like that he wasn’t my top priority.

Things started to fall apart once he claimed that he was doing all of the work in the relationship and I wasn’t nearly close to putting as much into it as him. He felt like he was doing most of the driving, kinda like how we started the relationship. And he was right. I felt like a nuisance to him. He would tell me that he felt he was doing everything right and as much as he could for the relationship, but that I just wasn’t. And then my marathon happened. He knew about it, and I had invited him to go with me. I even paid for a hotel room and took Southwest all in hopes that he would join me. But when the time came, he never even tried to go. When I got back, he finally told me that he had never wanted to go to cheer me on. He felt he had shown up enough in my life. But for me, it wasn’t enough.

So I broke up with him. I had high hopes that we could be friends, so I asked for him to give me time to process and heal. Time away from him. I told him I needed a break in communication. But unfortunately he couldn’t respect my wishes. He kept reaching out. First through text, then email, then Facebook messenger. I had to block him on every platform just for it to “stop.”

It’s unfortunate, but in hindsight I should’ve seen it coming. I should have thought more about how his time in prison affected not just his lack of social skills but also his ability to mature naturally. I think his career and educational successes lured me in. Then, when he bought a car and a condo, I really thought he had it all together. But when he didn’t trust me enough to hang out with my running friends, I started to see that he didn’t have it all together. When he didn’t respect me enough to listen to me and my wishes, I knew I wasn’t dealing with someone on the same level as me. My only regret is not leaving sooner.

I guess this is what I get for giving the underdog a chance. I’m wondering from my readers, have you ever dated an ex-con? And how did it go? Or would you? Am I crazy for even giving him a chance?

Growing in emotional maturity

For the longest time, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. In college, I was holding my breath waiting for my boyfriend to trust me. Once he didn’t trust me, there was no relationship. I just kept pressing forward only to make things even harder and more painful when I finally walked away. After college, I pursued a married man. He ended up doing to me exactly what he did to his first wife, but you could say I had it coming since I was the reason he left her. After our divorce, I started pursuing just the physical aspects of relations. I was literally too scared to get hurt to even consider a committed romantic relationship. Once this life caught up to me and I started considering seeking a healthy relationship, I found out I was pregnant.

With the pregnancy came all the feels. Looking back, I had a very physically healthy pregnancy, but my emotional well-being was very low. I was facing an uncertain future with a baby and her dad who wasn’t capable of loving me. Here I was, once again, looking for love in the wrong place. I yearned for him to even try and make it work with me. But it wasn’t in the cards. I had to finally stop being emotionally immature and move on from the things that weren’t helping me grow. Once I let him go, I felt my heart finally healing. Healing from the college guy who never trusted me. Healing from my husband who left me for someone(s) else. Healing from my baby’s dad who likely really wishes we had been more careful. (I refuse to use the word he did on here, but that part was definitely the most painful).

I started and have been reading the bible daily. I’ve been listening to certain podcasts and reading books. I’ve really taken the time to be selfish, if you will. And focus on myself. And I agreed with myself to take time to be single and heal with one exception. If someone were to enter my life and help me to grow then I’d allow it. I met someone unexpectedly about two months ago and it’s been an interesting ride. Shortly after we met, the city where we live entered a shelter-in-place that’s still occurring. Through this time, it hasn’t been easy to get to know each other. At first, things seemed great. But as time goes on, it appears to me that while his words are great and helpful, his actions seem to be misleading. I’m not quite sure if he sees me as his girlfriend or just a friend with benefits.

I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt since things aren’t normal due to Covid-19, but I also have to be true to myself. I keep praying to God to show me what He wants for my life. And I will continue to pursue His word. I just felt like I had to share, since because of the growth I see and feel inside of me, I will no longer settle for anything less.

I hope everyone’s doing well despite the craziness. 🙂

This is 31

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Last year I did an entire This is Thirty series where I looked back at my past and took you through the process of my life pre-marriage and eventually to where I was, or where I thought I was. Looking back over the past year has me seeing double. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come, and I’m only getting started.

It feels like where I was at 30 is a completely different world and different life than where I am now. The crazy part is I thought I was in control of my life and thought I was mature. Thought my mom passing away and my dad starting a new family helped me grow, but little did I know I had no control and my marriage was already falling apart.

Today, as a single and independent woman, I am no longer in that fake-happy world I was stuck in. I’ve grown up and out of the “American dream” and I’ve found my own dreams. I not only was thoughtful, but also methodological in my choices and actions over the past 9 months. Moving to Oak Park wasn’t the easiest choice, but it was a no-brainer for me for several reasons. Reasons relating to my job, my friends, my sense of community, my safety, and my lifestyle. Above all, though, I feel like God called me here. And I listened.

In the middle of the storm of my previous life, I grew quiet and listened to God. He told me several things that still ring true today. He told me “He’s just a person” “I have someone better for you” and “I have something better for you.” I believe that something better was and is Oak Park, Free Church, and the community I’ve found here. I’ve moved on from the person who tried to control me, and find it surprising when people ask me about that old, long ago time and place.

I’m still growing and I’m still maturing. There won’t be a time where I will say I’m mature and I’ve grown, because there is always room to grow more. I learned that even when you think you’re in control, you never really are. And I’m learning to let go of that need to control and to let God. So far, he’s steered me into this new, wonderful life that I would’ve never imagined on my own. And I’m savoring every moment.

Party in the Park

This past weekend my church threw an amazing party in the park. This is an annual summer party they throw that just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. It was great to be a part of this event and to be able to hang out with my church community outside of church.

To give you some perspective, Free Church was started in 2012. In five years, it has grown from only a few to about 300 churchgoers. There were well over 100 people at this party yesterday. The growth is amazing to see, and we got our very own building this year (the Hemingway Museum). 🙂

I’ve only been going to Free Church since November of 2016, but I feel myself growing as well. While it’s great to see more and more people at church, it’s even better to feel my faith growing as I learn and dig deeper into this community I call home. I feel safe and cared for in my church community. And I feel strong. There’s about 46 of us training for the Chicago Marathon this year. We’re all running it for Team World Vision which brings clean water to those who need it the most in Africa.

This week is week 6 of training and I already feel myself changing. This past Saturday was the second time I ran with my church group, and it was amazing. We ran 10 miles and we crushed it! Not only do I notice my chub decreasing, I also feel my legs getting stronger. But beyond that, I feel healthier all around. Not just physically, but also mentally. My mind feels more clear and focused. I feel like I can achieve my goals that I have for myself.

If you have the means, please consider helping me bring clean water to the women and children in Africa. This small act will allow them time to do other things, like go to school and study. Thank you!

https://www.teamworldvision.org/participant/jenb