Two Worlds: Delilah's Life as a Jail Wife/ Fadi El Haje

Sitting one weekend in one of Sydney's coziest Café with my friends, our table just happens to be close to a mutual friend (Diyana 43) who was having a coffee with her sister (Delilah 32), which I have never met before. Striking the usual conversation, this quickly took a deep turn that made me end up writing this now. We all hear stories of how a relationship where one partner is incarcerated doesn’t work. I know many couples who successfully navigate this process. Relationships are as varied as the partners themselves and as in all types of relationships no right or wrong way exists. Many of you wonder how to get through a life and relationship separated by distance and time. Being in a relationship with someone incarcerated, I'll take you through the thoughts, emotions, principles and inevitables of this life through Delilah's experience. It's so refreshing to meet women who have committed their lives to standing by incarcerated partner. These women are the very embodiment of unconditional love, amazing to know that if a woman is willing to love a person in prison at all during a prison sentence, she is someone worth respecting and hanging on to.

Keeping a relationship together under normal circumstances is hard work. Keeping a relationship together when your partner is incarcerated is harder. Most prison relationships fail. Partners who decide to honor their commitments do so with the best of intentions and do so knowing it will be an arduous task. The complexity of this type of relationship is not to be taken lightly, but with planning, conformity, and an acceptance of your new reality. Incarceration does not have to be a death sentence for your union.

32 years old of a Christian faith, a single mother with two kids, Adam 7 and Jannah 5. Unlike the typical stories you hear with some families or women who lose their partner to prison after being together in a relation, "a woman who are romantically involved with a man who is incarcerated". Delilah was single when she met her now husband in jail two and half years ago. She began her life as the wife of a prisoner on September, 2011. Her husband was given a 17 year sentence; he still has another 3 years to serve. Sleeping Single in a Double Bed, that’s what DELILAH has been doing for the past 2 and half years. Many people ask her what it’s like to be married to someone in prison. The most common things people ask her are about visits, phone calls and faithfulness. As far as visits go, it changes from facility to facility. He was originally a six-hour round trip drive away. In his current facility, he is only 4 hours away and can have two visits weekly for three hours at a time. She go a minimum of once a week to see him. The visiting rooms don’t have glass booths, but instead resemble school cafeterias. There is a hug and kiss allowed at the beginning and end of the visits and they are allowed to hold hands, but that is the extent of their physical contact. To answer a common question: No, they don’t get conjugal visits. And that means what you think it means as far as their (and her) sex life goes. Their entire relationship revolves around these short calls and weekly visits as well as the occasional letters and cards. But, according to Delilah, "it’s been something of a blessing for honing our communication skills. When you only have a few hours a week to maintain a relationship, you make the most of it."

36 years old now, Hussan Kalache. Devoted Muslim of a Lebanese background, Kalache was sentenced to a minimum 17 years behind bars in 2002 for the killing of 25-year-old friend in a self defense in July 2000, a moment according to Delilah he truly regret.  He had a lot of time to think about things, is now very reflective, read a lot of books, focused on communicativeness, and really valued these conversations with partner Delilah. His crime, incarceration and all that goes with it has profoundly changed his life.

Choosing to love an inmate is just that - a choice - and nothing about it will be easy. The time, the distance, the worry, the stress and the limited communication are enough to keep the strongest person down. However, if there is anything that you will learn throughout this journey it is that you are stronger than you think you are and stronger than anyone gives you credit for. How do you get through this time without your husband? I am sure that the answer to that is so complicated, with strength? Commitment or having faith? Or is it much more basic than that. Delilah definite it in a simple term "I think it's as simple as I love him and would do whatever it takes to be with him. Even though this has become my new normal I will be glad when my Prince Charming returns home. I know it will be an adjustment to live together but it will be so worth it in the end."

My Wonderful Sister Diyana
"I learned a lot about our families and friends during this experience, but I have one friend who has been there for me through everything. She is a true blessing and appointed herself as my stand-in spouse when my husband is in prison. We go on “dates,” celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, talk every day and have become extremely close. I don’t think I would have survived without her. She has also acted as a sort of liaison for my husband when he needs to get me a gift or send me flowers. Between him and my wonderful sister Diyana, I have managed to maintain a semblance of normalcy in my life.

Delilah Said "It's the easiest thing in the world to stay down when you have fallen. It takes true strength to keep getting back up. You will have days when you are squared up and ready to take on the world and you will have days when all you want to do is stay in bed with the covers over your head."  This bid with her husband has not broken her.  "It's ok to fall once in a while and it's ok to feel weak. You just always, always have to...keep getting up!"

When people find out how long a young woman like Delilah has been married to someone incarcerated, one of the quickest questions comes to mind “What about sex? It is completely inappropriate to inquire about another person’s sex life. The question of sex is a revealing look at the mentality of some people when it comes to prison, relationships, sex and (the piece they don’t consider is intimacy). Delilah said "as it often leads my inquisitor to respond with “I don’t see how you do it.” And, this is where I educate them".

She Continue to say "We live in such a sexualized world. Sex permeates every aspect of our lives, from direct references to the slightest innuendo. Some say sex is the most important part of a relationship. If that were true, relationships separated by distance and time would be flaccid, but that is not the case. When you are in a relationship removed from sex, thoughts and urges wane."

Delilah said "Intimacy is not a function of the anatomy. It is a function of the heart and at the center of that heart is communication. Communication is the tool by which intimacy enters. In this type of relationship, you can’t use sex to fix an argument or pass the time, you have to communicate. Intimacy is the ability to connect on a level so deep it transcends physicality and understanding. Intimacy is the by-product of communicating with love."

With her respond to my above question she summarized it all to us "I’m able to be with my husband because we have true intimacy. I hear his heartbeat from the inside. I read the sound of his voice. I know the wounds and hurts before the words are spoken. I see the weariness that hides behind his eyes. I possess powers no other woman has because he only communicates with me, as in he allows me to see him stripped-down naked without masks, presumptions, or ego. Sex is fleeting, a moment in time, or a washed-off action in jest. Intimacy is a fingerprint on the soul. His hand print is on my heart. This is how I do it."

So now the for real plans are being made. Her hopes and dreams are so close to becoming reality that she can almost touch them. There is no more waiting to see if her husband will come home in two years time or  rather when the authority will return him to her,  and believe me from what sensed she will never give him back. While some may say that nothing in this life is certain, there is one thing that she knows without a doubt is certain and that is that she will always say we and be together and nothing else matters.

Imprisoned on the Outside because that’s what it’s like when you have a loved one in prison. He may be in a prison made of cement walls and barbed wire fences but she is in her own prison, a prison of emotions and love.  Strength alone cannot get you through, what they have is far from ordinary. They have the kind of love that people dream of and wish for. Has this time without him been easy?  Delilah replied "Not even a little, Intimate and honest communication has to be the foundation of our relationship". Is it worth every sleepless night and every tear that you have cried? "Hell yeah, While it will only be a matter of couple of years until I see him in person, It is weird and exciting and wonderful to think that there is an end in sight. If all goes as planned, for me it will be an eternity."