“The Course of Love Never Did Run Smooth”: Ex-Inmates’ Attitudes Toward Heterosexual Romantic Relationships

Published date01 June 2022
Date01 June 2022
Subject MatterArticles
The Course of Love
Never Did Run Smooth:
Toward Heterosexual
Romantic Relationships
Noa Granot
and Tomer Einat
This study examines the attitudes of 15 male ex-inmates toward heterosex-
ual romantic relationships during imprisonment as viewed retrospectively.
The interviewees expressed ambivalence regarding these intimate partner-
ships, which were a source of diff‌iculty in prison and upon reentry into soci-
ety. We conclude that prison services could better help inmates to improve
these relationships, thus reducing the pains of imprisonment and enhancing
their successful social reintegration.
inmates, heterosexual romantic relationships, attitudes
Stable intimate relationships are fundamental to human lives (Kennedy et al.,
2018) and contribute signif‌icantly to both physical and mental health
(Chapman & Guven, 2016). Romantic relationships have also been found
to reduce antisocial and criminal activities (Cacioppo et al., 2003), due, in par-
ticular, to their role in satisfying physical and emotional needs (Einhorn et al.,
2008; Sampson & Laub, 1993). It is therefore not surprising that problems in
Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
Corresponding Author:
Tomer Einat, Bar Ilan University Department of Criminology, Ramat-Gan, Israel.
Email: Tomer.Einat@biu.ac.il
The Prison Journal
2022, Vol. 102(3) 325346
© 2022 SAGE Publications
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00328855221095538
romantic dyadic relationships or breakups should be similarly related to phys-
ical and mental health problems as well as to antisocial or criminal behavior
(Comfort et al., 2016).
One signif‌icant pain of imprisonmentfor male inmates is separation
from their female partners (Carlson & Cevera, 1991; Turney, 2015). Such
parting often negatively affects the quality of the relationship (Siennick
et al., 2013), hinders the female partnersability to function as
spouses(Pierce, 2015), and reduces the inmateswell-being in prison as
well as the likelihood of successful rehabilitation and reentry into society
after release (De Claire & Dixdon, 2017).
A review of the literature on inmatesromantic relationships
lights three main research areas: the well-being of both partners, their
modes of communication, and the effect of prison intervention programs
on the quality of their relationship (Comfort et al., 2005; Comfort et al.,
2016; Kazura, 2018). However, the studies by Comfort et al. (2005)
and Kazura (2018) were conducted during the prison term and therefore
failed to examine the meaning of the relationships for inmates after
their release. The neglect of this topic is surprising in light of the plethora
of studies dealing with romantic relationships among male and female
inmates (e.g., Dodge & Pogrebin, 2001;Sergin & Flora, 2005;
Severance, 2005; Shapiro, 2003; Travis et al., 2003) and the acknowl-
edged need to study this topic in retrospect (Siennick et al., 2014;
Turney, 2015).
The current study seeks to narrow this gap in the literature by examining
the retrospective attitudes of male ex-inmates toward their heterosexual
romantic relationships several months after their release from prison.
Literature Review
A comprehensive review of the criminological literature over the past four
decades revealed 18 studies dealing with inmatesintimate relationships,
which, as mentioned above, can be divided into three main research areas.
Quality of Romantic Relations and the Well-Being of Both Partners
Most studies dealing with dyadic romantic relationships among the general
population have suggested a clear and direct link between stable and nor-
mative relations and partnerswell-being (Kennedy et al., 2018). Studies
among prisoner populations, on the other hand, have found the opposite
effect. Lindquist (2000), for example, found married inmates, both male
and female, to suffer from higher rates of depression and anxiety than
326 The Prison Journal 102(3)

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