Valentines Day Weddings & A Change Of Heart. When Love Isn’t Enough…

Last night while coordinating an event at Shady Oaks Country Club, I received a text regarding the terms of a divorce from a client I had spoken to earlier that morning. It wouldn’t be until after 9PM that I found the time to respond. My heart had been heavy all day regarding this bride and my conversation with her earlier regarding not marrying her Tennessee Colony inmate. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear but, she needed to hear it. 

This client had initially contacted me regarding a TDCJ Wedding at one of the Tennessee Colony Units. Tennessee Colony is a city of prisons near Corsicana, Texas. 

The initial email from “Jane Doe” was pertaining to officiating a wedding. Days later, the terms of a divorce decree would have me strongly suggesting that my Client choose not to marry this inmate. 

Jane Doe recently signed divorce papers that specifically outline notifying her ex of “marrying or intending to marry a person who is a registered sex offender.” I quickly asked “what the inmate she had been planning to marry was incarcerated for?” 

This question is generally unusual on my part but, due to the circumstances and possibility of Jane Doe losing custody of her children or facing repercussions for not advising her ex husband in writing about planning to marry, Jane Doe had a lot to lose. 

As a parent and premarital counselor with Two Together In Texas, my role is to give clients the best possible advice I can. The inmate had nothing to lose but Jane Doe was in a precarious position of losing custody of her child and facing criminal charges for failing to advise her ex husband of either “marrying, planning to marry or living with a registered sex offender.” 

Advising Jane Doe of the ramifications she would face by choosing to marry an inmate who was found guilty of sexual misconduct and is facing another 24 years in a Texas prison, Jane understood my position regarding the best interests of not only herself but also, her children. 

Now and then, I have “heavy conversations” with clients because my role mandates giving them the best advice I can. My advice isn’t always what clients want to hear but, it’s honest. I’m old and wise and I’ve also survived a five year custody battle. My custody battle was a war. Divorce is death but custody battles are far more painful. 

After I advised Jane Doe that “due to the terms of her divorce, it would be in her best interest not to marry the inmate,” Jane had several hours to consider my advice. 

I hadn’t seen the terms of the divorce decree at the moment I gave this sage advice but, I had heard enough “key elements” to base my decision on.

Many people are confused as to why anyone would choose to marry an inmate. Daily, I review questions from others who cannot and may not ever understand why anyone would choose a one sided relationship that benefits the inmate but rarely benefits the person “on the outside.” 

The expenses of being in love with an inmate are many. From phone calls to long drives and standing in line every weekend for a visit, the person “on the outside” makes many sacrifices. 

For anyone going through the process, adding the possibility of losing custody of their children is one of the reasons that I strongly encourage clients to reconsider the decision of marrying an inmate. 

Putting your children and yourself first is an important element for my clients. If this hasn’t occurred to them, I bring the matter up. As a mother and as a friend, if I’m telling you not to marry someone, my opinion is based on your best interests. 

Tomorrow, my day starts at Sanders Estes Unit for my first three weddings on Valentines Day. This “day of love” is one of my busiest days of the year. 

Although I will begin my day working Weddings and photo shoots in Venus, Texas, my day will take me to five other locations for more nuptials before the day is done. 

My husband isn’t intetested in trying to go to dinner on “amateur night” either. He’s decided to take Friday off to spend some time with me since my weekend is also booked up too. 

Jane Doe sent me another text this morning very upset about telling her daughter and her fiancé that she cannot marry. Although her situation is unique it’s occurred before. 

Last year, another client was going through a custody battle and “didn’t want me to publish photos because her ex would find out she married an inmate.” I advised this other “Jane Doe” that marriages in Texas are public filings. ANYONE can find out about a wedding ceremony and while the location isn’t listed on my marriage liscenses in Texas Prisons, the county and the other party are. 

TDCJ lists inmates and their charges on the internet. Because of this “public information” and my other Jane Doe’s pending custody matter, I advised her not to marry the inmate. She listened to me and she also finally won custody.

For those unaware that custody battles are a painful tug of war, I also advise TDCJ clients in similar situations to delete social media. Nothing is off limits in a custody battle. 

If you are posting photos of visits to a Texas inmate, I can assure you that your ex will screen shot these posts and use them against you in court. I’ve seen it happen before and it will happen again. 

While going through my divorce and child custody battle years ago, my ex took photos of a yard sale. This seems insignificant as the items I was selling belonged to me. But, my ex’s attorney twisted a simple yard sale into “disposing of community property. Wendy was selling a stroller that her husband had probably helped buy.” Ironic isn’t it? I spent five years being followed to my sisters house and became accustomed to having a “tail.” 

I didn’t date during my custody war and didn’t dare have a drink or do anything that might be “controversial.” I lived under a microscope. At the time of my divorce, I signed over everything to my ex because he had promised not to pursue custody of our son. Two days later, I was served at work and my custody war began. 

Working 2-3 jobs to pay my attorneys and my son’s Ad Lidem attorney for five years, I wouldn’t wish a custody battle on anyone. ANYONE. 

If you are in love with an inmate, you should be aware that custody of your children could very well be in jeopardy. Don’t “assume” that everyone will understand your choices because in matters of custody, they won’t. 

Your friends and family members may not understand your choices. The life of a prison wife or husband isn’t easy. It’s fraught with sacrifice. If you are marrying a Death Row inmate, you face even more challenges. 

Loving an inmate is a lonely life. Those who choose this path are strong. They are resilient. They don’t base their decisions on the opinions of others. They are often well educated. Don’t be surprised. 

The majority of my Client base from Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham isn’t compromised of either hillbillies or uneducated individuals. These clients know the road they travel will be difficult and yet, they make their relationships work against all odds. My “advice won’t always be warm or fuzzy.” I’m a realist and because of this, I’m telling you the same advice I would give my son, my friends or other family members. It took me years to trust anyone enough to remarry. 

My husband may not be romantic but he is reliable. I don’t need candy or flowers. I have a life partner which is far more important to me than romance. 

Because I had the father of one of my Grooms contact me regarding being “embarrassed about pizza being served at the reception” yesterday. I will “once again” go over why getting along or choosing your battles is essential to getting along with your new Inlaws. 

First- the brides family as well as the couple are working within a budget. Offending the other family because you aren’t “thrilled” with pizza isn’t a good idea. Choose your battles. If you wish to offer appetizers or other deserts, bring them or provide them but don’t challenge the other parents.

I’m looking forward to marrying Bambi’s mother in October. I had married Bambi several years ago only to find that she had chosen the wrong partner. I hope one day that Bambi like her mother finds the right one. September and October are both busy months for my team and I. Although “love is in the air,” for those readers who don’t have a Valentine, I have a funny story for you. This morning while talking to one of my twin grandnieces being miserable about “not having a Valentine again,” I volunteered (as usual) to buy candy and flowers. My grandniece told me “I’m too old to have my MiMi be my Valentine.”

I suggested that Maryssa take her allowance and buy herself something for Valentines Day. We are headed to go shop for gifts this afternoon and a lunch date. You don’t need a Valentine to celebrate love. Sometimes, loving yourself is enough…