Telling a new partner, family member, or acquaintance about your criminal past may be one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have. You may wish you’d had the chat sooner or be concerned that informing them may bring the relationship to an end. Regardless of these concerns, failing to share your history with them implies that you will always be looking over your shoulder, anticipating the day when your past will come back to throw a wrench into your relationships.

Discussing a conviction is not easy, and you’ll definitely need time to process your feelings about relationships before discussing it.

 

“I have something to tell you, and I should have told you sooner, but I was worried that once you knew, you would think differently of me.”

 

Why is it important to inform family and friends about your criminal record?

Relationships are a critical aspect of life. Partners, family, and friends provide us with someone to laugh with during the good times and someone to lean on during the bad. However, sustaining relationships and meeting new people can be challenging, and having a criminal record can compound the difficulty. That is one of the reasons why persons with a criminal record might become extremely isolated, putting them at danger of developing drug or alcohol addiction or reverting to their former offending behaviour.

It is critical, therefore, to avoid social isolation and to make an effort to maintain contact with existing friends and to make new ones.

 

Establishing a new romantic or friendship relationship

There are numerous reasons why someone with a criminal past may find meeting new people intimidating. Your interactions with the criminal justice system may have left you feeling uneasy, lacking self-confidence, or undeserving of a new relationship/friendship. You’re probably worried about telling new partners/friends about your criminal past and how they’ll react. However, developing new relationships is critical in assisting you in moving forward with your life. It’s important to realize that regardless of your criminal past, finding a new relationship or establishing new friends becomes more difficult as you age. Depending on the nature of your offence and/or the sentence or charge you got, you may face limits on your whereabouts and who you may meet with.

However, there are a few points to consider:

  • Volunteer – Volunteering allows you to meet others who share your interests while also learning new skills and experience. If you are seeking for paid work, volunteering may help you increase your employability;
  • Attend night school — Night school classes do not have to be boring, and chatting with others while taking a pottery or Spanish class is much simpler than conversing during an aerobics session. Not only will you meet new people, but you will also pick up new abilities;
  • Sign up for a gym membership;
  • Make connections with neighbours and coworkers.

 

What worries could partners, family members, or friends have about specific offences or your response to them?

While learning that their partner/family/friend has a criminal record may come as a surprise, certain offences, as well as your attitude toward them, will cause greater anxiety than others.

Violent Offences

A violent offence might range from a warning for simple assault during a playground altercation to a lengthy jail sentence for grave bodily damage. A new partner is likely to be wary of being connected with someone who has been convicted of a violent offence, even more so if the offence was committed against a former partner. If you understand the events or triggers that resulted in your conviction, discuss them and explain what, if any, efforts you’ve made to prevent this from happening again, such as attending anger management classes.

Under Claire’s law, a partner may request that the police conduct a background check on you to see whether you have a history of violence. The police may reveal information about your conviction if they believe your spouse is at risk of domestic violence as a result of your actions.

Sexual Offences

If you have been convicted of a sexual offence, you will very certainly be forced to reveal (either because the police insist upon it or because of information that exists online). The prospect of the police, probation, or social services being involved in their lives will almost certainly worry your partner/friend, especially if they have their own children or work with kids.

Under Sarah’s law, a partner, family member, friend, or member of the public may apply to the police for a disclosure (of child sexual offences) regarding a person who has any type of interaction with a child or children.

Alcohol and Drug Offences

While partners and friends may be willing to overlook an offence involving possession, if your offending was motivated by personal addiction concerns, this may raise red flags. Addiction to drugs or alcohol can wreak havoc on any relationship, and if appropriate, you should reassure your partner/friend that you have handled your addiction concerns.

White Collar Crimes

Partners and friends may believe that an individual convicted of a white-collar crime poses no threat to their personal safety. However, these types of offences frequently involve an element of dishonesty, and establishing that you are an open, honest, and trustworthy individual will be critical.

Youth Offences

Most people recognize that adolescence can be a trying time, and for a variety of reasons, some adolescents associate with the wrong crowd or make rash or poor choices. When you’re young, the offences you commit are frequently fairly trivial (even if they’re numerous), and your friends/partners will likely find them much easier to forgive.

If you’re going to disclose your criminal past to a spouse, family member, or acquaintance, you need to own it. People make mistakes, and the best way to avoid repeating them is to learn from them. Accepting or denying responsibility for your conviction is unlikely to be the optimal method to begin a new relationship/friendship.

Don’t reduce the severity of your offence or criminal record. In comparison to many you’ve encountered along the way on your criminal record journey, your offence or criminal record may appear insignificant. However, for someone who has never dealt with the police, any conviction is likely to be significant. When disclosing your conviction, avoid downplaying it or making light of it.

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How to tell your partner, family, and friends about your criminal record

Giving some consideration and planning to how you communicate with them will hopefully increase your confidence in dealing with any questions your partner/friend may have. Consider what your partner/friend might be interested in learning.

This may involve the following:

  1. Telling the story to yourself.
  2. Rehearse by developing a clear mental image of the narrative.
  3. How does each section of the tale affect you?

Consider the who, what, where, when, how, and why of the events that occurred:

  • What: Exactly what occurred? Simply put: “I was caught and served time in jail for my involvement in a convenience store robbery.”
  • Who: Was anyone else involved in the criminal act? What were your circumstances at the time? How were you different back then compared to how you are now? For instance: “At the time, it was only me and my partner, and we were both twenty-one years old.”
  • Where: Describe your location and how it made you feel. “We were in a convenience store that neither of us had visited previously. It felt as though the world had ended — as if nobody cared what we did there.”
  • When: When did this occur? “It occurred during the summer of 1999. It was August 30th, the day after my sister began college.”
  • How: Describe how it occurred. If there are sections that you do not recall, simply state that you do not recall them. What was contained in the criminal report, and what do you recall differently? Describe your actions and how you were caught.
  • Why: What caused this to occur? Consider the straightforward facts. Consider the reasons you committed a crime without making excuses (or looked as if you were committing a crime, if you were innocent). You may state, “My partner and I both suffered from depression and drug addiction, which I didn’t comprehend at the time. We needed money, and he made it sound simple and innocent, and I agreed to do this with him since I was out of money.” Include details from the prior and subsequent periods. Consider the circumstances surrounding the offences you did (or were accused of committing). Give reasons for the incident by mentioning any preceding events: a history of abuse, a lost job, a breakup, an addiction, untreated mental illness, financial strain, a poor judgement call, or simply a lot of bad luck.

Then, and perhaps most significantly, explain what you’ve done subsequently.

  • If you served time in prison, describe your experience and how it affected your emotions.
  • If you’ve done anything for which you feel truly responsible — say, if you’ve harmed someone – consider your emotions of remorse and how they’ve affected you.
  • Indicate what you have done to make a positive difference in the world since the incident occurred.
  • Describe what you’ve learned as a result of your criminal record.
  • Tell them what changes you’ve made to become a law-abiding citizen and how you’ve turned your life around. This may involve relocating to a community with a lower police presence, obtaining employment, attending rehab, receiving psychological assistance, or escaping an abusive living environment. This could be a practical change such as relocating to a different region or enrolling in a treatment programme, or it could just be your thoughts on the offence and what you’ve learned as a result of having a criminal record.

Consider why you want to inform them and why you haven’t informed them previously. Is it out of fear that people would not respect you? As a result of your fear of losing them? Because you were still processing your feelings and didn’t want to discuss them until you were certain?

Discuss what you’ve learnt and why it feels necessary to be candid now.

  • Talk about why you did not tell them sooner.
  • Express that they have a right to know since they matter to you.
  • Consider the possible effects of telling your loved one to calm your nerves.
  • Determine the source of your concern, but instead of jumping to the worst-case scenario, take a step back and consider what could go wrong.
  • Consider: what might possibly go wrong?
  • What would happen if that went wrong?
  • If writing helps you think, express your concerns in writing.

 

 

Rehearse.

Experiment with telling the storey from start to finish. It is critical to practise since the way you express things throughout the encounter will be irreversible. You don’t want to say, “It wasn’t a huge issue, and you’re not an angel!” when what you’re really saying is, “I understand why you’re upset, and I hope you’ll forgive me for withholding this information.” You can speak in front of a mirror or simply go over it in your brain.

However, avoid writing a script – you cannot predict how they will react, and thus must be receptive.

Discuss it with someone who is already familiar with it. They can assist you in practising what to say and can help alleviate some of your anxiousness.

 

Choose the appropriate time.

Notifying your loved one as soon as possible is critical, as you do not want them to believe you have been lying to them.

Inform them at a time when they will have time to process the information, such as on a Friday evening before they leave for the weekend.

Informing someone when they are pressed for time may cause them to feel like they’ve been taken by surprise and unnerved.

  • Keep in mind that you may wish you had done it sooner, but you will not regret waiting longer.
  • Don’t tell them when they are not in a good mood. Informing them while they are already enraged with you for another reason may harm your connection. Inform them when they are in the mood to be giving and appreciative.
  • Tell them what you want. It is more impactful to be authentic than to tell people what you believe they want to hear. Ensure that you express to them what you hope to accomplish by providing them with this information. As an example, “I want you to understand because you are significant to me. I want to ensure that we are all on the same page and have access to the same information. I hope you choose to remain in my life, but I will not blame you if this affects our relationship.”
  • Speak your truth. Demonstrate regret. If you’re in a terrible mood, express it. If you simply feel awful for not informing them, tell them. If you are not someone who easily tears or expresses pain, communicate that to your loved one, but use your words to convey how much anguish you are in.

Remain calm in the face of their response. Be prepared for a negative response. When you share bad news or inform someone that you’ve been withholding information, they may become upset. Prepare for outbursts, tears, sarcasm, accusations, stone silence, or indignation.

Prepare to maintain your composure and avoid falling into these traps – they are a natural way for your listener to express their distress, but they can get you in useless arguments.

  • Remain focused on your objective.
  • Maintain a cool demeanour when addressing each issue.
  • Remain cool by taking deep breaths.
  • Allow them to react.
  • Instead of disputing everything they say, listen. You can respond with “I hear you” and even repeat a portion of what they’re saying. For example, if they say, “I feel as though I’ve always told you everything and you’ve been lying to my face,” you can respond, “You feel as though I haven’t reciprocated your honesty with my own.”
  • Continue going through the story, ensuring that you have a firm grasp on it in your own mind.
  • Make sure that your meeting is held in a private location where you will not be interrupted.
  • Allow your partner/family/friend time to process and contemplate what you’ve said; you may try telling them on a Friday evening when they’ll have the weekend to reflect.
  • Attempt to answer some or all of their concerns. Respond to as many as possible, especially if the subject is unpleasant to discuss.
  • Be tolerant with others, and keep your expectations in check.

Is it possible to maintain the relationship after you tell someone about your criminal record?

Certain connections are effortless; when you reconnect, it’s as if you’ve never been apart, and these ties will not be altered simply because you’ve been convicted of a crime. Some will be more difficult, but being upfront and honest with your family, friends, and spouse is critical for building a solid support network that will assist you in moving on from your conviction.

Consider the following issues before revealing your conviction:

How close you are will almost certainly dictate how much information you feel comfortable sharing with them. This could be as simple as disclosing the name of the offence for which you were convicted, or as detailed as outlining the circumstances surrounding the conviction and the precise impact on your life. Because sharing such personal information might be awkward, it may help to set down your ideas and the important points you wish to convey.

Others may have their own perspectives on what is critical, so let them to inquire. While you hope that the individual with whom you disclose this information will be non-judgmental and supportive, the reality may be slightly different.

We are frequently drawn to people who are similar to us, and we want them to conform to our idea of them. The fact that you acted out of character may cast doubt on their perception of you, which can be frightening and unsettling.

While some connections, most likely friendships, won’t be the same, many others, such as those between family members and close partners, will be.