21 May 2008

Long Distance Relationships and Peace Corps

The most common reason to leave Peace Corps is because of a significant other (SO). I remember well taking the train to NYC to have my Peace Corps interview and having to fill out a special form to explain my relationship with my girlfriend and how we plan on managing living in separate nations, cultures, and lives. Since Laura and I had already managed along-distance relationship, I believe that we had a head start. Nonetheless, visits are few and far between.

During any long distance relationship, one has to learn how to maintain contact in a way that at least allows the relationship to be paused. That means letters or phone calls that communicate not just like the letters you send at Christmas, including the major events. You need to have a way to maintain contact on the mundane in your life -- how tired you are of the heat, the color of your washing detergent, letting your SO know when you're happy or unhappy.

Long distance relationships can truly take two forms:

  • Relationships are maintained, but problems are solved only when the two see each other, as a plant without sunlight.
  • Relationships grow around the distance, as a vine grows on fence.
There's advantages to both. When one adapts a relationship where a phone call every two weeks or even every week can maintain a relationship for a long time, no one can really have a relationship. At best it keeps you both waiting for the next time you see each other. The advantage of this type of relationship is that it takes much less work and can maintain a relationship where you're used to seeing each other. Also, after the stint apart, things will "return to normal" afterwards.

The other type, where a relationship works well at long distances, means frequent phone-calls, long discussions about feelings about very minute things, and a partial detachment from wherever you live, as part of your identity is connected solely over phone lines and letters. The advantage is that when fights and problems pop up, you already know how to discuss your emotions with the other person. You have incorporated the distance into how your relationship works, and therefore you see a long distance relationship as a sufficient reward to maintain it. At the same time, once you return, your relationship has to adjust to the idea of seeing the other person on a daily basis, and you have to learn how "normal" relationships work.

If you're about to join Peace Corps or be very far away from your SO, you need to ask yourself some things:
  • What parts of the relationship will you lose?
    • Physical?
    • Social Groups?
    • Emotional Props?
    • Sense of Identity?
  • What parts of the relationship are you going to maintain?
  • How often do you plan on communicating? Will that be enough to tell daily activities, or just major changes in life?
  • What are your communication options in your host country? Internet? Phone? Mail?
  • What does your SO expect? partial separation for two years? daily phone calls?
  • What kinds of problems may erupt while you're apart? Infidelity? Arguments? Long-term Decision-making? Falling in love with another? How will you deal with that, short of quitting and running home?
  • How do you expect your time apart to change you? Who do you expect to be when you return, and how do you think your SO will deal with it?
  • How often do you plan to visit? every 6 months? Never? Every 4 months?
Questions about your new host country:
  • How many time zones are you apart?
  • Can you own a telephone? Can you afford it?
  • Can you mail physical letters and packages? How much does it cost?
  • Is Internet present? Where?
  • Can you Skype? Can you bring a digital camera to your Host Country?
  • Do you want to use your vacation time to see your SO, or to go travel?
  • When is the first time you plan to see your SO after leaving the United States?
I was lucky. Living in Guatemala, plane tickets are under $600 to go back to visit my SO and she can afford to visit me. On top of that, phone calls to the US from Central America are under $0.20 per minute, and sometimes as little as US$0.05. We arranged to see each other every four months. We originally spoke weekly, and, as I understood my finances and access to Internet, we began to speak nearly daily. My girlfriend and I learned how to be very explicit about what we needed from each other, what made us uncomfortable, what made us happy, and how to avoid arguments over the phone. No matter how good the signal, emotions, especially anger, just can't translate over telephone calls. If you don't explain your feelings patiently, you'll never communicate what problems exist, let alone solve them.

Before coming to PC and maintaining a relationship:
  • Find out Internet options, bring Microphone and Web Camera if possible
  • Don't expect much contact for the initial months: you won't know your mediums of communication, so just count on a few letters.
  • Consider going to a"middle income" country, such as a Latin American one, Kenya, S. Africa, or Eastern Europe. Your communication and travel options will be much easier.
  • Have long talks with SO on what you expect and don't expect from them.
  • Discuss ugly hypothetical problems until you're sick of it -- falling in love with somebody else, hookups, lies, and mistakes.
  • Take a few memorable photos together.
  • Think of activities you can do "together" while still apart -- watch a movie, play a board game, listening to a CD, and what you need. Playing monopoly over the phone, costing $1.00 a minute, may be worth it in the end.
  • Talk about who can afford to make trips, and who can't
While abroad, remember this:
  • Unforeseen issues come up, making scheduled communication sometimes can't happen: international wires stop working, mailmen lose letters, the Internet can go down in an entire country for days. rem
  • These are the hardest times the relationship will have: difficulty isn't a good reason to end a relationship.
  • Be patient and clear when you're disagreeing. Tones of voice, body language, loud sighs, and facial expressions don't work in long-distance relationships. You have to spell everything out, and not blame the other person for not understanding. Likewise, you can't blame a person for not being able to communicate their frustrations easily.
  • Many Peace Corps Volunteers reinvent themselves in their host country and forget entirely about their life in the US. You never will, and that's okay. Your experience will be much more grounded than theirs.
If you want to talk about this subject more, I encourage you to contact me through this blog or my e-mail.

Update:
This post still seems to get a lot of hits, so it merits an update. I have since settled down with the person I was dating in the Peace Corps: we still often talk about how happy we are that we stayed together during the Peace Corps, as it made our relationship stronger.  Also, I still think it was a good idea to enter the Peace Corps despite being in a serious relationship. When I entered the Peace Corps, about 10 in my cohort were in long distance relationships. Upon my return two years later, I was the only one.  However, take a any group of people in their early twenties, and you won't see many relationships that last two years. In most cases, I don't think Peace Corps ends good relationships: it serves as a stress test for them. Good relationships can survive, and bad relationships quickly become apparent.

I no longer check comments here, but it may help you find others in the same situation. If you have any questions, my email address is still  (written backwards for security):
moc.liamg@cilbup+yelbmert.werdna

43 comments:

L. A. E. said...

Hello,

I found your blog after googling information about long-distance relationships in the Peace Corps. Most things I hear about this subject are fairly grim, and that couples don't seem to last and volunteers eventually find themselves with other volunteers or people from the country of service.

My wonderful boyfriend and I have been dating for several years and he's seriously thinking about joining PC. I'm currently a medical student and would have almost no time to visit him and would have to rely on the vacation time provided by the PC. I, honestly, don't want him to go, but I'm equally upset by the prospect that he doesn't go because of me and ends up regretting it.

I'm beginning to ramble, so let me sum up a few questions that I have:
- Are other volunteers respectful of your relationship?
- How does that factor in the application process? Are people ever denied because of it?
- Is it common in the PC to have a SO at home?

We are trying to work through this process, and any light you could shed would be great, as I don't know who else I can ask at this point.

Karl said...

I.a.e, I can sympathize... I've been pathetically asking google if I'm mad for letting the woman of my dreams join the PC in a location literally half way around the world, in a nation with abstruse entry (and exit!) visa requirements and a cost of travel that eclipses my graduate student salary.

You hit the nail on the head: if she stayed would she regret it? Especially if the relationship later fell apart? What about if it fell apart due to the absence?

Burning questions, yes?

I concluded that I cannot crush her dreams, it's not my place, and not my style. Instead I'm trying to be as supportive as I can, and do as much as I can to ensure my love is not forgotten in the mean time. We'll see how it goes.

It might be worth considering asking him to wait until your done with med school and married, and going together. Of course, you may conclude that being in your early 30's, with a career that you've worked dang hard for in the breach and a pile of debt to pay off, that 27 months is a bit long.

Wish I had more answers, but I thought you should at least feel not-alone in your deliberations.

HBarry said...

This is one of the only positive and helpful things I have found when discussing the Peace Corps and long distance relationships. Thank you!

My boyfriend of 3 years will be joining the PC soon. We have not worked out all the details yet of how to handle our relationship while he is there. When at a party recently I met a volunteer who had just returned to the states. After explaining my situation he sucked through his teeth and said "Sorry, but it's probably not going to last. Most people hook up with other volunteers or marry locals." This negativity I found very harsh and I could not think this is the case for ALL relationships.

Your blog is a great spring board for the discussions that are ahead for my SO and I. Strangly, I'm not as concerned about him falling in love with another, cheating, etc as I thought I would be. It is certainly something that's occured to me, but if it happens, it happens and there isn't much I can do across the Atlantic about it. The thing that makes me apprehensive is how to deal with being far away and not being able to see him.

We do inter-state distance now, and before that I was traveling in Asia for a long time. So we have experience in this, I am wondering though, the perspective from your girlfriend. Like her, I will be the one "left behind" this time. What kind of things did she do to cope, communicate, and otherwise keep the relationship alive without being consumed with sadness while still in the states.

I could not find your e-mail on your blog, other wise I would have sent this there.

Anonymous said...

Dude, didn't you cheat on your girlfriend with another volunteer last year?

D said...

Thank you for creating this blog, I thought I was the only one searching google for peace corps relationship viability. It’s good to know that other people are in the same boat. My girlfriend recently shipped off for her peace corps journey and I’m trying to find ways to cope. She left with the understanding that our relationship is over (after 3 and a half years). It’s not fair to hold her back from her dreams and since we’re not ready for marriage, maintaining the relationship would be difficult, at best.

She has a webcam and Skype, although I think its best if we keep communication limited. I miss her. The thought of her hooking up with someone else breaks my heart. I wish I could ask her to marry me but I can’t. At least there will always be the memories and pictures of all the good times.

Thanks for the outlet and good luck to everyone with your significant others.

Kate Baumgartner said...
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Kate Baumgartner said...

My boyfriend is finishing up the PC application process and will likely leave sometime this June for Africa. I am curious about visiting him during his service. I worry that I will be an outsider or a sudden blow of "life back home" to my boyfriend. Can anyone comment on their experiences with/as a visiting SO? Has it been unsettling or has it been pretty relieving?

Karl said...

I'm back.

He has a very positive message.

I thought I'd highlight that Andrew and his cutie were LUCKY.

It is equally realistic to expect 1 of 4 letters you write to get lost, and the ones that don't will get opened by censors and take over a month to get there, assuming you addressed it correctly. That gets old after a while. Also, the PCV may not have time to write, or become so disconnected as to not know what to write, also, expect not to hear from your favorite PCV for a month at a time. Then there's scratchy, expensive phone calls at odd hours to numbers where the people pick up the phone and have no idea what you're saying. Visas might take 6 months to get, and plane tickets could be about $1700 round trip. Forget about email.

If this sounds like your idea of great relationship, you're a much better person than I. I flamed out at the 6 month mark.

If you or your SO are joining the Peace Corps, think long and hard about your priorities and what you are really up against, and what that's going to do to each other. The PC puts relationships through the meat grinder: That "What part of the relationship will you lose?" question may leave you single all but in name and emotional baggage. The normal rules of engagement for long distance relationships just don't apply: It doesn't matter how good your communication skills are if you can't get a message through.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to Ukraine next week to see my boyfriend for the first time in 4 months! It's brutal, but you can do it. Nut up and make it work if you want!!

H-Bomb said...

I posted about a year ago on this blog and have an update. My boyfriend of, now, four years is nearing his one year anniversary with the Peace Corps.

We've been able to make it work, but this has not been easy. There have been plenty of rough patches but there have also been very nice moments that we would not have gotten if he hadn't gone abroad.

We've become very resourceful. We text a few times a week, and have a phone call about once a week. Skype is a great phone service where I can call his cell, and we also discovered Call2.com where he or I can call long distance for a very low rate.

One thing we promised before he left was we were going to be completely honest with one another about how we are feeling, no matter how terrible it may think it will sound. It helps, trust me. You have to communicate openly and directly or it will never work.

And folks, let go of the fear of cheating. We haven't had any problems with this mainly because we just trust each other. You can't control what someone does, especially over an ocean. Being suspicious won't make anyone want to be more faithful to you than they already are. Trust is key.

I know that we may have lucked out on a few things, but he doesn't have internet, reliable mail, or even fantastic cell phone use and we've made it work. It is possible.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I was googling to see what I came up with and I was surprised to see there are a few things on the net about this. It's good to read your stories and see that there are other people out there thinking about this. I'm currently a Peace Corps volunteer in a long distance relationship with another Peace Corps volunteer on another island away from me. We met in the Peace Corps during out first training phase together before we were flown/assigned to our separate islands, and we've been "together" or essentially, apart as well I guess for a year now. Factoring in the constant power outages, loss of internet and various stresses and demands of the job, I can honestly say, it's not easy, it's trying with so many conflicting emotions what between the relationship and your job. It's all a balancing act and I wish the best of luck out there to anyone attempting it.

Anonymous said...

Facing a very very similar situation right now. Only for me, my girlfriend has recently decided to break up after 2 months cause she most likely will be joining PC by the end of next year? What do you all think, was that a valid reason to make such a drastic decision ? Our relationship was going very well too and we both agreed on that. She is just afraid to break my heart when the time eventually comes and rather do it now than later, and she also does not believe in long-term relationships. I have to respect her decisions, but felt it was unfair for her to make the them w/o first talking more in depth about it with me. Well thats just my venting a bit of what is happening right now. Well i wish the best of luck to all the PCV's and possible PCV's and hope that somehow things on my side turn out for the better. There's always hope.

elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yeah, so I posted in July about seeing my boyfriend for the first time in 4 months... well 8 months into his service I now know he was cheating on me the entire time.

Mary said...

Hi,

I'm applying for the peace corps and have been nominated for Central/South America for Information Technology.

I have a boyfriend who lives in Guatemala and we've been discussing the possibility of him being able to come with me, not to serve but to live near me and work.

Being as I have no idea specifically what country, I have a feeling that this is not something that the PC would allow. Am I correct?

Thanks!

Leslie said...

My boyfriend has been a PCV in Malawi for 3 months now. We talk skype to phone once a week for 5-20 minutes. It's not great but we are able to keep in touch and I love to hear his stories and be interrupted by elephants trumpeting in the background. Only have enough money to visit once at the half way mark (13 months).

If you're about to start a long distance Peace Corps relationship make sure to be honest and realistic.

I'll try to remember to come back and give an update after I visit him.

Good luck to you all.

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend is leaving for the peace corps soon and we're having a tough time dealing with it. We've been together for about a year but we were never apart for more than 2 months...

I trust him completely but the stories about PCVs hooking up with others and the locals is somewhat alarming. Is it really common? From what I've heard it seems like he won't be with lots of other people after training but idk. If you have any idea I'd appreciate it.

Thanks for these posts. It's been really helpful!

Baron5x said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Glad this isn't me.

Anonymous said...

Figured I'd add a slightly different problem.
My boyfriend leaving for the PC has adapted the "let's wait and see what happens after two years but also stay in contact" attitude.
To me, this sounds good but is extremely painful. I'm not sure whether to fully move on (in which case, communication is not favorable) or whether to "wait" for him.

I am also very curious what the actual chances he will end up with another volunteer or local are...

Anonymous said...

My college boyfriend of almost 2 years and I broke up because he was going into the PC immediately after graduation. Making it through two years of having an absentee boyfriend was not what I had imagined my life to be at this point and he felt that he owed his full attention to the people he would be working with in S. America. We keep in touch, and he is a close friend, but the absence of the terms "boyfriend and girlfriend" has enabled our relationship to be much more fluid during this changing time.

Something a personal mentor and former PC employee shared with me as my (still then) boyfriend and I were making the transition has really helped me to cope with the idea of separation. She told me that "if it's a rose, it will bloom." In making the decision of moving on or waiting, which I haven't yet had to confront in any real sense, this simple phrase has stuck with me and helped me remember that plans and feelings can change, but in the end everything happens for the best.

Best wishes to all of the PCVs and SOs.

Anonymous said...

I’m really glad that I found this blog. It truly does sadden me that my girlfriend of six months is almost ready to go into PC in December and we will most likely be breaking up because of it. I have never been in such a wonderful relationship before and I feel completely heart broken by her decision to go. I know that she is astoundingly happy being where she is with all of her friends and being in this relationship and her reasons for going are based on two year old feelings about “greater good” that she doesn’t subscribe to any more.

What is killing me even more is that she does not really want to go anymore but since she has put so much time into the application process, she feels obligated now. I truly do feel that a slight form of brain washing as been going on because of it. It’s as if she does not have a choice anymore and I can’t do anything to change her mind. She seems almost depressed about her service one day and happy that she is going the next. There has been absolutely no psychology inquires as to whether the applicant is mentally ready for such a task. (Which I don’t think my girlfriend is).

I just don’t feel like I can support her leaving because I think she will have a horrible time now that she is having second thoughts and our relationship is growing stronger each day. I’m put into a situation where if I tell her that I don’t want her to go and I talk her out of it, she will resent me for the rest of her life. If on the other hand she does got, I feel that she will regret breaking this relationship off.

Needles to say, the more I do research into Peace Corps, the more I don’t like it at all. I don’t feel that my girlfriend will be safe (based on statistics) and I don’t feel that it’s really out to help people like she is hoping it is. I just wish she could see it.

B said...

I was in a similar situation 7 months into our prefect relationship and he left. I think he was more excited to go then your girlfriend is but he did have his reservations. He does not share emotions freely but he has expressed his appreciation of my support. I do not not think you can not make this decision for her, just support whatever she decides. Any regrets she has will be her based on her decisions not yours, you should not have to shoulder her possible regrets.

We email everyday, he extremely flexible and tolerant. From what I hear a positive attitude it is necessary for survival. The PC is underfunded and poorly run. Nothing goes according to plan and I believe you have to be brainwashed, or in my boyfriends case have a weird excitement about living in a mud hut, to survive. Have her read other PCV blogs to get real view points... there are a lot of tough things to work threw, brainwashed or not.

As for the relationship, we are both realistic about the fact that we will be two totally different people in two years. Im just trying to be a really supportive friend and if its ment to be then its ment to be.

Sam said...

I'd like to say this entire discussion has been very eye-opening for me. I'm applying to the pc, and will find out next week if I'm nominated.

My boyfriend and I fell into a relationship 7 months ago. I say "fell" because I did not want a relationship, I was not looking for a relationship, and I didn't even think about the possibility, because I knew I was applying for the pc. Eventually he convinced me that he loved me and I agreed [:)]. However, he knew getting into it that there was a definite end point in sight, and wants to enjoy what we have while we have it, if that makes sense.

I'm commenting because I'm filling out the Relationship Involvement Q right now... and while we're fairly serious (I'm moving in with him until I leave), most of the questions are things we haven't even started to deal with.

All in all, I don't know how I feel about it, so I guess this comment is meant to convey that I'm glad I am not the only one.

Genna said...

Truly glad I stumbled upon this blog. Google, thank you. And thank you to everyone else, more recently I should add, that have shared their stories. I started filling out my PC application about a year ago as I was finishing undergrad. It has taken me nearly a year to get to where I am now, in the medical evaluation. I'm having a difficult time with my health insurance and finances and feel like it's just a lousy road block with signs everywhere saying "don't go, don't go" since it's already been deadly discerning whether to leave my SO of 3 years.

I'm not really sure what word to use so I'll go with gift on this one. I have an amazing boyfriend. He is a humble, supportive, honest and faithful young MAN. He just got out of the Marine Corps after serving for four years. He put college on hold to follow his purpose in life is still working diligently to get to that next step now at University. I see his passion and it has motivated me to keep moving forward towards my dreams as well. I think you get to a better understanding of what Love is when you separate it from the romance. Though the romance is there, the desire to see that person succeed is, in my opinion... as real as it can get.

So, I have days where I'm certain that I'm crazy, NO WAY am I leaving! and then days when I wake up and remember the true desires of my heart, the places I've always wanted to explore, and how free I am to truly LIVE. I am certain that I could be happy if I stayed, but the core of my being is to serve, I can't run from that truth so it will be in accepting that, that will be my deciding factor. If my SO continues to support me like he already has, 2 years is truly nothing. But, time weathers even the tallest, most vibrant lilies. So, we take our risks.

I intend on going forward with this with my heart fully in it. Otherwise, what use am I to the community I will be serving if I am weak and fragile in heart?! I might as well stay home.

I just had coffee with an amazing friend who I was able to travel across Europe with our last year at University. I told her how torn I was, how scared I am with reality of it, and she told me what everyone else (outside of my family and SO) has told me.. "DO IT."

So , here I am. 6 months away from my departure date. I was nominated to go to South America. I wanted it. At the interview, when I was asked.. I said "I want to walk forward with the full challenge," and refused to specify where but my heart wanted S. America and it was the first place I received a nomination.

I'm reading a terribly amazing book that happens to be helping me a lot. The very first page of the book quoted Sydney Harris saying, "Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."

I guess I already have my answer. Perhaps stepping our of my comfort zone is what I need to work on and to not let fear drive me, anywhere. Would you trust it behind the wheel?

Have faith. We have a contract with this thing called death. You probably don't remember signing up for it, but it will be here before you know it. Live, and more importantly.. love. Follow your dreams. If you can do it with someone, more power to you. If it has to be alone, well... we're never truly alone.

Good luck to everyone discerning. Maybe I'll see some of you in the future!

Peace.

Anonymous said...

I feel so much better now after reading this blog and all the comments. I'm not alone. My boyfriend of 1 year left about 5 months ago and is in Mongolia. It's been very tough. We were both very optimistic before he left, but our relationship has already changed in these few months. Because Mongolia is such an isolated country, communication is difficult. I am a scientist doing a 2 year research program and cannot take off to visit middle of nowhere Mongolia. I'll be honest, I'm upset he's gone and as time goes by, the distance between us grows. I will always be his friend, but how can you put your feelings on hold and pick up after 2 years?

Anonymous said...

Wow, most people here feel exactly the way I do. My boyfriend of 8 months will be leaving soon to S. America and every day that I cross out of my calendar starts to hurt a little bit more. Probably not the best idea to get into a relationship with someone I knew was going to leave, but I would do it all over again. True, I am not happy to know our relationship is going to end especially because he means so much to me but I am genuinely happy to know he will be having such an amazing experience. I will miss him so much, and even thought we plan to talk while he is down there, our relationship won’t be the same anymore. I will go on and live my own experiences and travel the world I also want to see. This man wins over my love everyday and the less I can do for him is to avoid crying when I say goodbye to him. I dread the day he buys his plane ticket to a future without me, but tying someone you love is not love. Thank you all for sharing your experiences, Good luck!

Lucky to have Love said...

Hello All,

It seems that most of you are the "ones left behind" or "about to take off"... I'm writing from the perspective of "SO serving in the PC". I left for the PC over a year ago and am still in the loving relationship I started with. My boyfriend is the most supportive and caring man a girl could ask for. I was in tears departing, and still have the days that are overwhelmingly sad here. I love the work that I am doing, it's just harder than you can imagine to leave behind someone that you want to be with for the rest of your life. I have heard the "if you let it go, and it comes back it's yours" theory, but I have also heard the "live each day like it's your last" theory. I guess every quote in life has another that counters it and that's what can get really confusing.

Anyways what I'm trying to say is that it never gets easier, at least not for me. You hear about other volunteers that leave because of SO's and wonder, are they the smart ones for following their heart, or are you the smart one for sticking to something despite constantly having your mind wander back to the person that you love. Is it brave to stay or is it stubborn?

I've had a wonderful experience in my country of service, but I often question if it would have been better to just stay home. Not know or start something that I constantly consider not finishing. If today was my last day, I would regret being here. But it in all hopes isn't my last day, and I luckily have a man that's willing to wait. I have the intention to stay and fulfill my commitment, I just know it's an uphill battle to the end.

Dreams change, just make sure your dream to help the world is greater than your dream to follow your heart. You can help people no matter where you are, but love is harder to find.

I know this contradicts a lot of the posts, but it's just intended to give a realistic perspective. Another thing, expect to feel selfish if you are the one leaving because it's your dream you are following and it's their willingness to wait for you that makes you the lucky one.

Good Luck to Everyone, and I hope you follow your dream, whatever it turns out to be.

Lover said...

Like everyone else, of course, I just wanted to say it's nice to see all these comments, although honestly some of them are making me choke back tears (quite literally).

I guess I'm going to be an SO of a PCV soon, though I'd never seen those acronyms until just now...my boyfriend is leaving for Eastern Europe in about five months, I think, maybe six. We have been together "officially" for the last year, but we dated two other times before that for short periods--I guess you could say we were off and on for about three years, but never "in love" until this time.

He really wants to go, and really wants me to support him, so of course I will, but it makes me feel horrible thinking about him being so far away. Right now we're in different cities, which will probably help ease us into it, but it's awful just now, and we're able to see each other every few weeks...how will it be when it's months at a time?

I really hope we're able to make it work and come through it, but where will we be three years from now? What will our lives be like, where will we live, what kind of relationship will we want? The future being so soon frightens me. I hope that I am able to visit him at least once or twice; I think that would make the whole thing seem less like a gaping hole in our relationship.

Maybe I'll come back and post someday, when I find out how things are going!

Anonymous said...

One of the major differences of those who are in PC and those where were left behind is choice. The one thing that almost all PCV forget about in relationship is mutual partner respect or equal voice. The PCV chose to leave for PC and leave their SO behind. We are the ones who are left behind. What hurts is that we are completely marginalized and are in one form or another treated as second rate. We are given really two options by Peace Corps significant others. We can be unhappy in a long distance relationship, being the life line for the PCV to the states or we can break up and be ghosts of the past.

PCV never seem to “truly” understand what it is like to be minimized and marginalized by your SO. PCV never think about this and it seems like there is an expectation that we should understand some greater good sacrifice. The hurt inside me is great and the pain is very real. The girl I love is leaving in December to go back home to see her parents and then heads off to South America in February and there is no maybe that she will stay. I’m losing what I feel is my soul mate for her greater good sojourn. Even though I love her and she loves me it doesn’t matter because I know it’s over and for that, I will never respect her greater good. I’ll never understand why she couldn’t go on a journey with me, or why we couldn’t do something amazing together. For some ideal, I have slipped to the peripherals and for that, I know PCV will never know what it is like for us who are left behind because they were never in the same situation. They had the choice, we didn’t. That is not equality in a relationship nor is it respect.

When I think of the dialectic ideas that I’m giving “you” up because I want to live through pain and suffering in a different country in order to maybe make a difference and discover who I am, is not acceptable when you are in a relationship. I feel that the irony of it all is that PCV are so focused on their adventure that they forget about all the people they have hurt or are hurting back home such as their friends, family and significant others. Trust me, despite all the positive E-mails that we send you, and all the great stories we have, it’s a mask. A mask that we hold up so that you think we are ok with your decision, that we support you, and that we think that somehow you will hurt us even more if we don’t smile. Trust me, we hurt, we are sad and we feel left out and marginalized because we will never be important to you because you didn’t chose us.

It’s for that reason; PCV’s will never understand what it is like to be the one left behind and I hope more than anything you never find out because when you are treated as secondary, you will always hurt from that scar.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the last post!!

Anonymous said...

It is incredible, we are supposed to smile because then we “don’t” love them if we don’t support them 100 %. It does hurt. How do you think one will feel when the person we love decides to travel to a foreign country and just leave us behind like that? I honestly believe that if we were in their shoes we would have included them in our decision and even included them in our journey.

Anonymous said...

It’s sites like this that I’m thankful for. There are thousands of people going to peace corps every year yet, there are almost no sites talking about relationships. I'm glad that there are so many people that are interested in the subject. It’s very difficult to deal with and you feel like you are completely alone. It’s good to know that we’re all in this together.

Even though you might not like my points of view, this blog is tackling the feelings and perspectives of a forgotten significant other. I hope to answer any questions the best that I can.

http://peacecorpsrelationships.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

All I can say is live, and let him/ her live. As much as you love them, if you really do, respect that decision that maybe they have thought of before they even meet you. I know it’s hard but your life cannot and will not stop. Everything happens for a reason, let that reason be and continue with your life. Who knows maybe when it’s over life brings you two together.

Anonymous said...

For the last few months I've been posting on this blog with very angry and jaded remarks not only toward my girlfriend but also toward Peace Corps and those who are going to Peace Corps. The reasons are simple, I am completely afraid that I'm going to lose the one girl I've ever truly loved. This fear has chased me around like some horrid Phantom and I let it get the best of me. Instead of embracing my girlfriend's enthusiasm toward helping others and her genuine passions for humanitarian causes and trying to make a difference in the world, I've been trying to fight her. I did the one thing that is inexcusable, I said things that were not true and I hurt her because of it. From the bottom of my heart I am deeply sorry.

She deserves better than that, especially from me and there is no excuse for the things that I've said about her or about Peace Corps. She's the most courageous woman that I've ever known I and I'm thankful she's in my life. She fights with a passion and a fire to make the world beautiful and amazing. But it is that kind of beauty that is unforgettable and why I fell in love with her in the first place.

I'm also sorry for all those who came to this blog trying to find peace and comfort for the trying times ahead of them regarding their long-distance relationship. Very few things hurt more than what we are about to embark on. The last thing you need is someone jaded trying to persuade you from what could be the most amazing relationship in your life. It's blogs like this that bring people together, not pull them apart. For all of you who are going through the same thing as I am, I would also like to apologize.

In my opinion my girlfriend is the one thing that makes the world wonderful and she deserves all of my care, my trust and my passion. No matter the obstacles and regardless of the pain, my girlfriend and I are getting through these two years together. This will be the most trying time in my life. Greater than any academic or physical test but she is worth it. It'll take more than two years and separate continents to question my utmost devotion to her. For no matter how hard it gets we will make.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting post, and I just want to thank everyone for having written on it, as the comments and stories have been very enlightening regarding the parameters of a difficult situation quite a few of us have to face.

It seems as though nothing can quite prepare you for the challenge this (to my mind), rather violent, separation entails.

I wish you all the very best with whichever decision you have chosen to take as a way of dealing with the issue at hand.

Thank you all very much once again.

Brittany said...

My boyfriend is a PVC, and left for Guatemala 8 days ago. I'm already feeling nervous because I was only able to skype with him after his orientation in Philadelphia, and received an email 6 days ago.

We have known each other for 10 years (he is 23, I'm 21) and have been dating for 5 1/2 months, but we have loved each other for much longer.

I'm just nervous that I'm only going to be able to talk to my SO once every week, or worse, even longer! I know how much he loves me, and he knows how much I love and support him. I'm just reading all of these posts and becoming terrified that less talking is going to make things unnatural between us.

He was able to email me from an internet cafe, but he moved in with his second family 4 days ago and I haven't heard from him yet.

Anybody's SO in Guatemala right now? How's the internet there?

Anonymous said...

I'm almost in the same situation as the person who posted above me.My bf of about 2 years now joined the PeaceCorps. He has not yet left. He will leave maybe in about 1 1/2 to 2 years. He is 23 and I am 21. We love each other and all but i feel like it would be a lot easier for the two of us to just "take a break" or break up while he is doing his peacecorp duty.


I'd rather break up because i dont wanna have to go through the emotional difficulty of a strained long distance relationship, when i will probably end up heart broken anyway. I wanna end it now before it even starts. I feel that if we are meant to be, whatever happens after his peacecorps and wherever i am in my life then... if we were meant to be, we'd find ourselves back with each other.

Im still torn, havent decided what to do yet.

Anonymous said...

I am just beginning my application process for the PC and my boyfriend and I have been discussing the possibility of me leaving for two years. I will admit that it breaks my heart to think I will lose him if I leave. We are already apart now. I live in TN and he is GA but we talk every day. I can only imagine how it would be if we were apart for two years. Thank you for this blog. It helped me see all sides of the situation and I know there will be many more conversations as I go through the process. We will both just have to wait it out and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

I recently lost someone I met to the Peace Corps too. All I can say is to enjoy you life and create new experiences for yoursel like they are doing. Take this time apart to focus on you and do what you want to do. There's still so much in my life that I want to accomplish that doesn't require a relationship and I plan on focusing on that. I think keeping busy with your life and allowing your SO to get their experience in will make the time go faster and keep you from the sad and lonely thoughts. If its meant to be then you can reconnect once again and cross that bridge when it gets there; but until then love yourself and love them enough to know that you both need to do whats best for each of you right now. In the end you won't harbor any resentment if things go downhill because you won't have wasted your time...and time is something you cannot undo. Seize the day- carpe diem and my blessings and prayers to each of you. I know cause I'm in the same boat. Just gotta take it a day at a time and before you know it two years wasn't so long after all...

Melissa said...

Hello everyone. After reading these comments I have seen so many different types of relationships represented that I felt compelled to leave my own. . .
Last year (2011) I reconnected with an old high school acquaintance. It was "love at second sight" for me. I kept my feelings hidden however, and we struck up a firm friendship. I found out quickly that he was due to leave for the peace corps in 2012. This saddened me, but I didn't want to lose my friendship with him. Slowly, slowly, something more blossomed. We both knew it but tried to ignore it. Finally, one month before he left, we couldn't take it anymore. We admitted our feelings for each other and just decided to be together and ignore anything else for the time being.
Well, he left at the beginning of March. We broke up. He told me that I was the girl he could imagine loving forever, but that long distance relationships were too hard (he was in a bad one before) so he didn't want to do that to either one of us. He told me that if our feelings remain at the end of his two years, we can pick up where we left off. So right now, we are nothing but good friends who used to be together. . .
Not a day goes by that I don't worry he won't fall in love with another PCV. He is an amazing people person, everyone loves him, so I can imagine his popularity among his fellow cohorts is great. He is in a poor section of Africa, so communication is very limited. I hope to God that he still wants me at the end of two years, but since we are not even IN a LDR, my hopes are little. Every day is torture.

You guys are not alone!!

Anonymous said...

We're all in it together now
As we all fall apart
And we're swapping little pieces
Of our broken little hearts

patient said...

Dr. Dog knows how to cure heart break like no other. Thanks for sharing everyone. My girlfriend has begun the PC process; and these posts have helped me process some of the situation myself.

I am required to mention that this blog doesn´t reflect the opinions of the Peace Corps.