My Boyfriend Just Left for the Peace Corps

One of the most difficult times of being in a long-distance relationship with a Peace Corps volunteer is at the very beginning.  It is difficult to be the one left behind, the one who is not going off to a new place on a new adventure.  It is also sad to adjust to life without your partner around.  The beginning is tough–it is full of uncertainty, insecurity and without your partner around to discuss all these feelings it is only made tougher.  When my boyfriend joined the Peace Corps, I promised myself that I was going to get through the two years, that I could do it–that each couple faces a test or trial of some sort and this was ours.  I knew I had it in me, but I was still nervous, was our relationship strong enough to get through the time apart, would either of us meet someone else?  So, in the beginning, it was really tough–really tough.

Something that really helped me when my boyfriend left for the Peace Corps, was knowing that his leaving had nothing to do with me. I had been on the other end of this kind of situation years before, so it was easier for me to understand that his leaving was all about what he needed to do for himself, not that he didn’t love me. Sometimes being the one left behind makes you sad or hurt that they chose the place over you, but really it doesn’t have much to do with you–it’s really just a life experience someone wants/needs to fulfill. It’s important to remember that this new adventure is not a way of leaving you, but a way of satisfying something in the other person that you simply cannot provide–so if you want to be with that person, you must commit to supporting the adventure also.

I also think it’s incredibly important to understand that even though your boyfriend or girlfriend may not be with you physically in the same place, you are still living your lives together.  It took me a couple of weeks to realize that, especially with him away, and without much communication.  I kept thinking to myself, “when we have a life together,” but then I realized we already had a life together, it might not be conventional, but we are living our lives together in our hearts and thoughts, just in separate places.  Once I realized this, I felt stronger in our relationship, and in the time we were going to spend apart.

So even though there were all those things I told myself to feel better and not as alone, I still cried hard on day 3 when it finally hit me that he was gone, and so I did the one thing that has always helped me in tough situations, I wrote in my journal. For this post I went back to my journal from the first month he was gone and truly the writing really helped me.  I wrote to him in my journal as though he were right here with me-I told him about my daily life at work, with friends and however I was feeling. It was like a security blanket.  I also wrote emails that seemed to disappear into thin air because my boyfriend didn’t have any connectivity. Throughout this entire time apart, I have written letters that have stayed with me in a journal. During some months (particularly the beginning) it has helped me feel connected and as though my message on paper would reach his thoughts.  It also has been a wonderful tool of going back to from time to time to remember how I felt, or even what was going on in our lives.  I’ve even thought about continuing it when he gets home.

I also talked about this in a previous post, but in looking at the time apart, at the beginning I really wanted a way to measure time that would seem manageable to me.  I thought about looking at it in terms of weeks, or months instead of days–but the funny thing is, that for the first nine months that he was away, I actually would put the # of days he had been away next to the date of my entry, but after nine months it stopped.  I think it was only then that I really got into more of a routine, and felt more comfortable with the distance. The marking of the number of days stopped around the time of my second trip to see him, and the second trip was really cool because we were more in a rhythm with things and knew what to expect with each other.  The only real exception was about a month ago when I was feeling really alone–I felt the distance and so I pulled out the calendar and counted the days left so I could see the exact number of days and percentage of his time left in Kenya.  For me, it helped a little to look at time in percentages.  I would suggest a similar method to any couples in a Peace Corps Long-Distance Relationship–figure out what makes it okay for you (ie. you only have one more birthday to go before your boyfriend/girlfriend is back). Just find a different way of measuring time that doesn’t seem as daunting as the number of days.

Training time is extremely rough (in my case it was two months, but most typically three).  The reason the training period is so difficult is because during the training, Peace Corps Volunteers are sent to live with a family which means they have little or no privacy, so phone calls may be short or not as in depth as you would like–don’t take it personally.  Your Peace Corps volunteer is still thinking about you.  Also, at that time your Peace Corps Volunteer is making new friends with the volunteers in his group, and adding new people to his life.  We made it an effort to talk/email about all the people in my boyfriend’s Peace Corps Volunteer training group–I figured if these people were going to be around in my boyfriend’s life for the next 2+ years (at the very least, since lifelong friends are developed in the Peace Corps), it was important I knew who he was spending his days with, so he could feel comfortable in talking with me about them, and so I could be familiar with who he mentioned in conversations.  Think about it like starting a new job–if you start a new job, you would tell your partner everyone you met on your first day, the same is true with Peace Corps.  By knowing the people surrounding your boyfriend/girlfriend in the Peace Corps, it will also help you be more involved in their daily life, and make for good conversations later.

Also, as soon as possible, make sure your Peace Corps Volunteer gets a phone, and make sure you get a calling card plan.  After shopping around, the best plan for me was Nobel.  We would talk a lot his mornings (my evenings) on his hour walk to his daily classes.  He would walk behind the rest of the volunteers and we could chat a bit about our lives.  This also helped connect us, and even though it was a much abbreviated amount of time together than when we had physically been in the same place, it was a big help.  For any other time I needed, I again used the letter writing to fill in gaps.

The main thing to remember when you are in a long-distance relationship with a Peace Corps volunteer is to keep yourselves connected.  Be really aware of how you feel, and find ways to keep your boyfriend or girlfriend at the top of your mind–if you commit to having this boyfriend or girlfriend, don’t let the long distance make the relationship less real.  You are in a real relationship, those feelings are there, even if you are separated by oceans–you are carrying each other around in your minds and hearts, so be respectful of the relationship in the same way you would if you were in the same place.

  • Colleen:

    wow, I feel like I wrote this blog. My boyfriend left at the beginning of June and is located in Peru. He just finished training today. My emotions are all over the place and I can’t seem to control them. We will be seeing each other for the first time at the end of November. 6 months is so long to not physically be together…I am scared, tired and find myself being jealous over other volunteers. Jealousy has never been an issue for us. We have been able to speak daily but I miss his touch. This is exhausting but comforting to hear a success story about another couple.

    • admin:

      Colleen, I completely understand. The first few months are really tough. It might also help you to see a pic of his volunteer friends. Also, it’s more than likely he will actually only end up hanging around 2-3 of them for his duration depending on his placement. Keep up with the daily phone calls. The first trip out there when you are reunited will be great. Just think, we are almost to September–and September is only really a partial month anyway because of the first week holiday and October will fly by as you spend time getting your halloween costume, carving a pumpkin and getting ready for your trip. You are almost there!

      • I can totally relate to this. My boyfriend was accepted into the Peace corps a year ago and left yesterday for Honduras. We have known for the last year that he would be leaving which made things kind of hard while the year was still playing out. Towards the last two months i started having break downs and crying. The last month he was here we lived together which has made letting go even harder and the last week we spent a lot of time crying together. I am scared and in pain. We broke up after being together 2 years because he wanted to figure himself out (by joining peace corps). I have let him go because i know he needs to do this for himself, but i have this selfish hope that he will not like the PC and come home or that he will miss me too much.. i also have mixed feelings about him joining because of his actual intentions for being in the PC. I am absolutely heartbroken and do not know what will happen which is terifying. I haven’t had anyone to talk to about this because no one else can relate so it is nice to hear about other people’s stories.

  • Dee:

    First off, I would like to thank you for your blog – it’s great to hear a successful LDR through the Peace Corps. Though this was written about a year ago, this post embodies everything I’m feeling at the moment. My boyfriend of 3+ years just left last week for Ukraine and he was placed in his PST location yesterday. His location is apparently new to the Peace Corps and this is the first time volunteers are placed here. Because of this, internet is scarce and/or non-existent and phone calls are difficult for him to make internationally. We are both worried about not being able to communicate regularly, but are optimistic and determined to make the best of whatever situation we’re going to be placed in. I think at the moment, I’m just more concerned about his needs than my own, wanting him to know that I’m with him no matter what. Still, it’s really comforting to hear advice and others’ stories of the same situation – thank you and congratulations to you and your boyfriend moving in together (:

    • admin:

      Thanks, hope it helps! My suggestion for you is that you try to put more responsibility of calls/communication on you, if at all possible. Not sure what the phone plans there are like (or reception for that matter) but if there’s anyway he can get a cell, or you can send one to him, you can at least buy calling cards to call him (in other countries, calls that are received are actually free, so it might only cost you not him). Honestly, my BF rarely called me when he was away bc it was too expensive, he also independently had to contact an internet company to get an antenna installed on his roof for internet access, and then keep on top of them to make sure his service worked regularly. I would push a little on your end, to see how you can make the communication easier for you both and then also have him check around with companies around there to see if anything at all can be offered for internet. Also, keep a journal to help you with your own needs/emotions (because they are important also!). Best of luck to you both!! :)

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