My Boyfriend’s Advice for Peace Corps LDR at the Beginning

Recently, a reader asked about my boyfriend’s perspective on what a person at home should do–particularly at the beginning when the Peace Corps Volunteer is in training. I thought it was a great idea to ask for my boyfriend’s opinion, and it was fun to hear what he had to say.  I’m including the original question, my boyfriend’s response and then my feedback–kind of a long blog today, but hopefully it will be helpful!

From a reader:

Hi! I want to thank you so much for sharing all your experiences! It was such a great moment when I got to see your blog. My boyfriend just start his volunteer time in Kenya a month ago… and I’ve been experiencing lots of different feelings about it.

For one side, I feel so proud of him… because I see how he is actually truly living what he wants.. but at the same time it’s so tough been so far away from him… Actually, I feel that the toughest part is that we’re not able of being in contact all the time, since he is very focus on his training…

Anyway… I really understand that, because probably I would do the same if I was in his position.

Well, I decide to write you because I would like to ask you if you could advise me about what are the most important aspect that I should take care about him… I mean, what do they need most at the beginning?

During these last weeks I’ve been trying to keep writing him, to let him know that still when we’re not talk for a while, he is still present in my day a day life. Trying to share with him what I’m doing here, and somehow… trying to keep our communication as it was before he left.

But I’m not sure if that is actually what he needs now, so since your boyfriend is already back… I wanted to ask you if you guys could give me some advises about what kind of support I should give him.

And my second question is if at the beginning is when they actually need more time with their self to get use to all that new experience?

Well… I thank you again for all your help & for sharing such a amazing experience with me.

All the best for this new step that you are taking together!!



Here’s the response from my boyfriend:

For me, I don’t think I really needed lots of contact from home.  So much was going on during training that too many letters to read might actually have felt like a burden.  (But then again I was confident that things would be OK even with the communication hiatus.)

I think the best she can do is keep her cool (not get upset if he doesn’t respond often enough) and line her comments up with his.  If she tries to write to him like everything’s the same, he might see her as being incredibly distant and irrelevant.  She needs to respond to his observations and his mood in an agreeable way so that he feels like she’s still there for him when he needs it.

Nothing is a guaranteed recipe for success but I think that’s what worked best for me.  What works best for her is another matter.  He likely won’t be able to be supportive until he settles into his site, so if she needs that support soon, she’s going to be disappointed.

Now here’s my response:

Honestly, I was a little surprised by my boyfriend’s response, especially the letters and writing feeling like a burden to him. I also thought that I had written to him a lot, especially at the beginning, since my emotions were running so high. I definitely kept a journal I wrote in every night, which I tried scanning and sending him some pages–but those were difficult for him due to bandwidth issues, so I stopped sending those through.  I also remembered sending him an email almost every day, just so he would know I was thinking about him. I looked at my emails and his from the first three months to give you all an idea of the frequency that we emailed.  Now, please keep in mind that not all the emails either of us sent were long, juicy emails, some of them were one-liners. So here’s a breakdown of how many emails were exchanged in the first three months:

Month 1: I sent him 55 emails (he sent me 29 emails).

Month 2: I sent him 54 emails (he sent me 36 emails)

Month 3 (please remember that since his training was only two months, he was actually at his site by this time): I sent him about 80 emails (he sent me 42 emails).

In looking at our emails, I did notice there were some days where we wouldn’t email at all, and others where there might be 4-5 quick emails.  I do remember my boyfriend at one point mentioning feeling bad about not being able to respond to everything. It must have been tough for him at the beginning, without regular internet access and then knowing that every time he would have access, he needed to respond to my emails (and his family’s and friends’).

I also liked the point my boyfriend mentioned about needing the person at home, to respond to how the Peace Corps volunteer is feeling and their experiences.  At one point, I actually itemized all of his volunteer friends in an email, with small descriptions, so I could keep them straight in my mind when we talked about them. It was also as a good way for him to know that I had been listening to his stories about people that he was meeting.

The bottom line is that we did keep in touch a lot, even at the beginning BUT during his training, there was not a ton of free time for him to have long conversations or access to write long emails and I did need to be patient, and really put his needs above mine. There would be days where he couldn’t write, and it was so tough at times, but then when an email would come from him, it would feel great and reaffirm that everything was going to be okay between us.

One more thought, I’ll leave you with—even though I sent my boyfriend what might seem like a lot of emails, there were days where I wanted to be even more connected to him, or wanted to tell him everything that was going on with me; I also didn’t want to burden him with all of my thoughts/feelings though as he was embarking on his own physical and emotional journey. This is where my personal journals came in handy-I could write all that I wanted to, and get any emotions out. Funny enough, I also think it helped to write with a pen and paper as opposed to typing (maybe there was less temptation that way to send it an email).  It also felt more personal that way, like a kid writing in a diary.

  • confused girl:

    I have read your blog, and i have actually copied and pasted some of your stuff to my boyfriend who is now been in the peace corps for 3 months! hes in Georgia! we have been dating for 8 years.. and I thought if any couple could make it, it would be us.. but a month ago things were not the same, and to put it all out there, he said we couldn’t be together while he was in georgia! this was over skype. I had no idea where all this was coming from!! months before he left, we talked about how things would be ok, and the night before he left, he left two beautiful letters, and I knew things would be fine.. I don’t know what happend. I’m 22 and hes 25.. we have been in each others lives, since I was 14. I’m still in shock and very hurt, I knew the distance would be hard, but I was planning on visiting as much as possible. I have talked to friends, and they said, maybe he wants to find himself, figure things out on his own. I have stopped emailing him and giving it time.. I’m just lost and hurt. I still believe things will be fine when he comes home (july 2013). We have eight years together, and strong promises of marriage was made. I believe in love, and the power it has, and I wont give up on us! but am I a fool to wait around for two years? what if he does not want us back… a good part of my life has been with him, and i’m scared to go on without him.
    We have been living together for a long time, most of his stuff is still at my place.. we have a dog together, we used to be a family.
    My friends and family say, its now time to focus on me and finishing college, but its hard.. I miss my best friend. But he knows what he has back home, someone who loves him! I know he knows that. I guess if hes looking for that, he will come back to me.. I hope
    Some advice would be great.
    Thanks so much!!

    -confused girl

  • Catherine:

    I ran across your blog today, exactly what I was hoping to read. As another person stated early on, I feel like this could have been written by me. My fiance left a couple weeks ago for the Peace Corps and it’s been exceptionally hard. I find it even more difficult as I, myself, am a Returned Peace Corps volunteer. You’d think I’d be better at this?:) My issues stem from the fact I’ve seen these relationships dissolve and fade while overseas. No one in my Peace Corps training class maintained a successful relationship with their domestic partner. When the reality kicked in that my fiance would really be heading off to Eastern Europe (he’s in Azerbaijan) my heart kinda fell apart. Thank you for your blog, its sincerely been helpful knowing that someone has made it work:)

    • admin:

      Wow, you def have a unique perspective of having previously served and been there amongst the volunteers! Must have made it even more bittersweet for you that he joined up. Glad the blog is helping, it helped me to write my thoughts, it can be a tough road, but if you communicate regularly–you will be fine!! Lucky for him, you will also know how he’s feeling in the process, which should hopefully also bring you closer as his confidante.

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