Last Peace Corps Long Distance Relationship Standing

My boyfriend informed me a couple weeks ago, that the last couple (besides us) in his PCV group, in a long distance relationship had ended.  So we are it–we are the last Peace Corps long-distance couple standing from his group.

This news, of course, made me reflect.  There have been tough times for me in this relationship, where I felt lonely or a little insecure about what would happen, but ultimately I think the reason we have worked is because we have communicated on almost a daily basis.  I also took my ego and the game playing out of the equation, and let myself cry and be needy sometimes.  I also wrote letters (in a journal) to my boyfriend when I was working through issues to help me sort out feelings, which was generally a great tool and sometimes helped me frame conversations (or reflect on them).

I want to reiterate for anyone thinking of embarking in a long distance relationship with someone in the Peace Corps that communication is key.  This week, we went about a day and a half without a real call or Skype chat and that was a lot of down time for me.  Yes, sometimes that happens, where we can’t have a lot of talk time, but really I do everything possible to make sure we get as much talking together time as possible.  It is so incredibly important.  I guess maybe it is also about how one views the boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic, or what you want for your relationship–but honestly what I want and have is a boyfriend who is my confidante, my support system, my rock and my best friend.  He is the person I love waking up to in the morning (even on Skype) and the one I brush my teeth with at night (again on Skype).  We are not just talking every other day or every week, we speak almost every day. It’s important for me that he knows everything that is going on in my life on a daily basis, and that I know everything that is going on in his.  It keeps us connected as partners.  Again, this might not be the relationship that everyone wants or needs, but this is the one we have chosen and has worked for us.

I also have wondered if the reason we have succeeded in our Peace Corps long-distance relationship is because we are a little older than most volunteers.  Most Peace Corps volunteers are right out of college, but we were a few years older when my boyfriend joined the Peace Corps, late 20s.  Due to our age, my experiences with relationships taught me what I wanted and how rare it was to have found what I did with my boyfriend.  I spent a long time figuring it all out in my 20s, about what worked and what didn’t. So when I finally figured it out, I could finally settle myself down and commit whole-heartedly (even though ironically once I found him, he moved to Africa after dating for a few months).  You have to find the humor in these kinds of things.

So maybe it’s the age, or simply finding the right person.  Whatever it is, if you do want to be in a long-distance relationship with a Peace Corps Volunteer, just remember that communication is the ultimate key.

Alone Time

One of my friends is currently doing a little bit of a LDR thing with her husband.  He is working in another state during the week and flying home on the weekends to be with her.  They have been trying to stay positive by appreciating their weekends together because it has been more quality time, and they have looked at their weekends as mini vacations.  On Facebook today though she posted “appreciates alone time but this is getting to be ridiculous”.  I laughed and completely understood.

When my bf joined the Peace Corps, we also tried to look at the long-distance relationship in a positive light.  We would get to do our own thing for two whole years, see each other every few months, be in a committed relationship but get to live our own lives more independently.  Fortunately, for the most part, the experience has been a good one for us–we’ve become closer friends/partners, appreciated each other more, fallen more in love, and I’ve definitely become a better communicator and learned how to express myself more clearly (sidenote– huge tip–if you are in a long distance relationship, especially for the girls out there–if something is bothering you or you need something from your guy JUST TELL HIM, don’t make him guess or hope he will know, JUST TELL HIM WHAT YOU WANT OR NEED–he is not a mind reader and will appreciate the directness–this is one of the best things I’ve learned in our time apart, and can apply not only for LDRs but for regular relationships).

I also feel more settled, and I have absolutely enjoyed the alone time, time for myself for reflection about my past, present and future–has honestly been a really good experience for me…however, I’m ready for him to come home now.  We have a little less than seven months left (less if they let him out in time for the holidays), and while I know the time will fly by, I’m ready to start living my life in the same place together.

Part of this longing for the alone time to be over, and for our life to start together, is also because we haven’t seen each other in person for almost five months–we have only been apart this long once (before my first visit to Kenya).  Yes, we see each other on Skype but the virtual smiles can’t compare to holding your partner’s hand or making out! For this second year, I had really intended to see him every 3-4 months but work and other travel plans didn’t permit that scenario, so this in between time will actually be seven months (writing that here makes it seem even worse–yikes!).

Recently, someone posted a comment on my blog asking if we were still together because I hadn’t written in a while and my blog was inspiring her because her boyfriend is joining the Peace Corps soon.  I shared this with my bf and he said, tell her to visit as much as possible or possibly move there to be with him.

I am all for the visiting as much as possible–I feel like we have been fortunate as I have visited three times so far and by the time he comes home it will be four times.  Some people might say to themselves, “Yikes, four times in a 26 months??!  That is not for me!” but for us, it has been okay, not perfect, but it has worked. It has given us alone time, individual and together adventures which has been very, very cool–and I definitely love him more now than before.

Moving to be with your partner in the Peace Corps is a tough decision–I definitely kicked the idea around, but ultimately, I think we both still wanted our alone time, our own set of adventures before joining up again.  My bf does have a Peace Corps Volunteer friend whose girlfriend did move to be with him, she was lucky enough to have a job skill she could use to find work with a little bit of pay–they seem happy, so it has worked for them.  The problem with that scenario (I think) is the possible pressure for both people.  It’s tough enough when someone moves to another city in the same country for you, but to add another country, with trying circumstances (limited water supply, humble living area, culture differences and no real support system) it is a completely different story.  I also think if you do want to move to the same city where your boyfriend or girlfriend is during their Peace Corps Service, you need to visit there at the minimum one time, preferably twice, so you are incredibly clear on what you would be getting into with your every day living (don’t just visit during their vacation time). Personally, I know I would have gotten a lot of satisfaction doing my own kind of community service if I had moved to be with my bf, but I also know that not having some luxuries (ie. not having a regular shower every day and just doing bucket baths) could be trying, especially living as a couple. Ultimately it was not the right decision for us.

All of that said, I feel like I am in a bit of countdown mode–preparing my life with my bf in the same place again.  I’ve had more than sufficient “Alone Time” and am ready for “Together Time”!