Fears and Doubts

I received this message from someone recently and wanted to share it with all of you.

First of all, I have to tell you that I come to this page at least twice a month to read random entries. My boyfriend and I started dating over a year ago. From the start, he was very upfront and honest about his interest in PC and about a month ago, we FINALLY got word of his acceptance and assignment to the Dominican! I am filled with so many great emotions – but also some negative ones, which I believe is totally normal. I have a couple questions for you – how did you kick the blues when you were out of contact for long periods of time? What did you do to calm your mind and thoughts, particularly about his safety. Maybe even fidelity. I’ve no reason to doubt him, but I wonder if that mind will ever cross my mind. Also, how often is acceptable to visit your PCV? Since my boyfriend will be in the Dominican, I can picture lots of short, one week trips. How much is too much? How long is too long? Also, I started my own blog as well and plan on quoting you quite a bit. You put so many things into perspective for me and have really gotten me to shape my mind about being in a LDR with a PCV, not just someone who lives on the opposite US coast. Wishing you all the best!!

Here is my response–

Your situation sounds really similar to ours–we had been dating for about eight months, and the entire time I knew that the Peace Corps was in his soon to be future.  Originally, we had been told that he would most likely be leaving after the holidays, but then he received the call.  There was an opportunity for him, to good to pass up, but he would have to leave in November.  I, too, remember feeling very mixed. I very clearly remember us being in the kitchen, making dinner and hearing about the offer. On one hand, I was very excited for his new adventure, particularly this group and country, but I also felt sick to my stomach. I also, didn’t want him to really know that either.  I remember him saying, “I think I need to go,” and I said simply, “I know.”

In terms of your other questions…

We actually didn’t have too many times when we were out of touch for that long.  I believe the longest was actually when he first arrived, and then it took probably about a month for him to get settled in and get a phone.  In the time in between, I wrote him a ton of emails, and wrote in my journal A LOT.  I felt very sad.  Another thing that really helped was just feeling connected to him through mutual friends or even his family.  His mom and sister were really amazing about checking in with me.  Friends were also good.

Worries about his safety–before he left I told him that if he ever felt like he was in a somewhat dangerous situation to just pretend like I was there with him, and so he would feel more responsible for his own safety (or mine).  A couple months into his training he was out by himself at night, and came to a really dark empty road and saw a dog–he said that my voice popped into his head reminding him that he had to protect me/us also, so he turned back–maybe he would have anyway, but I think because I really made him think about that it was just more than his safety at stake, it was me or my heart (I know that is kind of cheesy) but honestly kind of true.  I didn’t worry too much about his safety, because it was kind of pointless–that said, I did become really good at reading current Kenya news, so I became more familiar with the political situation. Mainly I would sometimes get worried about his health, but I also knew that if things got really bad he would come home, and I had to trust him to make those calls on his own.  Ultimately though, I had to let those worries go, there was nothing for me to do.

The fidelity issue.  I wasn’t worried.  There were times when I wondered who these new people were that he was meeting, and maybe it partially crossed my mind, but funny enough, we were in such consistent contact I honestly think it would have been impossible for either of us to cheat, without the other one knowing.  I also think it’s funny that the assumption is that the PCV could cheat, and not the person back at home.  This came up once with one of my girlfriends, and she said to me, “You do realize that he’s going to be around all these people who take bucket baths, and you are around clean, well dressed people all the time.” Ha!  Anyway, I guess the point is, just be consistent about your communication, and be honest about everything.  If you feel down, happy, anything let him know–it’s important that you build this free flow of information, so you build trust and a great strength in your relationship.

Visiting–I visited four times in the two years.  You’re not allowed to visit during training, and then for the first three months of ther service.  I believe there is also another rule about not visiting at the end of the service (maybe last couple of months) but I think that one might be more lax. Each trip was about 2.5-3 weeks.  Your visits will most likely depend on his work schedule.  If he’s a business volunteer, he should have more flexibility for vacation time, if he’s in school, the breaks and trainings will determine availability.  I wish I could have snuck in a fifth trip, but it just didn’t work out for us.  The longest we were physically apart was about seven months, and that was rough.  I really struggled at one point with the sadness, but made it through.  It’s during those times, it’s important to voice your frustrations/sadness and maybe plan a date night together.

Thanks for all the questions.  It’s so bittersweet for me to read past entries, and remember that time period when he was in Kenya.  It seems so long ago, but that part of our lives was such an important part of our story and creation as a couple.