Setting Something (or Someone) Free

Okay, so this comment recently was posted:

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. -Krisztina

Dear Krisztina,

Thanks for sharing your experience.  I can completely relate to your situation.

The last couple of months leading up to my boyfriend leaving were definitely trying for us as well.  There was one moment in particular in our experience where I realized that he would be going on his own without me (that I couldn’t join unless we were married, which we weren’t ready for and honestly, it worked out better in the end). In that moment, I was also really terrified.  I was so scared of being hurt, or being left behind, so he could embark on this other life.  We ultimately decided to be committed to the long distance thing, but different people need different things.

I also completely understand wanting your boyfriend not to like the Peace Corps.  Which is also possible.  I knew a girl who after the three months of training ultimately decided that she couldn’t be away from her boyfriend, so she returned home.  However, they ended up breaking up eventually for different reasons, but she couldn’t handle being apart.  In my situation, I knew my boyfriend was completely committed to the Peace Corps, but in some way, I hoped that maybe there would be a slight chance he would get sent home  (ie. maybe the school would close, and they wouldn’t need all the volunteers they had originally thought).  Was something in the back of my mind, but something really of fiction not reality.

In your situation, the best thing I can say is that people join the Peace Corps for all different reasons.  Some people join thinking it will help with their resume, or that’s it’s something they need/want to do for their own life experience, or to escape their current life, or travel the world, or to get a couple years out of the corporate world in a beautiful environment, or to help others or even to find themselves.  I honestly can say, wanting to find himself is not the worst reason to join the Peace Corps, it’s actually really straight forward.   The interesting thing about the Peace Corps, is that his experience will not be entirely what he expected.  My boyfriend went in wanting/expecting one experience and got something completely different.  If I were you, I would try and accept that your boyfriend needs this experience for whatever reason at this point in his life.  The hardest thing about this is not to take it personally.  Trust me, it doesn’t mean he loves you any less, it just means this is something that he needs right now.  I was on his side of this situation at one point in my life, and I can tell you that leaving my significant other at the time, also broke my heart.

Now in terms of breaking up before he joined…my boyfriend had a few Peace Corps friends that started with significant others, and others that had just recently broken up.  All of the couples (with the exception of us) who were in long-distance relationships broke up during the course of their service.  There were people who were engaged, had been together for years, even a couple where the girlfriend moved to Africa to be with him in the middle of his service but they all didn’t work out.  That said, I heard recently that one of his Peace Corps volunteers who broke up before they joined, got back together immediately upon homecoming.  So you never know.

My best advice is to accept what he is doing, and go about your life.  You don’t know what will happen with the two of you, but you do know that he explicitly has told you he needs this time to find himself.  Even if you don’t agree (or know what that means), this is something he has told you that he needs, and so you need to respect him and his needs.  That said, also give him the space he needs to do this.  If he initiated the breakup to find himself, then you need to let him go, hope for the best and not try to convince him otherwise.  Go about your own life, he made the choice to leave, so you need to make the choice to continue living your own life.  I know it’s super cliché but I really like the following phrase and think it is so true for long-distance relationships:

If You Love Something Set It Free
If It Comes Back, It Was And Always Will Be Yours.

If It Never Returns,
It Was Never Yours To Begin With.

Hang in there, and again, just remember, his choice was not personal against you, it was something he needed-and now you should take this time to figure out what you want in your life.