I met my soulmate before I left for the Peace Corps and, at the time, the thought of being anything more than casual associates was farfetched. Now, three months away from finishing my two-year service, we’re planning to get married.
Long distance relationships in the Peace Corps is possible, contrary to traditional belief, and I want to tell you how I make it work.
So, what keeps you over the distance for someone you barely know?
My boyfriend and I met six months before I was to leave my home country for Nicaragua for two years. He was the first man to express happiness and encouragement when I told him I joined the Peace Corps instead of acting like I was going to live on a different planet.
Like any other relationship, there had been issues between us and, with the distance, we really had to want to resolve them. Whenever there was a problem, we addressed it immediately instead of letting it fester. So we had to constantly ask ourselves if the relationship was worth it. You have to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Is it worth the cost?
I wasn’t always sure it was. We started as friends and, with time, we decided we wanted to be more serious. Once we became exclusive, our relationship became that much harder.
Sometimes, I had to choose work over talking to him.
Some days, the community lost power and there was no internet to call him.
Often times, I would be too tired to talk to him when I finished work for the day.
I had to be completely honest, admit when I messed up and give him assurance that even in my failure, my heart still wanted him.
But. It. Was. Worth. It.
Ask yourself, is he or she worth it?
A long distance relationship in the Peace Corps is not only possible but I think it is necessary.
Why? Because I am a better volunteer as a result of my relationship with my significant other. It has made our friendship even stronger.
It was an emotional journey. Yes, we did have fights. Jealousy did strike a few times and there were several nights when I chose him over sleep. Occasionally, my relationship weighed on my social life BUT through it all, progress was made.
He got to know me as I evolved and became a stronger volunteer and a better woman.
Now, we’re moving towards marriage and I only have a few months left of my service.
Here are a few key ways that I think help make a long distance relationship in the Peace Corps work:
- Want it. We wanted to be exclusive and I wanted him.
- Be transparent. Tell everyone you have a boyfriend. Hold yourself accountable. Being in close confines with other volunteers is tempting. These people understand exactly what you’re going through and will always get it, sometimes more than your significant other BUT remember number 1.
- Make time for your partner. Show him/her that no matter what, you’re willing to prioritize your relationship even though, at the moment, your job comes first.
- Be honest about your needs and don’t be intimidated by the distance. The hundreds or thousands of miles between you won’t matter so much if your hearts are close.
- Visit. My boyfriend visited me in Nicaragua and I visited him when I went home for Christmas.
- Make plans. Know that the distance can’t and shouldn’t be forever.
- Use technology. I don’t know what I would have done if I was in a country without Wi-Fi. For the first few months of my service, there wasn’t any Wi-Fi in the park or my house and it made talking a real effort, but thankfully that changed after a few months of integration.
- Be on the same page. We both love to travel. We both love art. He is a musician. I’m a writer. He’s in a fraternity. I’m in a sorority. We’re both black. Sure, there are differences between us, but one the most important things in life is that we’re always on the same page.
- Support each other. There were times when being so far away made me cry. There were times when I felt frustrated because I was going through something only a Peace Corps Volunteer could understand. There were times when he felt like I didn’t have enough time for him or he was worried because I was sick and far away. But we both stepped up in those feelings and supported each other through it.
- Pray. My boyfriend and I are Christians and praying is an important component of being together. We pray for each other every night and try to pray together. I have a devotional life on my own, but knowing that my boyfriend is praying for me and for us to be in God’s Will gives me even more peace knowing that we are doing this together. Whether you believe in God or not, it definitely takes something higher than yourself to sustain in a difficult situation.
It’s a common belief, theory and some say fact that 70% of volunteers find love in the Peace Corps. Whether with a local, a fellow volunteer or, like me, back home.
Was it easy?
Did I miss him?
A whole bunch.
Was it worth it?
Heck. Yes. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. These two years have allowed me to fall in love with the best friend I didn’t know I needed and now we’re getting ready for marriage.
If you’re considering the Peace Corps and you have a significant other, don’t count the relationship out. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and you may find that distance makes the love grow deeper as well.