I have put off even thinking about this blog. I dreaded posting it, but it is time to explore this. Peace Corps is all about building relationships. It requires cultural integration to effectively do your job. No matter what your job is, building those relationships is vital to your success. What Peace Corps and likely any other foreign service does not prepare you for, is how to retain current relationships. This is no easy feat.
I am in a long-term, basically married relationship with a beautiful soul back at home. He is wonderful and puts up with me running off on a new adventure all the time. He survived me biking across America, my training in Liberia and now this adventure in Jamaica.
The great thing is that he supports me no matter what choices I make, even at the expense of his own happiness. He always says he doesn’t want to be a dream killer. This particular adventure is starting to take its toll on him and our relationship. I have to remember that I am overwhelmed with all this new culture and new faces. He is living a place that is not really home and he is mostly alone. I wish we had taken the time to get more involved in the community and opened up friendships that would have helped him through some of these tough days. When he hurts, I hurt. I feel his misery, I can hear it in his voice.
So to future volunteers I want to give you some advice on how to hold those old relationships together during your service.
- Communication! This is vital, write, email, phone, Facebook, whatever you can do it. And make it regular, do not allow more than a few days go by without a hello and how are you go by.
- Pictures! Make sure you are in some pictures. I am typically behind the camera and then I realize there is no proof I am working or even here. So take the time to have someone snap you doing stuff and having fun.
- Understanding! Understand that your love will begin to question the relationship right around 6 months out. This is actually very normal. Do not react and freak out. They are likely just processing their feelings and trying miserably to express to you how they feel.
- Reassurance! Reassure your partner that they are very important and their support is desperately needed and appreciated. Tell them their support is often what keeps you grounded and focused, but be sure that is true.
- Honesty! Again this is vital. Be honest, if you have a fling, be honest if they ask you. Also know yourself, your partner and your relationship. If a fling is not sanctioned, expect a consequence. Flings can be forgiven, dishonesty cannot.
- Be authentic! Know that your feelings will change, as will theirs, you just have to be prepared to grow apart and work at holding on or letting go. Not all relationships are strong enough to endure a 27 month separation, so before you plunge in, know your relationship and either end it or make preparations for the adventure.
Ultimately I believe my relationship is strong enough to withstand. My partner is strong enough for this, as painful as it is, he will be there for me in the end. I know he loves me and I love him. No matter what happens here, when I am with him, he is my everything and that is really how a relationship survives. Living your own life apart is important, but when you are together you should be each other’s everything. You are your partners whole world and they are yours. The service you do will be a growth for both of you, be prepared to learn so much about your partner and to allow your partner to learn so much about you.
Oh and when all else fails get a new tattoo, that gives them something to look forward to!