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Author Topic: Leaving a significant other behind  (Read 14898 times)


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Leaving a significant other behind
« on: December 03, 2013, 08:04:01 PM »
I am in a committed relationship.  My boyfriend of two years has known since day one that I wanted to join the Peace Corps, and it is about to happen.  I want our relationship to survive the 27 months apart.  He is supportive and understands how much I want this, but obviously I am worried about it.

Maybe I am being unfair to him even asking him to wait for me.  It is a lot to ask. 

My main question is, how did those of you who served while in a relationship make it work? Or did it not work?  Any ideas and insights would be greatly appreciated.


  • Guest
Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2013, 08:33:09 PM »
I did, she married 3 months into my term. I met and married a language instructor. we've been married 35 years. Hoping it works out. Life is full of surprises. Carpe Diem and good luck.

Offline the boss

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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2013, 08:38:32 PM »
There were two volunteers in our group who left spouses behind.  One young lady returned to America after about 3 months, she just missed her husband too much.  Another guy, an older volunteer who was in a marriage that had already lasted over 20 years managed the 27 months ok.  He loved his service.  He did go home to visit twice and his wife came over once to visit him. 

Of the single volunteers who left boyfriends or girlfriends behind I am only aware of one couple who are still together after the 27 months.  Of the others, they either broke up or early terminated.

It obviously is very hard.  No advice here just a reality check.  You must weigh this carefully before accepting your invitation.


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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2013, 09:21:48 PM »
I don't know how much useful advice I can give since I am only three months in, but I am in a relationship with someone who left for PC in Sept. I will be leaving for my own PC service in a few months, but from the perspective of the other half in the states I can tell you it is not easy. As an FPCV I understand how important the journey is and the incredible opportunity and experiences it will bring to him. However, it is definitely a difficult road. He does not have access to reliable internet, so I haven't seen his face in months, we text a few times a day and talk for about an hour on the weekends. Luckily, he has a site placement with internet, so we will be able to video chat once he's there. As of now, the only advice I can give is talk as much as you can about what you want from a PC long distance relationship, concerns, questions, etc. but also know that things will be completely different after you go, so throw expectations out the window. For you, you will be going on an adventure, meeting new people, experiencing a new culture and environment, which is going to be stressful, so you will need understanding and support from him. You will also be extremely busy and distracted doing all of these things. On the flip side, he is going to be left in the same routine, but without you in it. Which honestly really sucks, especially in the beginning. Hopefully he's doing something that he enjoys and will be distracted as well. Depending on how accessible communication is, try as best you can you keep in touch and remind him of how much he means to you and the place he has in your life. If your feelings change, tell him. Tell him all about your adventures, but also remain interested in what he's up to even if it seems boring. Be open and honest with each other and try to keep it as low pressure as possible. The way I look at it now is I'm still at my happiest when I'm talking to him and hearing about his life. How either of us will feel down the line remains to be seen, but until that changes, we'll keep at it! Hope this helps and good luck to you!

Offline shawn

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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2013, 10:30:49 PM »
While I was never in your exact position, I had a significant other leading up to my departure that I was planning on staying together with.

my $0.02:

Its not really for you to decide if it's fair to him or not. That's his decision. Assuming he's in the relationship willingly, if he thinks your decision is unfair to him, he should say so (and he has a right to express that if he does feel that way).

Above all, my father had some great advise for me: I this is really something you want, something you really want, you have to at least give it a shot. If you don't, one of two things will happen. Either you'll resent him for getting in the way of your dreams, or he will think you resent him for getting in the way of your dreams. either one isn't good for the longevity of it all.

There's no reason you can't have your cake and eat it too, in this case. Significant others and Peace Corps service ARE NOT mutually exclusive. I know many of volunteer who have come in with significant others and made it out intact. This isn't the 1970's anymore. We do have communication technology, even in developing countries.

THAT SAID, I know many more who don't make it. Either they go home, or their relationship ends. I'm not going to lie; you face an even bigger decision than most of us did/do. Have honest and Ernest conversations with him and make sure you both are prepared for whats going to happen. If you can, get in direct touch with an RPCV who did what you guys want to do and ask them how they made it work.
PCVL - Rwanda 2010-2013
NPCA Serving Volunteer Advisory Council

Offline brentwhistler

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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2013, 11:26:25 AM »
My boyfriend also knew from day one that I was going to be joining the Peace Corps.  We did OK for a while, but you may find that when your partner (or anyone else) comes to visit - things have changed a lot.  Your values have changed.  What's important to you now may seem a little weird and "off" to your visitor.  That's what happened to us.  We made the decision to have an open relationship for the 2 years, and we kind of went back and forth on that idea several times over my service. My boyfriend finally just couldn't take any more waiting, I guess, and he got into another relationship 4 months before my service ended.  By that time, we'd both changed a lot, and it was for the best.

I definitely thing that changing your mind and *not* going to the Peace Corps to protect your relationship is a TERRIBLE idea.  No matter how you try to be positive about it, you will regret the decision, you will always ask yourself "what if", and you will hold you partner responsible to some extent.

Growing and changing is not a bad thing, and if your relationship is meant to stay intact, then it will.  If it doesn't, then I wouldn't view that as a failure.

I think the idea of just-one-relationship-for-a-lifetime is a false ideal for many (most?) people.  People's needs change; people's values change etc..

Offline AntKristi

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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2013, 08:36:13 PM »
I've heard that having a significant other that you left behind is the #1 reason why people ET (early terminate), so there's obviously a lot to consider before you make that decision.  Peace Corps changes you in drastic ways - sometimes immediately, sometimes not until years later.  But those changes affect you deeply, and if the significant other isn't a part of those changes also...well, it's just a huge challenge.  I wish you luck in your journey. 
RPCV Burkina Faso (Africa) 1999-2001
Community Health Development

Offline tatevw

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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2013, 12:21:06 AM »
Hey! I skimmed through the replies above, but here's my own opinion:

I've been in a relationship the whole time I've been in service, and after 20 months of service, I'm happy to say things are still going very well. Obviously, it has been difficult for both of us, but we've broken up the time and taken vacations together which makes it a bit easier. I've found it's easier to stay in touch than I anticipated, which will obviously vary based on your site placement. With whatsapp and skype, I am able to talk/text with my boyfriend every day. As for the early ET, of course that does happen to some couples. But you'll need to be honest with yourself... and I know the Peace Corps is something I've ALWAYS wanted to do, and I knew I wouldn't walk away from it for my boyfriend. Be sure you evaluate how you are going to handle days without talking, being apart, etc.... but also know that it can and does work out for those who are committed to their relationship AND their service!

Good luck! xxx

Offline nebulus90

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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2013, 06:23:15 PM »
I was a PCV who left a boyfriend behind from 2007-2009. We were an on again-off again couple for two years before I joined, and he always knew I would be applying. Of course it was hard. We made it work by staying in touch and doing our best to listen and respond to one another.

We texted every day, talked on the phone once a week, which was very expensive and oftentimes extremely difficult due to the 9-hour time difference, and visited one another three times (we both flew to Prague - and got engaged after 11 months in), I went home for three weeks during the holidays and he came to visit me for a month). There were times when we would be on totally different levels, but we both made the commitment to one another to try to see where the other person was coming from. We wrote letters, he sent care packages, and we read a couple of books "together". Because I lived in a conservative county, I had to tell my friends, host family and HCN colleagues that we were married (this is a long story, but it made the most sense, since he was going to be visiting me). We made it through the 27 months of service and two years after I returned home, in 2011, we were married. We just celebrated year #2.

Of course there were many couples who didn't make it. Some broke it off within weeks, some months. There was one other person in our group who also made it through with her boyfriend, who she is now married to. In my opinion, there's no point in sticking out 27 months apart if you're not very serious about your relationship - the strain is just not worth it. However, if you do think this might be the person for you, and he/she feels the same, 27 months is nothing compared the the lifetime you'll spend together. You'll have something few couples have, which is an ability to communicate with one another under some of the most stressful circumstances - this something that will come in handy down the road  ;)

Good luck!

Offline PeaceCorps1

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Re: Leaving a significant other behind
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2014, 11:28:01 PM »
We lasted 4 months. I do understand that the distance was crazy.
"If it were not for the reporters, I'd tell you the truth"', President Chester A. Arthur