So I’m doing something a little extra ridiculous with this Peace Corps thing. I’m trying to maintain a long distance relationship with my partner Sarah. For the next two years.
Who does that?
Oh wait, lots of PCVs do. At least, they try. Naturally, a lot of their relationships fail. Sad. Or the relationship causes the PCV to return home instead of fulfilling their term of service. Sadder. Neither of those sound ideal in my opinion.
In other words, my relationship has a high statistical probability of failure. And if it doesn’t fail, it may cause me to return home early (fuck that). Now, if we happen to beat the odds and end up maintaining this relationship for two years, we still have to endure the immense struggle that is maintaining a relationship for 2 years with a 10 hour time difference between us. With spotty internet/cell service. After only dating for 7 months before my departure.
Maybe I shouldn’t have written it all out like this.
But seriously. No matter what the outcome is, it’s going to be awful in some capacity. I’ve been questioned about it multiple times by various individuals, and I don’t blame them. This decision seems completely illogical and doomed for failure. It seems like a lose lose lose situation, with no outcome really being ideal.
Well, let me try to explain.
I like my partner’s face.
Haha. Sorry, I’m having way too much fun today.
Really though, I like my partner. I REALLY like my partner. Not in the gross bs way of me needing her, or feeling like she’s the only thing that makes me happy, or other things that make me want to vomit. We just match up really well in so many ways. We both love the same things like food, cooking, traveling, family, community, being inappropriate, serving communities, and generally being caring people. We also find each other incredibly attractive which doesn’t hurt.
Well, at least I think so.
Maybe she thinks I’m fat and only likes me for my money. Ha! Joke’s on her!
But it goes beyond that.
I really like her story. (Remember my thing with stories? I like stories. The cool path to the final answer and all that.) I like that my partner is imperfect. My partner can be self conscious at times about her past and where she is at (or isn’t at) in the present, but I find her path incredibly interesting. I love that she has had to deal with a lot of adversity and she has come out on the other side a stronger person for it. I respect her for that. Because she didn’t sit around not analyzing what was happening. She learned from her experiences and generated some really cool personal values. Values that I respect immensely.
I like that she challenges me to be better. And not just better, but to be my best self. I like that she keeps me grounded in what I think matters in this world. I like that she does this, even when I don’t talk to her or see her for long periods.
And it’s simply because I want to impress her. I want her to see that I am a caring and generous individual, because that’s what I want to be, and that’s what she knows I want to be. In order to impress her, to earn her love, I am asked to be the person I want to be. How cool is that?
I love that when I’m struggling to remember what matters here in Tanzania, the memory of her sets my mind back on track.
I like that the best memories we share are some of the simplest. Nights we spent laying underneath the stars and staring into the cosmos. Days we spent going on walks and making food together. Days we spent driving across the country together, when one of us would read aloud while the other was driving. Nights we spent laying in bed reading next to each other. The countless evenings we ate green salad, bread, and cheese. And drank delicious wine. Or beer. Or bourbon. Or shared a cigar.
I like that these memories aren’t extravagant, yet they are the most significant. These are the moments I felt like I could truly be myself around another individual. These are the memories I will never forget. The feelings I will never forget.
I love that she has a level of caring and generosity that when I fail, when I make a mistake, when I’m an asshole, she doesn’t judge me for it. She doesn’t hold it against me. She still likes me. She chooses to focus on the good in me instead of the bad. She sees me for the individual I want to be, not as a sum of my short comings.
I like her.
Ok. That’s enough gushing.
I have some other points to make.
Sadly nobody’s probably going to read this far. Too much gross up there.
So I want to do this because she rocks.
But Aleksandr, two years is a long time. What if you meet someone who’s super crazy awesome sauce and you can’t have a relationship with them because of the commitment you’ve made? Or what if you break your partner’s heart?
Oh, I mean, I’ve already met a couple individuals that fit this description. I find people I like very quickly in a group. Pro of being insanely open with who you are. But yeah, there are a couple individuals I would definitely enjoy having a romantic relationship with. We could have a fun little fling for a while and make some rad memories together.
I’m not going to deny this truth to myself, or any of you.
The thing is, I’ve dated around for a little bit in my life. I know how unsatisfying I find short term relationships. I have dated some awesome people that I wish nothing but the best to. But none of them were a match for me, and thus all of those relationships ended. And that’s the way it is with these people I’ve met while in Peace Corps. They’re so great in so many ways, but not in the ways that truly matter in the end.
Not in the ways that truly matter in having a lasting connection.
Common interests are important, sure. Respecting the other person is important, yes. But the most important thing is a matching up of core values and beliefs. It’s these core things that make my partner and I, a good match.
No one could be better than she is. This seems excessive, but it’s not. No one could match up with more core values of mine. I have no more.
Someone could be equal, but not better.
But Aleksandr, what if your relationship ends because one of you is unable to maintain the relationship for 2 years?
Well, then so be it. I’m not afraid of my relationship ending. I will fight for it to not end, but you never know what life is going to throw your direction. I dislike the idea of being afraid of my relationship ending, because that’s time I could’ve spent enjoying my relationship. So illogical.
Just because something might end, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest time and energy into it. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t struggle and sacrifice a little to maintain it. This is an investment in my future. There is a life I want to live, and without my partner, that life doesn’t exist. To me, that’s worth any amount of risk and sacrifice. Particularly if the sacrifice is that I don’t have sex for a couple years.
Self control is an important part of life.
But I think most importantly is that I don’t need my partner. I want her in my life, like really badly, but I don’t need her. I get a lot of life satisfaction from my friends, my family, the work I do, and my hobbies. I don’t need her in order to be happy, and enjoy life. Now, I haven’t always been this way. I used to need a lot from my partner.
But now, I’m not that way. At some point I realized that my significant other shouldn’t be the focal point of my existence, but simply a part of my existence.
I make it a point not to value my relationship with my partner more than my relationships with my family and friends. Because I can’t have the life I want without them either. They support me just as much as my partner, and thusly, are just as important. I need their comfort, their love, their ability to make me laugh and feel care free. As a whole, they are more important than any single person.
Because of all these reasons, I’m not afraid.
In fact, I’m excited.
I’m excited for us to grow separately, yet together.
I’m excited for us to face our own challenges in public service.
I’m excited for us to face the challenge of getting through these next two years together.
I’m excited for us to learn to survive apart from one another.
For if we can conquer this immense challenge that we face, we are one step closer to having a relationship that can survive anything.
A relationship than can survive emotional distance, physical distance, stress, pressure, sexual frustration, and time.
And isn’t that what so many of us are looking for?
A partner that will stand by our side through all the shit. Good and bad. Distance and closeness. Excitement and boredom. Everything.
Isn’t that worth the risk of losing a partner?
Isn’t that worth the "sacrifice" or "burden".
I think so.
For aren’t the best things in life challenging and scary? Don’t we have to work for the things we want most? Shouldn’t we have to make sacrifices to get the most out of life?
I believe so.
So here we are.
In a long distance relationship.
But knowing that it’s worth it.
No matter the outcome.