Monday, October 15, 2012

Being married in the Peace Corps

A while a go I promised a friend I would post this--sorry for the delay Julianne.

The following is an article I wrote for the Botswana PCV Newsletter that is sent out every month.  It is a great newsletter and I look forward to getting it and seeing what is on everyone's mind all over the country.  John and I had been going through a rough patch and I had talked with single friends about the different challenges of being a married PCV here.

"Being married in the Peace Corps sounds wonderful when thinking of sharing these experiences with each other and having someone to lean on and support you when the times are hard (or to fight a battle for you that would have made you throw the towel in).  Sometimes it works that way and sometimes it doesn’t.   Everyone has heard married people and non-married people go through different trials and tribulations and here are my experiences with them. 

In the US we both had our separate lives during the day.  There were constant activities we could do separately with friends or even with a group together, but not really being together all the time.  People saw us as individual people who chose to be together.  Now anytime they see one of us the first question is “Kabo (John) o kae?”  People are shocked when I don’t know and keep questioning.

 I also have found a disturbing change in myself; I am becoming a bit co-dependent.  Instead of just going to the store by myself or going for a walk when I need to get out, I find myself asking John along or waiting for him.  This is a habit I am slowly breaking as it is destroying my self esteem.

Although it sounds nice having someone to do projects with, having it be a spouse is difficult.  I hold John to higher standards than I do anyone else, which always brings about stress.  If one of us is not motivated, it is easier than expected to drop the other person’s motivation.

In the US I did not have to defend my marriage and the idea of marriage daily.  I don’t want a small house.  I was able to have male friends without people assuming I am cheating and telling me they are going to tell John.  Although it has brought up a lot of good conversations, the whole thing gets taxing a bit as about 75% of my conversations now discuss John in one way or another. 

The most difficult thing is that our entire relationship has changed.  During the first few months at site we fought more than we have ever fought in our entire relationship.  We even discussed going home to save our marriage.  One of us having a bad day often means we both have a bad day…that is a lot of bad days and sometimes multiple day long fights.  For the new couples, it does get better in time. 

We are still trying to figure out how to best cope with this.  Some of the main coping techniques we have come up with include:
·         Making sure we talk about our relationship
·         Not making promises we are not sure we can keep (i.e. talking to someone about something for the other person when you have a busy day)
·         Not trying to be a “back seat driver” to someone else’s project
·         Taking time for ourselves when needed
·         Allowing the other person to go out of town without you if you both don’t want to go

Although these are things we also did in the US the stressors are different and more intense and our support network and stress outlets have dramatically shrunk.  Overall it has gotten better, but when we let down our guard up pops a fight.  All in all I am glad John is here with me and I think this has strengthened our marriage, but definitely tested it. "

I hope everyone at home is well!  We miss you all (and all the yummy food there...especially sushi...mmm sushi).


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