Jedd and I joined Peace Corps for the challenge of growing as individuals and as a couple in an unfamiliar, cross-cultural environment. We knew that the Peace Corps experience would help us conquer new obstacles, refine our values that will guide the rest of our lives, and bring us closer together as a couple through common shared experiences and overcoming challenges. Being the practical (and sometimes pessimistic) one, I was gearing up for two years of tumult, knowing that the every-day stressors in our lives were about to get magnified. But what pales in comparison to the normal, surface-level clashes in our marriage is an underlying thankfulness: I’m so glad I’m not doing this alone!
Some of the single Peace Corps volunteers, who make up the majority of our crew on the island, have told us how lucky we are to have a spouse in Peace Corps. The primary challenges faced by the average Peace Corps volunteer, a young single woman, are mainly because she’s just that: young, female, and single. Feelings of isolation or loneliness being the only American at your site, getting lots of unwanted attention regarding your gender or availability for marriage, having to navigate a foreign country and its customs without much feedback, are just a few of the things our friends- and volunteers around the world- deal with every day. We give the single volunteers major props! In turn, we’ve come to realize that being a couple in Peace Corps provides quite a few benefits, such as:
Safety – Peace Corps does what they can to place volunteers in safe housing and cover liability issues, but the simple difference between a single and a pair is a marked increase in safety. When I walk through town with Jedd, people pretty much let us be. Traveling in twos sometimes makes us less of a target than going alone. On the other hand, a group of three or more and you are automatically tagged as a group of tourists.
Budgeting – Being a couple in Peace Corps also, surprisingly, has its financial benefits because every volunteer receives the same stipend amount, even for costs that are being shared. Because we cook for two or can share meals when we go out, we are able to save more from our food budget. Whereas single volunteers sometimes feel strapped for cash, couples have a little more wiggle room.
Companionship – This is inevitably the best part of the Peace Corps experience for couples. Depending on your job assignments, you could start to feel like you’re spending every waking- and sleeping- moment with your spouse, which can get to be too much. But Jedd and I are in different fields of work (we even spent 5 weeks in separate training hubs). So it’s great to have our individual time at work but also to be able to come home to someone who understands not only where you’re coming from (the U.S.) but also what you’re currently experiencing (Jamaica). Being able to process, reflect, vent, and dream with each other is a huge blessing in this kind of experience. I think that in some ways, having each other to lean on also makes us more available to be there for our fellow volunteers who need support.
To conclude, I’m just very thankful to have my husband by my side during this experience, prickly facial hair and all. I don’t know what I would do without him, and I can feel that through this experience we truly are growing closer together. I’m looking forward to the unforeseen ways that Peace Corps will impact our life together from here on out. -M