Today marks another milestone for Isaiah and I: celebrating 3 years of marriage! And it’s so fun to know the other married couple in our training group, Jon and Nalena, are celebrating their 3rd anniversary today as well.
In addition to thinking back on our wedding day, which started out so stormy (literally) but ended with a meaningful ceremony and a nice, relaxing reception with so many family and friends, we’re also thinking about what it’s like to be married in the Peace Corps.
It’s been a challenge, as all big transitions are, but I am so glad to be having this experience with Isaiah. He’s very likable. And that’s a really good thing since never have we spent so many hours a day together.
Being married is definitely the exception in the Peace Corps as it is often something people do before marriage and because you’re not able to enter Peace Corps service if you have dependent kids. So for any of you married couples out there considering Peace Corps service, here are my tips from our experiences so far.
1. Use The Native Language. It’s been a challenge to push ourselves to just speak Spanish with each other. It’s easy to fall back on what’s comfortable. But the more we use Spanish with each other, the more comfortable it is with others. And how lucky to have a non-judgmental person to practice with at all times.
2. Different Reactions Are Good. Just because we’re married, we’re still two separate people (no matter what some pastors might say during cringe-worthy wedding ceremonies) and have different reactions to stressful situations, like the transition to living in a new country. For example, Isaiah enjoys chatting and getting to know new people and finds that very interesting. I’ve always been a person who enjoys fewer and deeper friendships, usually the same ones for years upon years.
But arriving in a new site with no connections, you have to put yourself out there and meet new people to find out who you could be friends with. It is so good for me to have Isaiah nudge me out the door to meet people, even if it often takes until we’re returning home from an outing for me to admit that I had fun.
3. Like Being Around Each Other. Lots. We each have projects that are our own but we have many that are shared. It all adds up to a whole lot of time together each day. It is a wonderful gift. It can also be a bit much. We’re learning when we need to do our own thing and to appreciate this time together as perhaps not until we retire will we have this opportunity again.
4. Stay Flexible. All Peace Corps interviewers and trainers say flexibility is one of the most important characteristics to have throughout your service. But it’s true for within your marriage too. Your roles in this new context may be very different from the roles you were used to playing within the relationship back home.
Isaiah has a higher level of Spanish than I (but I’m working on it) so he took charge in conversations with our host family or other Spanish speakers, especially at the beginning. This was not something I was used to! He’d even take over and tell the story for me when I was too slow or fumbling around too much with my words. That was what I did in English since I could spit out English words faster than him and was impatient to wait! In that way we had a role reversal and it was a challenge for both of us. Isaiah had to learn to give me space to talk, and I had to push myself to just spit it out even if it was far from perfect.
All in all we feel quite lucky to be doing Peace Corps service together. While we do face challenges here in Paraguay, we’re facing them as a team. Or at the least we have the other person to lean on (or vent to) when we come up against a struggle. In addition to any cultural exchange, our service so far has been an avenue for personal growth and a deepening of our marriage. Here’s to many more years of whatever adventures come our way.