Same Same, but Different: The Story of One PCV’s Long Distance Relationship

Kim Roberts, 128 TCCS

I have been in a long-distance relationship throughout the duration of my Peace Corps service. My partner and I wrote about our experience during the last two years of service as we’ve worked through the ups and downs of this crazy journey called life.

K: We met in 2014 at a mediation training sponsored by my university’s housing department.

E: It was about a month later after we met and had some generally professional conversations. I was working on a news story that took me to one of the residence halls, and that’s where the office for that one girl from the training happened to be. I went in to say hello. It was an animated conversation; fast, excited, and brief. I had to interview one of her officemates. But I did find a reason or two here and there to come back.

K: Yeah, and you still managed to give your number to me.

E: Then we were texting, me sending her updates as my students gave presentations. I had a gathering at my house on Thursday evenings, where we’d sit in the back garage, play darts or foosball and Cards Against Humanity. I wanted her to come. But we really needed to talk first. I went there for one of those Thursdays instead of staying home. We really needed to talk.

K: I remember being really busy that time of year, so it took a while to meet up.

E: At this point, it was pretty clear we were both interested. I had something she needed to know, though. As it turns out, so did she. We sat on the couch, flirty but awkward, and I was trying to find just the right way to steer the conversation to say what I needed to say. She was, too. We got there around the same time.

E: “I’m actually married,” I said.

E: “I’m going into the Peace Corps,” she said.

K: Nothing was stopping me from joining Peace Corps.

E: We both digested this for a few moments, me seeing a future relationship that would have some distance and communication challenges, she processing the fact that I’m polyamorous (or poly for short; engaging in multiple committed relationships).

K: I remember exhaling hard, got up and got a glass of water. Married?!? We had to talk about what poly was because I wasn’t up-to-date with anything in that area of relationships. Looking back, there were a lot of follow-up conversations about how poly looks for us.

E: Kimberly and I both shrugged and said we’d try it.

K: At the time, I had monogamous relationships; clearly they weren’t working for me. Why not try something new? Ah, the sweet beginnings of a flexible volunteer…

E: A lot has changed in the three and a half years since Kim and I agreed on this. I’ve moved across the country as she moved across the world—literally, I was driving a U-Haul through Nebraska while she was on a flight to Incheon. My marriage quietly ended. I started a tenure-track job. And I came out as transgender.

K: I think the hardest of all of that was E driving through Nebraska. Yikes.

E: One of the things I said to Kim on that couch several years ago was that the one thing I could promise is that it would never be boring. It hasn’t been. It hasn’t been easy, either.

K: Adventure awaits!

E: It isn’t my first long-distance relationship, but it has been difficult. I’ve done my best to calculate time zones correctly, sending updates of the profound and the mundane. Photos of the Oregon Coast and of the produce section at Albertson’s [grocery store]. My lecture notes for the morning and which video game I’m playing. That we’re playing.

E: That was probably our biggest bump along the way. Because while I am very much committed to Kim, I also met Jess. A mother of five, her marriage also ended not too long ago, and we just have an easy time being together. During a brief visit home [in 2016], I was terrified for how this would go. I love Kim. I love Jess. Having them meet was very important to me. It needed to go well.

K: Yeah, I was really insecure and wasn’t sure how it would go either.

E: After a rough first part of her visit, Kim and Jess did meet. It went well. We’re making plans for our big, goofy family, Jess’s present kids and the ones Kim and I plan to have together. My transition and Kim and Jess coming out. Our respective careers as educators and the house we’ll someday have.

K: We talked a lot about how their relationship together affects E’s and my relationship. How this all looks moving forward together; E with Jess and me with E. Isn’t at the basis of every relationship good communication?

E: Tomorrow I have my new couch delivered. I just moved to a bigger apartment. That couch will see conversations and films and video games and arguments and the silence of blissful togetherness. It’s different from that one a few years ago. We’ve told all of our secrets by now.

E: When people ask me how we’ve been able to do this, How Kim and I, and now Jess, have worked with a relationship interrupted, I have to say that it just all came together for us. I became myself, a lot to explore and figure out. I never doubted that Kim would come back. Our conversations pick up where they left off. Sometimes I wonder if it would have worked as well had our relationship been conventional. We’ve based it on being honest. I’m grateful to have been able to walk with Jess through this, just as Kim has been able to share time with others in her service.

K: Ditto.

E: It all reminds me of the ending of the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. People come and go through our lives as a dance. I think of the friends and loved ones I’ve left behind in two major moves. There are the few who still twirl through my life, the ones you know will always be there, will come back. Kim’s dance has been a long one, her melody touching so many in this service she’s wanted to do for so long. That song will end, though, and she’ll come and pick up a new rhythm here.

E: I’ve never doubted our song. If you hear the music of those you love, and if they move to yours, too, then there’s always a way. While it may be a challenge sometimes to only hit pause when stop would be less painful, it means the catharsis when you hit play again is that much stronger.

K: Can our song not be Zombie?


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