During my past years in Berlin, I’ve met many people who've decided to move abroad because of their spouse (and by that I mean boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband). Some of my clients are also going through this process of moving abroad for love and I thought that this might also be your case. Because this is such an important topic, I've put together some tips to navigate the challenges that you might encounter. Let’s get to the point!
So, you’ve moved abroad for love. Maybe your spouse was relocated to a new job in a new country, or maybe you’ve met the love of your life, who has a different nationality or lives across the ocean, and you've decided to give a chance to romance. But here’s what no one tells you beforehand: when you move abroad for someone else, it’s easy to become resentful, annoyed, or bitter about changing your whole life for that person - especially when things don’t go as expected or when the cultural differences are just too hard to deal with. The challenges are quite a few, and you might end up asking yourself: "who the hell am I in this new place?" This is because everything you considered your own identity was suddenly left behind (like your family, your culture, your friends, your job, and sometimes even your profession).
When moving abroad for your spouse, it is possible that you see yourself defined by your partner instead of yourself. As it happens, you might not be seen as an individual with a story of your own, you are someone else’s wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend. And while you seek to settle in this new country, it might be hard to find a job and maybe you’ll have to go through a diploma recognition or get better at the local language before landing a good position. It is also possible that you’ll first end up working in a position that is not as high as the one you had back home and that can lead you to question yourself, your capacities, and your own worth. On top of that, you might see yourself with a limited network of people. While your spouse has the working colleagues and friends acquired from there, you might feel quite alone at home, not knowing where to meet new people, and taking up domestic tasks that you don’t necessarily would like to be in charge of.
Does this all feel familiar to you? If yes, then I might have one thing or two that can help you in this process of regaining your identity abroad and living with happiness this new moment of your life. And although I have not moved abroad for my partner, I have to say that many of these tips help me in my relationship too. What I’d like to point out, though, is that those are MY golden rules for a relationship abroad, so take it with a grain of salt. It's not because that works for me that it will also work for you. My goal here is to give you ideas and support you in this tough process if moving abroad for love and getting to know yourself again. So basically, just to be clear, I am not telling you what you “should or should not” do.
So here we go!
The 7 golden rules of moving abroad for love:
1. Don’t keep a score.
It is so easy to start pointing fingers when things go wrong and blame the other person for that. Even easier to say: "I’ve moved here for you, so…”. In a relationship, there are no winners or losers... because it is a relationship! It involves both of you and everything that one does to better the relationship, is also bettering your own life. Keeping a score about which one sacrifices more or does more is a recipe for disagreements. And this is because it makes the other one feel bad. And we all want to feel good about ourselves in a relationship and in life. That’s the goal of getting together with someone else in the first place! This “rule” is not only valid for those who moved abroad for love, actually. I think this is so important to keep in mind in every relationship.
2. Understand that this situation is not forever.
The beginning might be tough but things can always change! You never know what this new country will bring you. Maybe you’ll end up landing your dream job and finding your "true self" abroad. Maybe you will fall in love with this new city or country. It is important to keep in mind that things are not set on stone and that the way you think and feel about this new place might change too. Even though you might have moved abroad for your partner, the opportunities for you as an individual are endless. The reason for moving is just the beginning of an amazing journey of exploration.
3. Keep your mind open.
Much related to the 2nd rule, it is so important to give yourself time and space in this new country and new situation in life. When you look at things only through one angle, you might lose the big picture. Be curious about the opportunities that moving abroad might bring to YOU, and not only to your relationship. Because, well, you came this far for love, why not keep yourself open for more?
4. Think about why you moved abroad.
Although you might tell yourself that you moved to be with your partner only, or because your partner needed to move abroad or already lived there, there are other reasons that go beyond that. Ask yourself and create clarity around the question "Did you really do this only for your spouse?”. The truth is that whenever we make a choice, we always include ourselves in it and balance out the pros and cons. In other words, we also have our own interests in every decision, as much as it might look like a very altruistic choice. When you move abroad for love, you are not only doing that for your partner but for both of you. You are moving abroad for your relationship. That means you had a saying in this choice, too. In this process of rebuilding your life and identity abroad, it is normal to feel frustrated, annoyed, or angry with the challenges you might find. It is totally okay to feel like that, as you’ve left a life behind to start anew. At the same time that it' important to allow yourself to feel those feelings and to acknowledge that they are there, it is also important not getting attached to them. Don’t allow them to become who you are and to justify putting yourself into a victim position, or to be an excuse to hurt your spouse every now and then.
I cannot emphasize this enough for Every-Single-Couple. When we feel things very strongly, we also have the impression that the other knows exactly what is going on in our head and heart. Or maybe we are absolutely sure that they “should” know! But we are all unique individuals and we think differently. What is obvious for you, might not be obvious for me. So let your partner know what you are going through, allow your spouse to be part of this internal process and help you deal with the challenges. Every decision in a relationship is made together and communicating your feelings makes it easier for both sides to compromise and find the balance.
6. Avoid pointing the finger.
Although your feelings about being in this new country are real and should be acknowledged, your spouse might also be going through similar challenges. If your partner is also not a native, all the same frustration of having to learn a new language, making new friends, and missing home are there. Creating a competition about who’s the biggest victim will not help you. Remember that your partner is not the cause of your unhappiness and keep in mind that both of you want to be happy and to see each other grow inside of a relationship, otherwise you wouldn’t be together.
7. Put yourself on your partner's shoes.
This brings us to the last “golden rule”, which is basically putting your empathy in the game too. This connects with the rule number 6 on thinking about what your spouse is going through as well. Your partner’s thoughts and feelings might be similar to yours when it comes to living in a new country. Although the challenges might not be exactly the same, they are there too. And one very important factor is that the way you feel might also affect your partner. In a loving and caring relationship, it is not easy to see that the other person is unhappy and that can be quite hurtful. It can even lead to your partner believing that they are responsible to make you feel good, that they are responsible for your happiness. And although it is important to feel like both want each other’s well, it is also fundamental to be clear that the responsibility for feeling happy comes from each one of us, and not from someone else.
Do you feel these rules have helped you? Do you have other rules you apply in your relationship? Share it here on the comments session, I’d love to hear from you!
And if you need help in discovering who you are in a new country and finding your way abroad, book here a FREE first session with me!