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The big move and the partner who cries

Today I wanted to share one of my own stories, as I think a fair few readers out there can relate to it. In 2007 I moved from Sweden to the UK to finally live there with my then partner. We’d had a long distance relationship for almost 2 years while I was finishing up at university and it had been difficult to say the least to be away from each other for that long. In our case we had been a couple for quite a while before the long distance situation started, which in hindsight is probably one of the main things that got us through it.

So in 2007, I stood there all excited to finally be with the man I loved again. I had made my decision to go to the UK, despite some very good connections and potential work back in Sweden. But my decision was made. I needed to choose love this time.

Even though the UK is not very far from Sweden at all, it felt like a big move. When I landed I had a place to stay, someone who loved and supported me financially and all the time in the world. But what was meant to have been some of the happiest days of our relationship turned out very different. He was working in the airline industry and travelled a lot. I did not know a single person in the city I had moved to and the girlfriends of his friends that I gradually got introduced to were not at all the type of people I would normally hang out with.

Somehow the exciting adventure turned into me feeling more and more lost, lonely and without purpose. So I started to pour all my energy into finding a job. In a matter of weeks I was ready to take pretty much any random job just to have somewhere to go and contribute.

This story is not at all uncommon for expats and I’ve seen many cases where these things unravel very quickly. For me it only took about 2 weeks to get really sad and bordering on depressed.

If this is you (or someone you know) it’s good to remember a few key things:

  1. You can’t rely on one single person for your happiness. Yes, your partner was one of the main reasons for this move, but you need to find meaningful things outside of this person to feel part of the move and be able to land in your new home. In the case of my story, I realised afterwards that I’d expected my partner to do everything for me (because he was the one who “made me” go to the UK). But your partner (especially if they are working and paying the bills) can not also introduce you to new friends, travel lots together or help you pick a gym. This is where you really need to build your own network and find people with joint interests.
  2. Feeling alone is a choice. I remember feeling utterly alone when my partner went to work and I almost dreaded that big empty day ahead of me. After only a few days I felt like I had walked through most of the city, seen the key attractions and I simply could not handle being out walking aimlessly in a city where everyone else seemed to have a purpose and be on the way to something. The thing we have to remember is that what we focus on is what we get more of. If you focus on loneliness it will magnify. If I had  focussed on going to the gym or connecting with a community group instead, those first few weeks might have been very different.
  3. Meeting new friends is key. Sometimes they don’t even have to be best friends, but just another person you can have coffee or go for a walk with. Look for meet up groups, expat groups on Facebook or pretty much any social or fitness group you can start with. And as you probably know, where you start is rarely where you finish, but unless you get moving with something, you’re a lot more likely to spend time feeling lovely and useless.
  4. Find the next level of your career and start taking action. Many people leave a strong career, a good professional network or a great work opportunity behind when they follow a loved one to a new place. This kan be a very challenging for some people (myself included) and it’s something you need to be mindful of. In my case I got so desperate that I took the first basic admin job I could find just to do something. In hindsight I should have probably been a bit more specific and strategic about the kinds of things I really wanted to do and learn. If you actually start looking at different opportunities even before you go, you can manage that feeling of leaving an independent part of you behind to “follow someone else’s dream”. Sure, you need to be clear on the why and reasons for this move and how it benefits you as a team, but you also need to think a little bit about how it affects YOU. Relationships will always be about some sacrifices as well as give and take, but don’t dismiss your dreams completely. Aim to find that middle ground, new angle or next level of your career and interests.
  5. There is no “one size fits all”. Some people love having the opportunity to take a longer break, stroll around the new city and enjoy it for months. Some prefer to keep busy. Some take time out to write a book or train for a big physical challenge. Others love being at home with the kids. There are so many different nuances and there is no one way that works for everyone. If none of the above points relate to your situation, by all means, just enjoy yourself!

I meet and hear of so many expat partners who have gone through their version of this and suffered for weeks and even months in silence. Cried and asked themselves what’s wrong with them. Asking themselves why they can’t just be happy. The thing we need to remember is that a move is always emotional. The thing that differs from expat to expat is in which way and how much.

In my case we ended the relationship after about 8 months in the UK. I did end up staying there for another few years though, because I’d actually landed and really made the new city my home. And a handful of the friends that I made in those first 6 months are still some of my best friends today.

In my online program we cover most of the points above, make sure to check it out here if today’s post resonated for you and you’re keen to feel better sooner rather than later!