Expats in love Part II: How to create a meaningful life abroad
This is the second article in a two-part series on expats, love and relationships. The first is "Expats in love Part I: How far would you go?"
Have you taken the leap? Or are you about to? Here we give some pointers on creating a happy life in your new location, whether it’s a neutral country or the homeland of your partner.
Top tips for happy love-expats
Here are eight tips to help you (and your partner) create a fulfilling and meaningful life in your new country:
› Communication is key
Keep communication with your partner open and honest.
Hiding the challenges you are facing, or being afraid to bring them up, will merely allow your feelings to build up until they start to affect aspects of your relationship such as communication, sense of intimacy, trust or even sexual desire.
› Set realistic expectations
Your partner can’t replace other significant people in your life; he or she can’t be your family, your group of friends, your sexual partner and your ideal match all at once!
Though your partner will be a wonderful source of happiness, it is not fair to expect all your happiness to come from one person - which is why the next point is so important…
› Rediscover your identity
You are not only "someone’s partner". You are "you" in a new environment and you are now challenged to be yourself in new ways or to develop new sides of yourself. Enjoy the process of getting to know these other aspects of yourself.
› Seek out the expat community in your new location
Meeting other expats will open up personal (and often professional) opportunities and give you space to discuss your unique challenges as an expat.
› Make local friends too!
I encourage you to put yourself out there. Finding or rediscovering a hobby is a great way to overcome shyness as you already know you have something in common. Joining a club (anything from Rotary International to hiking) is fantastic for socialising as events and gatherings are often organised for members.
› Learn the language
Try to learn the local language - particularly if you are planning to stay for several years. As I mentioned in Part I, being unable to speak the local language feels a lot like being illiterate. Time to get learning!
› Know your rights
Know your legal and financial rights in the new country should the relationship not work out. No one who moves for love plans for this scenario, but it is always empowering to know your options.
› Stay positive
List five things that make you feel happy no matter where you are (e.g. listening to your favourite music) and have this list on hand when you are feeling down.
Relocating a relationship takes work
Sometimes it is hard to separate personal unhappiness in a new place, from your own resentment at being the one who had to pick up and relocate.
This may not have a particularly positive effect on the relationship you’ve moved thousands of miles to preserve.
It can help to understand that relationships exist in an emotional ecosystem, supported and influenced by the friends and circumstances that surround them.
When the external variables change - being introduced to a new friend group (or removing friends from the equation altogether), plus new jobs and a new neighbourhood - the relationship often has to adapt.
The first article in this series, "Expats in love Part I: How far would you go?", explores how people make the decision to move for love.
Do you have an expat love story of your own? Share it in the comments below.
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