Category: family

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expat, family

A Move for Two


Moving with your partner sounds like a good deal: you have someone to share the load, handle all the arrangements and manage the logistics with you; and you also have someone who can feel your excitement on the good days and appreciate your frustrations and disappointments on the bad ones.

All that is true, but in fact moving à deux also makes life so much more complicated.

First, not only do you have to deal with your own adjustment issues; you have to worry about your partner as well. How well (or how badly) they are doing affects how you are doing. If they are not happy in the new place, it is unlikely that you will be happy there, hard as you try. Worse, if they are struggling while you are having a much smoother ride, they will be difficult and jealous, if not resentful of you.
Then, especially if things are tough and at least one of you has a hard time adjusting, there may be an issue with who initiated the move. If you were not as eager to move as they were, but decided to follow anyway, you will blame them for everything that goes wrong. You may refuse to adapt and settle. According to surveys, the top reason why international assignments fail – basically people pack up and head back to where they came from – is what they call “partner resistance.” Having been both initiator and follower in different moves, I can tell you that the only way to make it work and avoid resentment building up is if even the follower has a serious incentive to move, like being closer to a family member or a potential future career option. As soon as there is compromise or sacrifice involved, but not some kind of reward, we have a hard time letting go. We are human (at least most of us are!).
In addition to all that, when you move to a new place, at least in the beginning, you will be spending a lot of time together. There will be no distractions, no family or friends to act as a buffer, no outlets for when you have enough of each other; it will be just the two of you (ok, maybe you have kids, but I’m talking relationship-wise). Not everyone can handle that under normal circumstances. Add the stress of moving and settling, uncertainty about how your life will be in the new place, job pressures and culture shock – and that’s a lot of pressure. How you go into the move as a couple determines how you come out of it. If you have solid foundations, you will come out stronger; if your relationship was dysfunctional already, you can be sure that any underlying tensions will come to the surface.
So when you least expect it, your relationship is being put to the test. Why am I writing this? Because I think that most of us do not anticipate having to go through such complications when we move. The practical aspects are so overwhelming that we overlook the potential strains on our relationship. We are not prepared to deal with them when they come up. There has to be a better way.
Has moving affected your relationship?


Where’s the “good” in goodbye?


For my first post of 2013, I will steer clear of New-Year’s-resolution-talk (not least because I’m having a hard time with mine) or speculation about what the New Year will bring. One thing that it will predictably bring – like every year – is more goodbyes. Saying goodbye is a process I go through several times a year. I have become quite good at it, but still dread it every single time.
So once again, starting the New Year meant for me, among others, saying goodbye to my hometown, my country, (the sun? J), my family and my friends, old and new. Once more, I wished I didn’t have to go through the torturous procedure, almost invariably the same every time: the tightness in my chest as I leave home converting rapidly into a mild depression during the trip, then two to four days of inconsolable sadness, followed by a gradual healing process that may take one to two weeks, as the routines are re-established and I get so absorbed by the rhythm of my daily life, that it is as if I never left. Even though every time I know that I will be ok in the end – when all that’s left of the sadness is a bittersweet aftertaste of being permanently away from something and someone –I still go through it every time. I wish I didn’t have to, but I also know that is the deal I have made – I and all those others with similar life choices – to live within the cycle of perpetual goodbyes. I’m not complaining.
As I was reading some of last week’s New-Year’s-resolutions-press, something caught my attention. It was the suggestion that, rather than coming up with a list of random resolutions, it makes more sense to think about what matters to me most – who do I want to be, what makes me happy – and make sure I have or do more of that.
One resolution that is always somewhere on my list, ever since I can remember writing them down, is to make a bigger effort to stay in contact with family and friends. Some years I do better and others I do worse; but I keep at it year after year. It is part of who I am and it makes me truly happy.
I want more of that this year as well. More goodbyes, but also more hellos.

Home for Christmas


I have always loved Christmas – the atmosphere, the lights, the smells, the presents, the food (the food, the food…); it’s just that the last few years I got side tracked. I had children and a home of my own and suddenly became responsible not only for my Christmas, but also for that of a few other (mostly little) people – for whom everything had to be perfect. So somehow Christmas progressively transformed from a relaxed and carefree family holiday, to a stressful and hardly enjoyable one. Trying to get everything
right – and on time! – led to a hectic craziness of Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, Christmas decorations and double- (sometimes triple-) booked Christmas events. Every year I promised myself that next year I would do things differently and every year I broke my own promise.
Except this year. This year, we are doing things differently. This year we’re staying home.
We need to. This move gave us the perfect opportunity to stop the madness. The transition to our new life has had its ups and downs. My children are still struggling to find their place here, especially to build a new circle of friends, while they still miss their
friends and their life back in Vienna very much. I can’t do much to help them with that, but what I can do is at least make sure they have a safe place where they can go when things get tough; a refuge. I want to create a little corner where they can be themselves and feel accepted and loved. I want them to feel secure and comfortable there. Creating a home has always been important for me, but the kids have made it essential.
And it’s not just for them. We are far from settled. We all need to find our bearings. But for that, we need to take a deep breath and give ourselves the time to feel at home. The holidays should be the perfect opportunity to do that. Being relatively new to this place helps too. So this Christmas there will be no big plans, no party invitations (obviously, given the current size of our social circle) and no trips. We will stay away from traffic jams, stress and last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. It will be just us, hanging out at home, listening to Christmas songs, decorating the tree, baking cookies and sticking glittery stars on the living room windows. There will be board games and hot chocolate, popcorn and favourite movies, singing and the smell of the beeswax candles on the tree.
Yes, I know it’s cheesy, maybe even a bit boring for some, but it will be just perfect.