As I now work in France, I see plenty of couples who have made the big move to live overseas, and often a driving factor is their desire to start a new shared adventure, and perhaps rediscover some of that quality time together that was lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life in the UK. However, the grass is not always greener on the other side, as leaving behind the old routine with family, work and friends, forces couples to spend more time together than they have been used to, and this can bring its own conflicts.
While we may think that spending more time together on building a shared dream will be blissful, it can in fact bring new stress; and it’s okay to admit that maybe it isn’t as great as you were expecting it to be. When you are also dealing with a new culture, new language, lack of social support and challenges in finding work or renovating a house, then that’s an enormous amount of stress for anyone to take on. So how can you protect your relationship in the midst of all these changes?
- Acknowledge if you each need different amounts of time together. One of you might crave more time together while the other needs some independence. This might be due to your differing attachment styles, or the level of reassurance you need amidst all the changes. Either way, it is okay to be open about your differences.
- Open up communication and talk about what each person needs and how those needs can be met so that you both feel you are devoting enough time to the relationship.
- Time apart can be healthy. You don’t need to paddle the boat together, sometimes it is better to paddle two boats side by side. Try to make space in the relationship where you each go out and develop a new interest or make some new friends so that you remain a whole and healthy person who brings something interesting and positive to the relationship.
- Keep some quality couple time together on the calendar. Make sure you have time off regularly to dress up and go out to do something romantic and fun. It is too easy to be consumed by your new life of renovation and work and forget that you were romantic partners and lovers before you became a team. Don’t lose sight of what drew you together in the first place.
- You came to this new place to take on a shared adventure, so make sure that you check in with each other on how that vision is developing. Are you both still finding it fulfilling or is one of you struggling? Are you documenting your achievements so you can see how far you have come? If the dream isn’t working out for one of you, what can you do as a couple to remedy that? Sometimes one partner finds they need more time back in the UK with friends and family, or they need more support to become better integrated into their new life. Regardless, the key is to keep talking and to work it out together.
- If you find you are struggling to make it work, then consider seeing a therapist together before the problems become terminal. It is far better to do some relationship maintenance while you are still communicating reasonably well, than to wait until too many hurt feelings have been stored up.
If the subject matter in this article resonates with you, then counselling might be a good option to help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.