Being in the middle of an international relocation, whether in the preparatory stages or the ‘newly arrived’ stage, is stressful. There is emotional and practical upheaval along with tons of decisions to make and actions to take. Among all these thoughts and decisions and practical matters it is easy to forget that your relationships still need to be nurtured and looked after. In no situation is this more pronounced than when one partner makes the move without the other. Because your partner is your partner, and you feel connected and in tune, it is easy to assume that you are on the same page.
The best way to start your ‘relocation communication’ is to make sure you have the same understanding of why you are not moving together and how long you are likely to be apart. Once you have that covered and are on the same page, you can move on to some of the more practical matters that are likely to arise. Misunderstandings can lead to problems and conflicts down the road and once you are apart they can be much harder to resolve. So, spending the time before the move is a worthwhile exercise.
My husband and I have a recurring issue with how we communicate when apart. He is perfectly happy having long discussions via text, while I feel texting is for the brief ‘I made it to the destination’ message or a quick check-in; in my mind, it is not a tool for conversation. I much prefer talking on the phone or via Skype. Luckily, we are mostly in the same place at the same time. I can see how our mismatched communication preferences could create problems in the longer term.
It may seem obvious, but it is a good idea to plan for how you are going to communicate and when, especially if there is a big time difference. In that same vein, talk about how and when you will see each other. Make a plan for who is going to travel and how often, and while you are at it, discuss who is going to pay for it. Having a frank discussion ahead of time minimizes anxiety, and it brings structure to living arrangements that can otherwise seem a bit free flowing.
Even couples with good communication skills can find themselves in a situation where the other person’s day-to-day life begins to feel foreign and unfamiliar. This may be especially true for a partner that is staying home. All of a sudden there is a host of new people, places and events in your relocated partner’s life, and because you are not there and haven’t met these people and seen these places, you can’t relate. At the same time, you may feel like you are stuck in the same old place with the same old people doing the same old thing, with nothing new and interesting to share.
Any successful relationship requires open and honest communication. If you find it hard to broach a subject, explain a point of view or voice a frustration, don’t wait until later just because you are apart. Consider that a relationship in an extraordinary situation surely requires extraordinary communication, attention and care!
By: Felicia Shermis