I met my partner online, through Hospitality Club. The previous version of Couchsurfing. A beautiful space to meet people from around the globe. I was a very involved member and when travelers were searching for a host in Chile, I was one of the first to appear. Many people wrote asking me for a place to stay, but also for tips or to meet for a coffee. One of them was my now husband.
We hit it off online pretty quickly. When he arrived a few months later, I went to pick him up to the airport. As he saw me he started jumping of happiness. Then I knew: we are going to be together.
Long story short: after 2 years of a long-distance relationship, we decided that I was moving to Vienna, and the only choice that we had was marriage. So that’s what we did. After all the paperwork, I was thrilled we were definitely over with the bureaucracy and now romanticism could start! We even went to Venice for our honeymoon. Lovely, great things were ahead.
Moving in Together: Lovely and Challenging!
Little did I know, the “interesting” part was just getting started! Challenging months. Everyday life came. I was starting to feel desperate because my plans were falling apart. The language was so complex. Not a chance of having a job. No friends…You know the list can be long.
I wish I had someone to give me advice and help me navigate those stressful times. We were both lone wolves: neither of us had lived with someone (either partner or roommates) before. His flat was 42 m2. Very little space. He did the best he could to adjust his place to my needs. Although it was also hard for him, he never complained.
A couple of months after my arrival I wasn’t in a good place. Extremely negative and secretly blaming him for it. We fought a lot and started to resent each other. I say started because he realized that we were in this spiral, and we had THE TALK. Hours of crying, discussing and more crying.
My partner was struggling too. He felt powerless. Scared. Guilty. He was seeing this self-confident, independent, joyful woman falling apart. Even though he did everything he could to support me, there was so much he could do. He was afraid I wanted to come back to Chile.
He was brave enough to initiate it. Brave, because I was full of anger and self-pity. It took courage to say “Gaby, we need to talk NOW”
It is a NECESSARY conversation between you and your partner, after a couple of months (the sooner, the better) moving in together.
What was it about? Setting boundaries, rules, schedules and routines. We established a “safe word” to avoid useless discussions; opened up over our feelings, fears, expectations, etc. By the end, we were tired, but satisfied. We found common ground, now we could start to enjoy life with each other.
The key of the whole process was communication. Never forget to express what you are feeling, and listening to your partner and his/her concerns too. Implement this advices and you’ll be fine!
What to discuss?
1.- What are your (yours and his/hers) concerns about the relationship?
2.- How can your partner help you to feel at home in his/her formerly bachelor flat? And vice-versa?
3.- Reality check: what were your and his/her expectations on your arrival to his/her life and what is really happening? Find a middle ground between hopes and reality.
4.- After discussing all you think has to be discussed, say 5 things that you love about each other, 5 things that you love about your relationship and 2 things that you’d like to work on.
5.- Set concrete steps to work on those 2 things you agreed upon.
That was 10 years ago, and I have to give him the credit. Now I dedicate my professional life to help and serve expats struggling with this kind of challenges. But if it wasn’t for his courage, I probably wouldn’t be an expat anymore. Who knows?
Moving in Together: The Weeks After
It’s beautiful yet it take some time and patience to adjust and enjoy everyday life, with its ups and downs. It is especially stressful if one of the parties is a love-expat (an expat that moved because of their partner) and they haven’t experienced the day to day life as a couple before.
While you are in a long-distance relationship, the time that you get to spend with each other is sacred. You ignore or don’t make a big deal of things that bother you, because you want to spend every second just loving each other.
When you move to her/his country (or both of you are becoming expats AND moving in together as well.), the scenario changes and with it the game rules. You are not just visiting, you are staying. Or your partner is staying. Either way, BIG CHANGE!
Communication is the Key
What to do? Start with these great advices, apply them as soon as possible and don’t forget: Communication is ALWAYS the key in this situation:
1.-Make a part (even a tiny one) of your new home just yours.
A sense of home away from home is a must, especially when your partner is used to live alone or has been living alone for a while before you moved. A corner, a room, a part of the garden… decorate it exactly the way you want (photos, colors, etc.) and go there when you need time for yourself.
2.- Remember that even though this is probably his/her home, you are not a guest.
You are a couple, and from now on is your home too. It is a decision that you made together, nobody is doing you a favor.
3.- Take responsibility for your decision to move abroad and to move in with your partner.
Blaming him/her or yourself when something doesn’t go as expected, it only brings extra stress and it’s 100% unuseful. He/she didn’t force you to move.
4.- Keep in mind this is stressful for you and ALSO for your partner.
He/she may not be the expat, but he/she sees you dealing with this stress (bureaucracy, adaptation, language) and affects him/her as well.
I wish that these tips, insights and suggestions are helpful and lead you to start living the expat life you desire and deserve!
Moving in Together as an Expat? Do get in touch with me, I’m here for you. You are not alone!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.