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Some Footnotes: Relationships and Moving to Another Country

I first want to say that I understand my situation is mine and may not be of interest to most people.  On the other hand when things were at their lowest I tried to find how other couples dealt with moving to another country and wasn’t able to find much on the web.  Most people said it was hard, some said the relationship would strengthen, but very few offered any real life experiences.

My partner has posted his suggestions to making a relationship work during a move, reading his blog might offer a good alternative text to my observations.

I had dreamed of moving to NZ for four years before I was able to get on the plane.  That might not seem like a long time but I’ve had quite a few dreams, first Japan, then Jordan with the Peace Corps. Considering everything four years was a chunk of time.  I had decided that I would move to NZ by myself if needed, I understood that it is unfair to expect anyone to move across the world just for a relationship.  Most Americans want very much to stay in America.  But from the beginning I REALLY hoped my partner would come with me.

I tend to be the paper pusher in the house, so our relationship was spared most of the stress until the actual packing, a huge blessing I suppose.  I had ideas that it would be somehow romantic to sell off everything we own.  Spend the last few nights in our house empty of everything but our cats.  I definitely watch to many movies.

Moving sucks, selling everything and then moving is a hundred times worse.  Selling the small stuff was somewhat tolerable, we posted adds on Craigslist and just camped outside with beers while strangers went in and took whatever they wanted for pennies.  Selling the truck and motorcycle were the beginning of what would be nine months of worrying about money.

I didn’t have that many friends in Austin, this was part of my reason for wanting to leave so badly.  But even my partner, whom had called Texas home for most of his life was having to deal with finding out just who of his ‘friends’ can’t make it to say goodbye.  It was clear that most people thought we were crazy, or at least didn’t understand why we were going.

By the time we cleared out of our house and moved in with my partners mother for the last two weeks before our flight we had lost all romantic ideas.  We were still presenting a unified front, but private time tended to be a struggle.  There was a longing for the whole thing to be over, just most to NZ and we would be happy.

I will never move to another country without a job again.  I had dreams of working as a substitute teacher for the last few months of the year, before picking up a permanent job in January.  Looking back it only took 2.5 months for my partner to pick up a job, and four months for me.  Considering we came on a visitors visa and had no contacts, we did pretty well.

These first months where hell.  Every dollar spent was painful.  But so was the boredom.  We started to resent each other.  I felt guilty for buying a cup of coffee, and then angry when my partner would buy some beer.  There seemed to be this unstated rule in the beginning that under no circumstance should we talk about how shitty we felt.  Since we weren’t really seeing NZ, because that would be a $5 bus fare, we weren’t doing anything fun, having conversation with any interesting people, or otherwise engaging ourselves in anything but our growing discomfort with each other.

As the months went on my partner talked of going home.  Out of those conversations came the idea that we would both stick it out for four months, then part ways if things were still not working.   I’ve heard many times growing up that some extremely high percentage of marriages end due to, or during financial hardship.  Looking back I don’t know how that percentage is not 100%.  Being broke sucks, but being broke with another person is much worse.

Not my Dream Home

About a month into the move we met another American couple that had made the move the same time as us.  They also seemed to be at the same stage of a troubled relationship that we were at.  It was great to talk with her.  We were experiencing many of the same problems, the money, drinking, boredom, general annoyances.  Though as time went on I became certain that my partner was attracted to her.  I knew then that it was just that he wasn’t going though all the stress with her, but I still couldn’t get it out of my head.

When my partner got a job it only made things slightly better since we were not spending so much time together.  But again money issues were always there.  He was making the money so it made sense that he got to spend it.  I was making nothing, so I should sit down and shut up.  We never brought it up in discussion until months later, but that’s what I felt like at the time. I thought once one of us got a job things would begin to improve but that was not the case, until both of use were working, spending time away from home, and had our own money to spend things continued to suck.

It has now been nine months since my partner and I moved to NZ.  We have had many conversations about splitting up in that time.  In the end it came down to us forgiving each other.  To say that we treated each other horribly during our moving experience would be an understatement.  Neither of use had ever been through something so stressful, and we both cracked.

Before the move I read a bunch of blogs from people that had moved to another country.  Many of them mentioned it taking at least six months before things settle down.  I thought this was ridiculous. Even during the hard times I thought I was settling in faster then those people.  I was wrong, it has taken me nine months.

I won’t say that this move has made my relationship with my partner stronger.  The only thing that has gotten us to this point is the decision to stick it out for at least four months.  We have both since agreed that all wrongs during that time were do to extreme conditions, conditions we will never allow ourselves to be in again.

Moving to another country sucked.  Moving to another country with my partner made our relationship suck.  But things become normal again.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel, it was just much further away then I first imagined.


10 Responses

  1. Moving at any time is stressful. Moving to another country is VERY stressful, and adding financial worries into the mix just makes it all worse. I very much agree with the 6 month rule. I’m sorry to hear that it’s taken you longer than you thought, but it sounds like you’re finally pulling through 🙂

  2. I can really empathise with the “‘friends’ who can’t make it to say good-bye” – whilst our “big” party had a large number of people (with some disappointments), my big one was my hockey team – out of 16 people, only 3 turned up. It does tell you who your friends are!

    I can also empathise with the money worries – we are now over eight months in, and my husband still hasn’t got a job. It took three months before I found mine, and I resented every “unnecessary” dollar that we paid out (whether it was for a chocolate bar or a coffee) – I saw it as hastening the time when we’d have to leave NZ with our tails between our legs. It didn’t help that even in the UK, I was far more money conscious than he was. (whilst I was putting money aside every month for NZ, he was still paying off the debts that he’d incurred 10 years previously)

    Now that I’m working, we are still on a tight budget, but have a little bit more leeway – we have a “pocket money” each fortnight which lets us do things like go to a coffee shop, I can buy lunch at work once a week (for the morning when I’m running too late to buy sandwiches), and husband can rent DVDs from the library. It does make it a little bit more relaxed!

    I’m glad that things are looking up for you – and I hope that it continues to improve 😀

  3. I have thought about your post for a while now and I’m so impressed with your honesty and clarity. We have been married almost 25 years and moved here 2 months ago and it is still hard. Although we have different issues, it is still hard. I think you guys are amazing, brave, smart, and resourceful. What you have successfully accomplished most people can not fathom; moving to another country is so different than moving to another state. Yes, similarities but many more differences. It is EXTREMELY stressful and you don’t have any automaticity in anything. Being broke adds to it all and makes it very hard.

    So hey give yourself a break and forgive yourself while you are at it. From the outside it appears you have done a great job of it all. Also, good for you to make/find time for yourself. It is really important to keep your self intact, your own time, some girl friends, some $ of your own. Remember Virginia Wolf, a metaphoric room of one’s own.

    I also think as the US falls apart more and more, you will be happier you came here. Sad but true.

    As the Brits said in WWII, stay calm and carry on.

  4. We (husband, wife, 5 yr old daughter) moved to NZ in 2002. The first few months were exciting, as we discovered the boundaries of our new life. Then the boundaries became a source of stress, as the limitations of our new environment began to erode the euphoria. High prices, limited availability, distande from close friends and the time and shared experience it takes to make new ones. But by 2003, after a few false starts, we finally found our groove and began to settle in. It takes time, patience, mutual respect and some negotiation. But it can make the relationship stronger if you are willing to venture outside of your comfort zone.
    We have moved back to the States temporarily (aging parents) but kept up our mortgage payments on our humble but loveable home up on the outer edge of the North Shore.
    Interestingly, in our time in New Zealand, we did not meet any American COUPLES, just a Yank married to a Kiwi, so it would be interesting to compare notes with a couple where both partners have made the big leap!
    Also, you may find it easier to make close friends with other expats (UK, S. Africa, Canada, Netherlands, etc.) as they may understand your desire to connect better than those folks who are living in the same environment they grew up in.

    (And if it doesn’t work out for you there, you can always come back and enjoy the Gulf of Mexico, Great Recession, and unfettered access to Faux News!)
    -sorry, I’m just really missing the alternate reality I was enjoying in NZ!

    All the best!

  5. Thank you for your post! My partner and I have moved from the US to Guatemala. He’s been here for 2 months, I’ve been here for 10 days. As I’ve gone through each stage of the move I keep telling myself “as soon as this part is over, things will be better” but it seems to actually be getting worse. Before this I’d never moved outside my state. It helps that I speak some spanish, but he doesn’t speak any. I was not prepared for how alone and lost I feel here. Its good to hear others’ experience and get some perspective. Taking 6 months to adjust sounds discouraging, but at least it will help me allow myself (and him) to be frustrated, angry, sad, overwhelmed, lost, bored, and not feel like something is inherently wrong about this move or this relationship.


    • It’s amazing how difficult moving to another country can be. My partner and I were reminiscing about our first NZ road trip. At the time it was the greatest adventure ever, looking back between the broken down car, lost wallet, not enough money for food or gas and getting sick, the trip sucked something huge. It goes to show just how crappy everything else was for us at the time. Things get better.

  6. When I was reading I could not stop smiling and enjoying. It is absolutely romantic I would say. You said you are not sure if you relationship has grown strong. I’ll say the two of have grown as a person in this journey. The tolerance, patience are lost virtue in today’s world. The two of you have earned it.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this blog. I just moved to Mexico 3 days ago to be with my b/f who is mexican. We have been together for a year and I am having such a hard time already. I cry at the drop of a hat and feel so bored. I long to hear english conversations when walking down the street. Or to feel understood by his family (who only speak spanish). I spent a lot of time here last year and i thought it would be a piece of cake. but making the actual move where I don’t have a “home” in Canada is a pretty overwhelming experience. Im hoping these next 6-9 months (hopefully sooner) hurry the hell up.

    Thanks for your honesty!

  8. Thanks so much for posting this. My husband and I have been married for over a decade – and we moved to south africa with our toddler. My family is from here – so you’d think this would be an easy transition – but it isn’t really. I think it’s hard to really quantify the challenges of such a move until you experience it.

    We’re doing some soul searching – because we’re 4 months in and not really feeling happy. We both work from home – so fortunately money isn’t a factor – but we are just feeling very unfulfilled by this move!

    I think it’s critical to keep the communication lines open. We don’t have any off-limit topics but the stressors are definitely hard to ignore! I think you guys have grown – and even if you regret the decision, it’s definitely brought your relationship to another level 🙂

  9. Thank for you sharing your stories and your experience and good courage have inspired me to also do the same with my life. I currently live in Australia and find most people are dissatisfied here – I reckon it is because it is quite a money hungry economy. Keep your boldness and good spirited honesty about your experience. I think you have a right attitude towards the issues that you have come across so far and that is what counts. I am also sure that New Zealand is a very good place to be compared to many other places in this world. I am one who loves the simple and humble, unambitious way of life, that makes me feel close to God. I see NZ as a place grace of God is abound and people in general are gracious to one another because of that. It is nice to hear that your experience was worthwhile and fulfilling one. God bless and happy adventures forward.

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