Many of you out there have significant others and are learning the complications and triumphs of love in a, shall we say, slightly more adventurous lifestyle. I wanted to offer some of my own experience, and perhaps, some advice.
Disclaimer: Paul and I have done long distance and living together. We got married this past August, and this year will be Paul’s sixth season playing professionally. None of this necessarily qualifies me to advise, but it doesn’t disqualify me…does that work for you?
Today I wanted to speak mainly to those partners who are thinking of, or are currently living together.
You Do You
In this lifestyle, relationships can be challenging, but incredibly deep and rewarding. As a partner, you’ll be asked to sacrifice, and put yourself in situations you may never have dreamt of. It can be tempting to become passive. A strong partnership requires respect and pride in one another. Your partner fell in love with you because you are a unique human with your own abilities, perspectives, and ambitions. Do not stop nurturing these things. Whether you’re into travel, cooking, learning the language, getting involved in a volunteer organization, or heck, rollerblading-find a thing for you. You may be overseas for your partner’s career, but that doesn’t mean it needs to define and consume your identity.
Of course, this can be challenging in a foreign country. Admittedly, it’s not a great idea to go exploring alone in the hinterlands of Russia, and I’m considering compiling a collection of short stories titled, Erin’s Adventures with European bureaucracy: visas, work permits, and the road to an aneurysm Understand and accept the opportunities and limitations of your current home, and move on with a plan of action. Helplessness, lethargy and despair are not cute. You get to cheer on your partner to stretch their potential each day, give them the same chance to be your cheerleader.
I find that I’m a much better partner when I’m feeling competent and fulfilled. Paul knows this. This is the flip side: your partner should be a) making their appreciation abundantly known preferably through many hugs and possibly chocolate b) encouraging you to get out and get your own thang
It is vital that my partner is equally supportive of me and my interests. Plus, when you’ve got your own stuff, you and your partner have a lot more to chat about than his/her training or the sometimes frustrating life in the professional sporting world. Too much overlap is boring. That’s why we like to keep things spicy with discussions about politics and social policy. Oh yeah…Rrrrrromance.
Your career plans aren’t dead
Keep building your resume abroad. You can confidently use words like “resourceful” “adaptable” “cross-cultural communication skills” with concrete international examples. Also look for opportunities for practical experience. I’ve been very lucky to find work as a substitute teacher, English language teacher, summer camp counselor. I also joined a local branch of Amnesty, and even left for a year to do a Masters Degree in Sydney. Again, I realize these types of opportunities might not be available in every country/city. I just encourage you to think of every situation as an enriching experience…like when someone begins yelling at you in a foreign language…another lesson in cross-cultural communication…or something.
Do Your Research
Figuring out how to get going can be daunting. Luckily, the Internet is a wondrous place. In addition to being your portal to illegally watching all of the TV shows from the US, the Internet has some great resources. Troll hard for inspiration and advice. I’m constantly reading expat forums, diplomatic and military spouse blogs, and most especially blogs from the city or country I’m living in. Definitely talk to other partners in the same situation. We’ve got to support each other in this! Good luck!
Erin Bay Carroll