Before you move, make sure you have a good-bye ceremony to take your official leave from friends and family. Of course you’ll stay in touch and God bless Facebook, but everyone will benefit from a moment of closure before moving on to the new home. It’s helps to mourn what you leave behind to fully appreciate what you’re moving toward.
Prepare some social circles to move into. Activate your networks ahead of time to introduce you to their connections. Go hit the online forums to announce your move and see who invites you to their meetings. Don’t be pressured into joining any group in your first week or even your first month; it’ll take some time for you to set up shop and acclimatize. But doing the legwork while you’re still at home will ensure a softer landing once you get there.
The assignees have their social group automatically built-in. When they go to work, they have someone to go to lunch or work out with. They also have a routine from day 1. The accompanying partners have to make their own, especially if they’re not working.
The cool part is you can reinvent yourself. You can edit out the embarrassing bits; nobody has to know your kindergarten nickname. You’ll get better at telling your story the more often you go over it. By the third time you’ll know when you’ve gone into too much detail because people’s eyes glaze over. It’s fun.
Re-activating your professional network upon your return follows the same lines. The secret is to keep in loose touch throughout, and get more involved at least six months before you move back, or to your next destination. Unfortunately, many expats experience the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon. Keeping yourself on your managers’ radar might help secure you a position to move back into.
If you’ve always had your family close, living more than a plane-ride away will take some getting used to. If your parents are getting up there in age, or if they always used to babysit, your involvement in each other’s lives is going to change. For many expats, their family is still the first line of defense, and certainly the first source of support.
Schedule dates and times for contact on a regular basis. When you live abroad, you may not always be able to call them at a moment’s notice. Maybe because there’s a power outage, maybe because the cell tower and internet connection are down, or maybe because of your time-zone differences.
Not every expat family relocates together. Depending on where you are in life, it may make more sense not to. I have worked with many empty-nesters who negotiated longer home-leaves and frequent visits when the spouse chose to stay behind. Maybe your children would benefit from a boarding school, or your company allows for elderly parents to accompany you - it all depends on your personal situation.
Every couple’s sex routines are different, but when you notice an interruption in yours, don’t wait too long before you address it. Multiple factors influence a change in sexual appetite.
Try and develop an understanding for your partner’s experience. Everyone is adapting to cultures differently, and while you’re working on higher goals, they may still be struggling with the basic survival needs.
Keeping a relationship alive and strong is difficult under the best of circumstances. International relocation takes stress and tension to a whole new level, so you have to communicate and discuss your needs and fears even more openly and pro-actively.
The two of you are a team, now more than ever. You’re in this together, and a fulfilling sex life will go a long way in affirming your commitment and improving resilience to tackle all the obstacles this assignment will throw at you. Make time for intimacy, schedule it if you have to, and spend quality time together, in and out of the bedroom.
Image by Lori Branham, Flickr, Creative Commons License.