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belonging

Love and Belonging Needs - Friendship, Family, Sexual Intimacy

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Love and Belonging Needs - Friendship, Family, Sexual Intimacy

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.

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Stabilizer™ Temperament and Belonging

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Stabilizer™ Temperament and Belonging

As I'm working through Dr. Brené Brown's "The Power of Vulnerability" workshop I am reminded how Dr. Brown's research shows that all humans are wired for connection. We all have a deep-seated need to feel love and belonging. Except perhaps psychopaths who feel neither shame nor vulnerability.

The word 'belonging' in Type language is associated with the Stabilizer™ Temperament. In 450 BC, Hippocrates called it "Melancholic", later on Spränger called it "Economic", Keirsey called it "Guardian", and if you're familiar with your MBTI® result, it maps onto Sensing and Judging preferences (SJ). Temperament theory has been around for millennia, before Jung's Type theory, and it's a holistic view of a person's behavior and motivators.

Membership or Belonging, as well as Responsibility or duty, are deep psychological needs for Stabilizers. They try to meet these needs by respecting and upholding traditions and rituals. They tend to first look to the past to learn how things used to be done, or if they have personal experience of something, before making up their minds. They often value rules and may strive to uphold societal structures by keeping their families or larger systems secure. I have a friend who loves planning and making lists, doing plenty of research before a new endeavor, and she's happy to observe and ask trusted experts about their experiences when she's trying something for the first time.

Although I'm quite prepared to believe every human being (except those who lack the ability) wants to be connected - emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually - I wonder if the majority of Dr. Brown's research subjects had Stabilizer temperaments. Or perhaps women in our generations were still raised with a focus on duty and responsibility to the family. Or maybe the need to belong is a sign of extraverted Feeling. Making yourself smaller, perhaps, so as to not offend anyone. Which of course takes us back to the difference between belonging and fitting in. Maintaining harmony may be too big a price to pay if your self-worth is on the line.

I don't know if the elephant is a good symbol to represent belonging, but from what I know, their survival is dependent on the group, they live for a long time, and they also keep up traditions. Plus I saw this picture and thought how marvelous to remember that these majestic creatures also start out small, and vulnerable.

*African elephants are now listed as Vulnerable. They wander in non-territorial herds that can reach 200 elephants, even one thousand during the rains. Their society is based on a social matriarchal community. The matriarch is the oldest female who leads a clan of 9 to 11 elephants. Only closely related females and their offspring are part of this herd because males wander alone once they reach maturity. The herd’s well being depends on the guidance of the matriarch. She determines when they eat, rest, bathe or drink. Females in the herd practice motherhood by being allomothers to the calves. These assistants play with and babysit babies and retrieve them if they stray too far. 

 

Image by Fred Ericsson, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Top 3 Challenges of Belonging

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Top 3 Challenges of Belonging

Human beings are wired for connection. Even a hermit needs a crowd to get away from. Why can it be so difficult then to find the place we belong? Especially expats may be struggling with this question on a regular basis.

We don't want to offend anyone. When we arrive in a new country, we learn about customs, the language, and where not to put our hands or feet. It's a miracle when we find a local we get on with, and who likes us, too.

Brené Brown says,

True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.

The first challenge is being yourself. When you have to contort who you are, you might fit in. Like when you learn a new language or remember not to grab food with your left hand or show the soles of your shoes in some countries. It's hard enough standing up for what you believe in in your native land. Outside of your own culture, when you're depending on other peoples' good will, there are more variables at play. Adapting to different practices may help you fit in, but fitting in isn't the same as belonging.

Sometimes, even fitting in isn't an option. As my 6-foot blonde German friend and I discovered when we joined about 20 Indians at a birthday party. We literally and figuratively stood out. If you look different, it's easy to expect differences. If you look like everyone else, it becomes more difficult to explain our cultural differences.

The second challenge is taking your self-worth off the table. Whether you learn that language or not, you are still a person worth of love and belonging. Just because you put your foot in your mouth (figuratively speaking) doesn't mean you have no right to be there. Everybody makes mistakes, and yes, as expats, some mistakes cost us dearly. You always have the choice to learn from the mistake and move on, try to do better next time. I'm willing to bet you're not the first nor the last one to make mistakes. You are still worthy of love and belonging.

The third challenge is knowing why we want to belong. Why are you wanting to fit in with this family, group, or organization? Are you maybe hoping to gain something other than the group is offering? Knowing why you want to belong can be helpful to understand what you're expecting to gain from the group, and what you are willing to contribute in return. If the best part of cooking class is getting to eat in the end, you don't need a group. Invite some friends, find recipes online, and try them at home.

Dr. Brown says that fitting in is the primary barrier to belonging, because generally, you have to change something about yourself to make yourself fit. I think in the case of expats, there's a lot to be said to appreciate and respect other cultures, and make an effort to learn. But as I hope these three challenges illustrate, your self-worth should never be on the line.

Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

If you're new around here, welcome. If you're an expat, know that you belong to the exquisite phenomenal outstandingly awesome club that is made up of millions of other expats, going through the same change process. You're not alone.

Image by Aussigall, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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