Selling your home, moving house and setting up again in another place is one of the most stressful things couples face, especially if it is a move overseas. There can be financial pressures, the sadness of leaving friends and loved ones as well as the uncertainty of setting up a life in a new country that can really add to the already very stressful situation of moving house. We have put together some advice from some of Brisbane’s best relationship therapists to give you the tools to get through what can be a difficult time.
Julie Hart from The Hart Centre knows that getting through an international move as a couple is all about communication and planning. She says “Once you have your house sold, it is important to sit down and discuss the moving process and together make a list of all the things that need to be done”
Once you have your list, then it’s a good idea to jointly allocate the jobs, along with dates to be done, so that one partner is not left having to do it all, which can lead to resentment towards the other. Then as you are getting all these things done, make sure you keep the other up to date as to where you are at with your jobs.
Hart also suggests that it can be helpful in your transition to your new place to research your new area together, getting an idea of what the facilities that are important to you there are, for example schools, day care facilities, yoga studios, soccer clubs. You could even look for new things you might like to try out that are available in your new area. This can help you mentally prepare for your move, and allow you to look forward to your next adventure, as it can be difficult leaving things that you have become accustomed to and enjoy.
Lars Andersson from Integrating Awareness also stresses the importance of constructive communication. The core of constructive communication is the attitude that is reflected in the statement; “Everything we do, we will do in a way that is okay for you as well as for me”. In other words, neither of the partners in a relationship will push for a way of going about something, that the other does not agree with.
In the situation of moving house, and even more so when moving countries, there are so many details that need attending to, that it may be tempting at times to forget about this principle, just to get done what needs to be done. But the effect on the relationship can be devastating, since that means that the couple is no longer functioning as a team in this context. And when a couple is not a team, what is it? Two people living at the same address – and now changing addresses – but going about it as if they are separate entities, running their own personal agenda.
Helen Harrison from the Power of Change Counselling and Coaching Service says when going through a move, it is vitally important to keep your self-care up including exercise, eating and sleeping well. These activities are always the first to go when moving. She also suggests trying mindfulness practices, a highly helpful tool to keep you in the present moment instead of collapsing into being overwhelmed because there is so much to do.
If you’re going through a tough time associated with your relationship more broadly or with moving in general, try talking to someone outside the situation about how you’re feeling. Some people find journaling a helpful tool to express themselves without judgement. Bottling up your feelings and exploding is not helpful for anyone.
Geoff Fitzgerald, a well known Brisbane counsellor, emphasises that couples should try to focus on the promise of new experiences, new friendships and new adventures that they will look back on and treasure for the rest of their lives. How each individual copes with this change is the real challenge. “Adjustment” is the psychological process that a person goes through when they experience a new set of circumstances and a new situation. It can be relatively easy for some people and relatively hard for others. And when two people make this transition at different speeds, then the gap that emerges can cause friction.
Adjustment happens in four stages:
- Going through feelings of loss for one’s life and relationships that they are leaving behind. For some people this happens before they leave to go overseas, or it may return when they find themselves in a strange environment.
- Confronting the reality of one’s new situation. For some people, the loss of the things and people they have left behind doesn’t become real until they are in their new situation. When this happens, the reality can be stark and confronting.
- Exploring new options in one’s new situation. This is as simple as trying new things, finding out more, making tentative steps to step out into one’s new surroundings.
- Investing in this new adventure. By now you are no longer being passive in your new environment. You are making plans and initiating activities that will enable you to feel connected to this new world around you.
Here are some tips to help you and your relationship make this adjustment.
- It’s OK to have ambivalent feelings. Sometimes you will be excited, sometimes you might feel sad or anxious. The longer you hang in there, the more you will start to feel that air of possibility and that determination to take advantage of this new experience.
- Partners don’t have to go through these stages together at the same time. In fact it is better if you give up on that expectation all together. Be a sounding board and don’t try and push them to be where you are at. There will be plenty of times when you will be excited and exploring together at the same time.
- Don’t be passive. Just remember that you will be having a whole lot more fun when you are more connected to people and activities in your new surrounds. Nobody ever got connected by staying in their room. So nurse your sad and anxious feelings, take them with you and keep getting connected with others.
- Excitement = Fear + Inner Strength What this means is that the very same situation that feels scary will also feel exciting, depending on how strong we feel. So, just hang in there. It won’t be long before your fear will swing around to excitement and you’ll be off exploring and embarking on a spirit of adventure.