The initial flurry of unpacking and getting settled has passed, the excitement of the holidays is over and a more normal routine has begun to prevail.
For many accompanying partners, the realisation of what “normal” life will entail in a new country comes hand-in-hand with a true understanding of what overseas relocation means for their lives on a personal day-to-day basis. Many, even the strongest proponents of the decision to move, find that reality significantly different from expectations and many may doubt the wisdom of their decisions.
You may have thought that it would be a relief to have some time off from the daily grind of managing two careers and all that comes with it or that you would welcome a break as an opportunity for change. Instead you discover that you miss the satisfaction of an intellectual challenge, the independence of your own income, the fulfilment that comes with completing a project and the part of you that is separate from your partner and children.You may have thought that you would be able to easily land a job in your field in your new location but discover that, you could but salary structures are lower, and it just doesn’t make sense for you to work.
If you are working in your new location, you may find that the reality of managing dual careers and building a support structure for your family from scratch is an endlessly frustrating experience. If you weren’t working before the move, you may have been relishing the change as a way to add challenge and interest to daily life but discover that the everyday reality is quite discouraging and even a bit lonely without your familiar community and activities.
Whatever your circumstances, self-doubt may be creeping in and your confidence in your decision to move may be ebbing fast. In this month’s article and next, I’m going to talk about moving forward from a decision which may not feel right.
To be able to work towards making your move right for you, you must first accept where you are at this moment in time. Building a life for yourself is unlikely to be successful if you have an unrealistic view of where you stand (therefore what you have to do to change it) and if your time and energy is being consumed with second-guessing and regrets. But, how do you get to acceptance?
• First – the decision to move may be the right one but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. If you’ve read platitudes that tell you that you’ll know when you’ve made the right choice because everything just falls into place, ignore them. Change on this magnitude is going to be challenging. Period.
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts” Arnold Bennett
• Understand that acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to like your current circumstances or that you renounce your desire to make changes. It simply means that you acknowledge your life as it exists today.
• Recognise that, of your family members, you are probably the one facing the most significant changes in your day-to-day life. These changes can shake the core of your identity and your confidence.
• Be kind to yourself. If you are missing your career, your friends or your family, it doesn’t mean that you’ve made the wrong decision, it means that you are experiencing a period of mourning for the life you used to have and a process of recreating your identity without that part of your life.
• Remind yourself of why you are there. If you used mind maps or lists of pros and cons to make you decision, get them out and reacquaint yourself with the positives.
• Engage in some introspection – ask yourself what you are struggling to accept. If you dig deep, your answers may surprise you. Consider why you are having trouble accepting and how it would feel if you did accept the things you’ve been resisting.
• Last but by no means least, if you can’t get there by yourself, seek out help. Friends and family may not be able to understand the challenges you’re facing but consider coaching, counseling, mentoring or your partner’s company’s Employee Assistance Program as potential resources to help you to reach a positive outcome.
“Happiness can exist only in acceptance” George Orwell
If you can reach acceptance you’ll find you have a foundation from which you can make positive changes toward growth and fulfillment in your new life and I’ll be sharing my thoughts on starting to make those changes next month.
Acceptance questions adapted from "Emotional Options:A Handbook of Happiness" by Mandy Evans
Evelyn Simpson is a personal development coach who works with the accompanying partners of expats helping them to transition to expat life and to find happiness and fulfilment in their lives overseas. Evelyn has spent almost all of her adult life living as an expat on 3 continents and in 5 countries. She’s been a working expat, an accompanying partner and has founded her own portable business, The Smart Expat, while overseas. Evelyn and her Australian husband have two children who have yet to live in either of their passport countries.
You can learn more about Evelyn and her work at www.thesmartexpat.com where she blogs regularly about expat life.