Relocating with my best friend

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Born to Be With You.”

I don’t really believe in soul mates or destiny. I don’t believe I was born to be with my husband. But I do believe in meeting someone at the right time, falling in love, working at a relationship, fighting, dancing, singing, loving, and waking up one day to realize that your husband is your best friend.

My husband and I have just been celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary. Since we met we’ve been through some pretty stressful things. We moved in together, planned a wedding, I did a PhD, he got promoted, we bought a flat – and then we moved to the States.

When we bought our first place and moved in I thought things probably couldn’t get much more stressful. Then we went through about a year trying to get a visa to the States and relocating – and that proved to be a whole other level of stress!

In her book The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide (which I promise to write a proper review of once I’ve read more than just the one chapter) Clara Wiggins writes about the strain moving overseas can place on a relationship.

Pretty much everything you go through has the potential to cause a rift in your relationship. The stresses of the move itself, your isolation and loneliness at the start, all the confusion of trying to find your way around your new home…

The list is almost endless!

Certainly I think our overly-positive expectations of how easy it would be for me to get work out here, coupled with my husband’s job requiring frequent travel did lead to some tensions. For the first few months I committed myself to providing support and sorting out our living situation. I spent the days house hunting and food shopping, and the evenings hearing about his day at work. When he no longer needed so much support, and when we were settled, I suddenly had less of a purpose, and it took me a while to set up my social life and get bits of work so that I felt independent again.

Clara and her correspondents all agree that communication becomes even more important in these situations.

The one piece of advice that rang out loud and clear was that good old chestnut – talk.

We’ve certainly had some honest conversations now about what we need to be happy and what we might want going forward. And I would agree with many of her correspondents that the relocation experience has actually made us stronger as a couple.

It’s also meant we have become more reliant on each other for company. I think we already knew that we were best friends – there’s no-one we’d rather go on holiday with for example – and actually I think we relished the expanse of free weekends that we were suddenly presented with. Every weekend was an excuse to go exploring, and we walked miles just enjoying our new surroundings and talking. It felt incredibly selfish, but also pretty amazing.

These days we have more commitments – Skype chats with friends and family at home, parties and happy hours with our DC friends and colleagues, and helping people move house to name just a few. I have a number of social groups now that I commit time to, and a regular tennis partner.

But this anniversary weekend has reminded me how much I enjoy spending time with my husband and how lucky I am. He can always be depended on to celebrate things – whether it’s with a surprise bottle of wine on a weeknight, my favorite pink lilies for our anniversary or a truly great meal out. He’s always interested in what I’ve been working on and is great at summarizing and otherwise helping to develop things. And as my Dad said in his father-of-the-bride speech – to guffaws of laughter – he talks. Even when it’s late at night, he’s always up for a good conversation.

Living in DC has been great for us. There’s been plenty of places to explore together and plenty of new things to talk about. We’ve been able to transplant our favorite routines from home and establish new ones – though our new habit of two pots of coffee on a weekend morning might not be the healthiest… Luckily there’s also been canoeing, hiking and playing tennis to offset our new love of brunch!

I’m hopeful that repatriation – whether we succeed in putting it off or not – could be just as positive overall for us, despite its inevitable stresses. Certainly there’s plenty from our life over here that we need to incorporate into life in the UK. And at least I’ll be going through it all with my best friend.

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