Living abroad must be one of the most challenging situations you will ever face in your life. It not only takes you out of your comfort zone but also places you in uncomfortable situations away from your friends, family and brethren. Alfred Lord Tennyson once wisely said, “A smile abroad is often a scowl at home”.
Staying abroad in itself is a difficult task and it causes more upheaval if you have your better half living with you. Yes, it has its major adrenaline-rush moments like the exotic vacations, funny instances and unending freedom but it comes with its fair share of gloom, dark days, unending winter, loneliness, absence of family and mundane lifestyle.
As much as I feel that staying abroad “cuts” you out from your support systems to an extent, it is in fact very good for your relationship. Somehow you end up becoming a better person, patient and more forgiving when you stay away from home. In fact I have now begun to feel that every married couple should go and live abroad at least once in their lifetimes, preferably when they are still young. It will give them pointers on how their relationship will shape up and if it will stand the test of time.
You don’t believe me when I say that, isn’t it? Let me tell you how your relationship will actually get better by staying abroad:
1. It makes you a better person
Somehow staying abroad makes you a better person and at times even the bigger person in a relationship. You start to listen more and talk less, discuss more and argue less. You stop worrying about winning all the time. And once you become a better version of yourself, the other person too starts feeling comforted. It has something to do with the solitude you share with yourself or the calmness that you feel while staying abroad. With fewer noises on the outside, there are a bit less unnecessary noises on the inside too.
2. It makes you selfless
Somehow you start thinking more about your lonely partner waiting for you at home when you have a tussle at office or are in a meeting. You start thinking about what your husband would be having for lunch as you couldn’t prepare anything for him in the morning. You realize that your wife doesn’t have a job right now nor has many friends here. Similarly you are aware that the food in nearby restaurants is hardly edible and the canteen food is hardly tolerable. Small things start meaning a lot to you.
3. It’s two against the world
It’s like you are the last two people remaining in the world stranded on an island. You have just each other, for every little thing on that unknown island. Of course you do have the occasional friends coming over but most of the times you are left alone with your silence and problems to fend to. Whether one of the partners is sick or is just feeling disoriented, it’s solely up to the other person to bring them back. Also, there is not a lot of choice left other than to talk to each other even when you had a fight. You will still need to go and get the grocery together or share the housework. In such situations, staying abroad actually builds a strong foundation for your relationship.
4. It makes you less fussy
You must have hated cooking back in the days but you slowly learn to enjoy it. You realize very early that you won’t have a cook or a servant or your Mom to cook for you. Men realize that they can’t watch the sports telecast 24×7 as they need to share the housework or chop the vegetables. You realize the weather might turn nasty tomorrow so you run the chores even if you are feeling little bit under the weather yourself. You eat whatever the other person has made with love, as you have now become less fussy. Moreover you realize that you can’t eat expensive restaurant food every day.
5. You spend more time together
Simple. Life in general has more time here than at back home. Couples spend more time working out together, take swimming or Salsa lessons, take more evening walks or morning runs or maybe just gaze at the sunset together. You get more time to share your aspirations and favorite past times and get to know more about each other’s preferences and dislikes.
6. No more demands and unrealistic expectations
You cannot expect a three course dinner waiting for you at home. Neither can you presume that your husband would be doing the laundry in your absence. You know your birthdays might not be a grand affair now and anniversaries will not be much different. Demands for expensive vacations and home bound trips are a few and far between.
7. What happens within the house stays within the house
You don’t have the luxury of running to your parents’ or your friend’s house in case you had a fight. Nor you can call them up for fear of scaring them for undue reason. You realize that only you and your partner can solve the issue and nobody else. It is the inner battle with your thoughts and reasoning you need to fight and self-soothe. You build your relationship by your own experiences and not by aping others.
8. You grow up together
Moving abroad is like experiencing a new you; plus, on top of that, your relationship seems to reach a new high. It’s like you are experiencing and seeing so many things as a couple at the same time. Your perspective towards the culture, feeling of being alienated, constantly changing weather, meeting new people and changing or getting a job starts varying. You get to learn from each other’s experiences every day. Whether it is about deciding which course to study or which travel pass to take, you literally get to grow up together with every decision you take when you are in a foreign land.
9. Nothing is normal anymore
Nothing is the same anymore. In midst of all these, you get sober each day with each other. You just can’t party each night like you used to back home as you neither have the friends nor the mood to do so. Nor you expect to have the same options in food that you had back home. And you certainly do not have the luxury to just ring up your next door neighbor to borrow something or call up the grocery shop to drop some stuff at your place. Life though seems very normal like it was back home, it is not and so is your relationship.
10. Carpe Diem, seize it
There is a good flipside of being in a relationship away from home. I don’t know what it is, but being away from home in a different country makes us feel like we face absolutely no consequences, that we’re excused from everything we do and that we’re invincible. The relationship is more uninhibited and free spirited. We learn to live and revel in small things as we begin to feel that everything is momentary. Like enjoying the weather when it’s still sunny, savoring and sharing the tasty snacks that we got from home or just learning to take care of our bodies. There are no watchful eyes around us and we have more fun just being on our own.
11. Changed dynamics of friendships
Whatever the case, friendships would have shifted and when we go back from being abroad, it’s going to be different. I’m not saying our friendships are doomed for failure, but while we have been abroad some of us here have gotten closer to each other. Additionally, we look like we have made close friends of our own. But truth is that as a couple staying abroad, we see and meet varied personalities and people. It was easier to make friends when you were single and back home, but now you are with somebody and abroad. But somehow the affinity of sharing the people we can like or hate together gets the couple even more closer.
12. The kith and kin
You learn the importance of family, when you are away from them. You’ll always appreciate knowing that there is a place in this world that you can always call home, filled with family and friends.
Whether you are married or in a live-in relationship, you cannot be together all the time. From figuring out the bus routes, train fares, comparing prices and quality of grocery, trips to the embassy, visa applications, job interviews and weather blues, there are things that you need to go through alone. As much as your partner may support you, you tend to feel lost, stranded and unwelcome at times. In the long run, this helps you to bounce back even stronger and fend for yourself. You slowly start enjoying your own company and the accompanying silence. They say it is most important to love yourself first then only you can love the other person that well.
Having said that, staying abroad is not an easy task when you have just moved in with your partner. There would be constant clashes, fights about whose turn it was to do the dishes or who turned the microwave mistakenly on. You might sulk and walk off the house only to be met with a heavy snow fall and retrace back your steps slowly to the house. The situation of being “caught up in the middle” or “where to run to?” actually makes you loyal and forgiving. You become more patient than ever. You do enjoy the weather changes, the new way of life, the freedom as well the responsibilities that come with it.
A home away from home, staying abroad makes your relationship rock solid, fulfilling and cozier.