5 Tips For Strong Expat Relationships

I’ve been hesitant to write this article for sometime now. Mainly because I hardly fit the bill of being able to give any type of love advice when my own journey to a relationship was filled with tears, heart ache, and too many pints of ice cream to honestly admit. Despite my lack of expertise on the subject, I’m going to try to tackle it anyway because the number one question I get asked in emails and Facebook messages is “Judith, how does one make an expat relationship work?”

handsI understand the stress that can come from forming a new love connection abroad. You’re in a new country, both you and your SO are from different parts of the world, and to add more weight to the situation, you’ve both got new, demanding jobs that require effort and energy. So, what can you do to make your new love connection last? Using my experiences and the answers I was able to beat out of my friends who are also in relationships which formed abroad, I’m going to give you the top 5 tips that seemed to come up the most often as helpful advice tidbits.

1. Be Brutally Honest

If you’re looking for a hook-up, say so. If you want a serious committed relationship, go ahead and tell the guy you’ve been casually seeing for the last month. One thing that sets expat relationships apart from the kind you’d encounter back home is the extent of their fragility. Back home where you’d find that you have all the time in the world to iron out the fine details of a new relationship is a different playing field entirely compared to dating abroad.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned during my year stay in South Korea it’s that the tides of change roll much stronger abroad than they do back home. People move in and out of your life faster than you’ll care to notice. What this ultimately means for those of us who try to date abroad is that there is zero time or energy you should waste on being shy, dishonest, or coy. Say what needs to be said, and be honest when it comes to other people’s feelings and your own heart. It makes moving into and leaving relationships much easier on all parties.

2. Be Open

If you’re going to commit to a relationship while you’re abroad, go 100% into it. I’m not going to say it’s easy – in fact, it’s damn hard at times. It seems to me that emotions are amplified when you’re living abroad because of the vulnerable state you’re living in. You’re in a state of constant renewal of places, people, and experiences and all of this can (and will) take a toll on your emotional and mental state. The degree will vary, but you need to be honest with yourself and your partner about any issues that might come up during the relationship. Being open, honest, and willing to learn about yourself in a new light will be essential to your new relationship.

3. Work Toward A Goal

Obviously this will only apply to serious couples, but if you fall into this category, you need to work towards a common goal and be honest and realistic about what those goals entail. Do you both want to stay abroad for “x” amount of years? Do you want to go back home? If it comes down to it, would you be willing to work on a long distance relationship? Serious couples need to have those big conversations as soon as it’s clear you’ve found something you’re not willing to give up.

4. Remember To Cultivate Separate Social Lives

This one is basically good advice for couples anywhere in the world, but it’s especially true for expat couples who meet abroad. It’s healthy to spend time apart and have separate social circles. It’s what’s going to keep you sane and helps build trust and independence in your relationship. On a more depressing note, the last thing anyone wants to do after a break up is find that they have no shoulders to lean on because they ditched all their friends when they got into a relationship.

5. Accept Each Other’s Choices

While abroad certain opportunities may present themselves that wouldn’t normally otherwise, and should you or your SO be on the receiving end of a wonderful opportunity and decide to take it on, the best thing to do is be supportive. Certain opportunities may put miles or time zones between you two, but being genuinely supportive is what will make your relationship stronger. The expat relationships that I’ve seen survive abroad are the ones that are extremely loving and supportive of any choices and obstacles that may be encountered.

I hope that you new life abroad is wonderful and full of healthy and happy relationships, traveler. If you’ve been in an expat relationship abroad, what advice would you give to couples in a new relationship abroad? Tell us in a comment below! We’d love to hear what you think! 

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