If you and your loved one are lucky enough to figure everything out and close the distance, congratulations!
You’ve both been on a long, hard emotional journey. You’ve accomplished what seemed impossible at the time—reuniting and spending the rest of your lives together in love and happiness.
However, it’s not quite as simple as “happily ever after”…at least, for me!
I moved from Australia to the USA to be with my wife. While we have received lots of love and support from people here, it’s come with its own share of challenges.
Those challenges affected not only me, but her as well.
If you’re moving to a new country for your love, you’ll be put through a mental gauntlet. To this day, I still find myself struggling with adapting to a new home and a new environment.
In this article, I’ll outline some of the key issues to prepare for when you reunite after a long distance relationship.
1. You Won’t Know What You’ve Lost Until It’s Gone
As I was applying for my permanent residency, all I could think about was my new life overseas.
“It’s going to be great!”
“I’m so sick of this place.”
“I can’t wait to move and start a new adventure, a new life with my SO!”
“My one-way flight can’t come soon enough!”
After a torturous wait, my green card finally arrived in the mail. After doing the routine physical check ups and medical exams, and getting the nod of approval from the doctors, I was ready to leave.
I was thrilled to finally put an end to my long distance relationship, but I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that it would be years before I’d see my original home again.
When I finally boarded my plane, I was on cloud nine. Her family welcomed me warmly, and I was so happy to be with her, knowing that I could stay for as long as I wanted.
The first few weeks were great. I learned about my new home and became more acquainted with the local culture. I met old friends and made a couple of new ones through my wife.
We managed to find a nice apartment, and moved in with only our suitcases and our mattress. The first few nights we ate all our meals on our bed, watching TV episodes and Blu-rays on her laptop.
Dealing With Changes
After a while, though, I began to miss little things.
I began to miss seeing other Asian faces, apart from the occasional waiter at my local restaurant.
I missed public transport. My new home was heavily car-dependent, and I was getting sick of driving everywhere.
I was used to high rise buildings and dense populations, but in my new home everything felt underdeveloped, sparse, and flat.
I also felt different—not simply because of my appearance (I had experienced the same sort of thing in my childhood) but just because I knew in the back of my head that I didn’t quite belong.
Some people found it hard to understand my accent or my way of speaking…and so I found myself changing my voice and policing my words to make myself better understood.
As time went on, I struggled to adapt to other things. Politics. Health care costs. 20% tipping. Trying to figure out my taxes. The cost of living. The constant nickel and diming. The brutal summers.
But what really affected me was my lack of support. I was so focused on finding a job, supporting my wife, and trying to stabilize myself in my new home that I neglected my social life.
My family was in another country, practically in the opposite time zone. Almost everything I found familiar was now gone.
I was a stranger in a strange land.
Realizing What I Missed
I realized the only thing lacking in my old home was her.
Looking back, I wasn’t kidding myself. The feelings I had about living in Australia were true and genuine—I couldn’t wait to leave. I really wasn’t happy, but the main reason (perhaps the only reason?) was because I was away from her.
I had no idea whether or not I’d be truly happy in my future home. There was only one thing on my mind: being with my SO. I was blinded to everything but that goal, and it affected my expectations.
I didn’t know what I had until it was gone, and I still miss it to this day.
2. Leaving Your Family and Friends Behind Is Hard
While you’re finishing the chapter of your old life and getting ready to start a new one, don’t forget the family and friends you have around you right now.
Whether you’re looking forward to leaving it all behind, or dreading the idea of moving on, it’s emotionally taxing to move on from what you know and what you’re familiar with.
For me, leaving behind my family, my friends, and my entire social and professional network was a damned hard choice.
I took my family and my friends for granted. Even when I didn’t know it, I realized that they were always there for me.
They may not have fully understood what it was like to be in a long distance relationship. You might have rolled your eyes at their attempts to relate to you, or been frustrated because they just don’t understand what you’re going through.
But even though you were going through your own unique situation, you will miss that feeling of normalcy with your friends and family.
The people that you once relied on and leaned on for support and comfort will be the ones you’ll form a new long distance relationship with.
Eventually, you will be so engrossed in your new life that you may find yourself struggling to keep up with regular phone calls or FaceTime sessions.
It’ll cut both ways, too. Your family and your friends may not see you regularly, but they will not forget you. They will very likely miss you.
Making the decision to leave will not only impact you—it’ll impact everyone around you.
3. The Happiness Wears Off—And That’s Okay
When my wife and I finally reunited, I was on a magical high that lasted for days.
I thought, “Man, I am never, ever going to let this feeling go. I made the right choice. I’m here and everything is right.”
And it was…for a while, at least.
In time, the shine wore off.
The honeymoon period that we experienced was wonderful, but it was just that—a honeymoon period.
Soon “real life” kicked in, and there was suddenly a lot less time for lazy Sunday afternoons and Netflix binge sessions. Finding a place to live, finding work to pay for the rent, managing finances and starting my whole life over from scratch killed the dream pretty good.
I’m admittedly a bit of a control freak—if anything is out of place or isn’t functioning perfectly, I get antsy. Naturally, things wouldn’t go 100% smoothly, and I’d have the energy sucked out of me…and she’d feel it, too.
“Happily ever after” was never meant to be literal. Chasing that fantasy after my LDR ended was met with the brutal reality of day to day life.
I’m happy to say that years later things are much better. Every day may not feel like Day One…but there are a lot more highs than lows. And that’s perfectly fine.
4. Your Mental Resilience Will Be Tested
Making a fresh start in a completely new place with no friends and unfamiliar family is hard—even if you wanted it!
For me, the biggest challenge was trying to untangle the red tape of my new home. From getting my driver’s license, to wrangling with health insurance companies, to doing my taxes in two countries…it felt like I was trying to stay afloat in an ocean as the waves pounded over me.
Every dead end phone call and every unexpected bill was a tiny knife cut in my sanity. Eventually I snapped and ranted at my wife. “Why the fuck is it like this here?” I would yell, tossing bills across the table.
“I know, it sucks. I’m sorry.” She’d give me an empathetic smile, which frustrated me even more. It only stirred up more questions. So people just accept that this is okay? Is this meant to be normal? Oh God, what have I done? Why did I move here? Did I make a mistake?
In the end, I sought professional help, and still use it to this day. It won’t make my life problems magically go away (I’ll never figure out why my health insurance does what it does), but it does teach me to acknowledge my fears and frustrations, and to talk about them in a healthy manner.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and even sad after you move. The image you had in your head after moving may not match up with reality.
Acknowledge your feelings and embrace them—and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need it.
5. You Need To Work Hard To Maintain Your Network
As you work on your new life in your new home, you’ll need to put in some extra effort to maintain your relationships back in your original home.
Otherwise, be prepared to have them fade over time.
Forming new relationships and maintaining new ones is easier for some than for others. For me, I’m terrible at it. And it only gets harder as I get older.
If you’re like me, you may need to put in some extra effort to stay in touch with people who were once close and important in your life.
If you’re trying to keep in touch across opposite time zones, you’ll probably need to carve out some time at irregular hours.
I need to set reminders to send a message to my sister and my mum because I get so hyper focused on my new life here. It’s a good opportunity to stop, reset, and reconnect with the people who were such a big part of your life.
6. It Takes Time To Transition
After moving to a new country, you may feel some pressure to acclimate as soon as possible.
But before you throw yourself into language classes and pledge to become a native in 6 months, know that change doesn’t happen overnight.
I had a need to fit in when I moved here. There were times when I felt like I had to change parts of my personality to make myself seem more familiar and more approachable.
However, keep in mind that those differences are part of who you are and what make you unique. Don’t be too quick to throw them all away.
You’ll inevitably change as a result of your environment, but don’t feel the pressure to change straight away for validation from others.
It’s also normal to still act the same as you did in your original home. Embrace them and share them with your partner, and give them the opportunity to celebrate your uniqueness.
All your traits are unique to you, so don’t feel inclined to completely remove or suppress those aspects of yourself.
7. Your Relationship Will Change With You
You may have gotten used to how your relationship works while you’re apart, but things will change—drastically—when you’re back together.
Being with someone over the internet is obviously going to be quite different to being with them face to face!
Now you’ll have the opportunity to see all those non-verbal cues, figure out how much touch is enough (or not enough), and how to deal with each other for more than the length of a Facetime call.
You’ll be getting to know truly everything about each other…for better, or worse!
As you embark on the next stage in your life journey together, you’ll be sure to face new challenges, so you may need to change the way you communicate with each other, and how to voice your needs in a healthy and productive way.
You’ve both managed to make it through a long distance relationship—you can do it!
8. Unto Thine Own Self Be True
It’s easy to kid yourself into thinking that reuniting with your partner is all you need, and the only thing that can truly make you happy.
As someone who thought the same thing, I can tell you that this simply isn’t the case.
Closing the distance in my relationship was a great feeling and an amazing accomplishment in my life—however, I made my choices when the time was right for me.
I never felt forced into making decisions or huge life changes if I wasn’t ready. For instance, even though I really wanted to be with my partner, I knew that moving prematurely wasn’t the right decision for me, and so I waited for years.
Similarly, I would never allow myself to be convinced to make decisions that weren’t right for me. For example, despite what my new peers and family here say to me, I would never renounce my citizenship or allow myself to be forced to do so.
Your relationship can be a great source of happiness…but it doesn’t have to be the only source.
Be true to yourself and your needs, and learn to communicate them openly with your partner. Acknowledging them will help you enjoy your new life in your new home.