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Who Should Move in a Long Distance Relationship?

It’s the question that both people in a long distance relationship assume they know the answer to: who is going to move and leave everything behind?

For me and my wife, it was one of the hardest things we had to deal with because we were too afraid to bring up the conversation! It actually set us back months being together, but we eventually had our happy ending.

In an ideal situation, the person who moves is the one who has better job prospects, has no familial dependencies, and can transition to a new life more easily. However, you also need to consider your finances, the city with the most prospects and opportunities, and if that person is moving for the right reasons.

Wait…he doesn’t want to move?!

Many people in long distance relationships have already set up expectations in their head that their partner is willing to completely give up their previous life and skip on over to their hometown, where they’ll live happily ever after.

You might have thought of all the possible reasons they may want to move to you; after all, your city is great! Your friends are awesome, and you already have a pretty good career going. Plus, your nieces or nephews are here, and you don’t want to move away from your family…

But does your partner know that? In fact, does your partner even know this is an issue? Probably not…because they’d likely be thinking how great it’ll be for you to move to them!

If you’re getting to the point where the relationship is serious and you’ve both already envisioned your future together (you have done that, right?) then you need to have this serious—and frankly, very tough—conversation about where you’ll both end up.

Can you afford to move?

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Moving is an expensive ordeal. The average cost of an interstate move is around $4,900. You’ll have to consider packing, storage of any items you don’t want to bring with you, insurance, and other fees and travel costs.

Are you moving internationally? I can tell you from personal experience that the visas and paperwork alone cost me several thousand dollars in total.

If my wife was going to move to Australia, her visa alone would cost over AUD$7,700. Never mind the plane tickets, shipping of items, and everything else.

When you’re finally together, you’ll also have other things to consider:

  • How will your expenses change?
  • Will the place you’re both planning on living in be big enough for two people?
  • Will you still have a job when you move, or do you need to go back to finding work?
  • Are you bringing any dependents with you?
  • Will the person working be okay with supporting additional people on their salary?
  • If you’re both planning on moving to an entirely different place, will you be able to survive on savings until you can get on your feet?

The idea of closing the distance is wonderful and the ultimate goal for an LDR…just be prepared to pay the costs involved.

Does anyone need to look after family or dependents?

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio

When my wife and I were talking about where we’d end up living, I thought the choice was obvious.

I thought she’d be happy to move to Sydney because of the great healthcare system, the beautiful beaches, and the laid back lifestyle. I also had some great job prospects here and was earning a steady paycheck.

On the other hand, she thought I would move over to the U.S. because the city she lived in had a growing IT presence, and also a relaxed culture. 

However, the biggest concern for her was that her mother was fighting cancer, and needed more care by the day.

But I was so caught up in the idea of her coming to Sydney that any other alternative didn’t seem reasonable to me.

My big mistake

When she came to visit me in Australia, we decided to go on a winery tour. And somehow the issue of where we’d settle came up.

She asked me, “Would you ever consider coming to the States?”

And I answered truthfully, “Honestly…I don’t think I can. I think we’d be much happier here.” And I told her my reasons. 

Not the right approach.

Of course, we fell into a rough argument, and were both emotional wrecks by the time we returned. At the time, I was mad. I thought to myself: Surely she has family over there that can help take care of her mom! What’s the big deal? Why does she have to shoulder that responsibility and put our lives on hold?

Discovering the truth

I eventually realized that the problem wasn’t that no one else was able to look after her. It was because she wanted to stay behind and look after her. I didn’t know that her bond with her mother was incredibly close, and that as her mom grew weaker, she was able to anticipate and tend to her needs like it was second nature.

She later revealed that she truly did want to move to Sydney, but her concern was that if she was half a world away, she wouldn’t be able to provide that same level of care for her mom. If anything happened (God forbid) she’d feel incredibly guilty.

Now that I’ve moved to the U.S. and I’ve seen her take care of her mom, I am certain that I’ve made the right choice.

If your or your partner have any dependents or family that need physical or emotional care, it can make moving much more difficult.

Who has the most earning potential?

Credit: Ketut Subiyanto

You hate to hear it, but it’s true: cash rules everything around us, and it’s all about the Benjamins.

Well, it’s not everything, but it makes things a hell of a lot easier in the future.

If your partner is making an impressive salary and has a great career path ahead of them, it’s generally not a smart move for them to drop everything and try to start anew in a foreign land.

Keep it mind that it can also depend on the cost of living in your area. If you can both get by on a lower salary in your area, it may not be as much of a big deal, but the job opportunities may also reflect that. On the other hand, if you’re sharing a flat in London or New York and dependent on your partner’s income, you may be setting yourselves up for an uphill battle.

Who can transition more easily? Who will need more support?

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For me, I felt that I was able to transition more easily because of a few things:

  • My job could be done remotely, and my boss at the time was supportive of that,
  • I had skills that were easily transferable in my industry, and
  • I already had a bit of experience with moving abroad and starting fresh in a different country.

It wasn’t the main reason for my move, but it definitely helped.

Working remotely helped me keep earning money to support my move (although I don’t miss taking work calls in the middle of the night). Also, my transferable skills helped me in my local job hunt.

Some people might find it harder to pick up everything and move to another city or country. They might have professional licenses or certifications that are limited by state or country, so they’d either have to perform some kind of transfer or go through the licensing process again to stay compliant.

For instance, if you’re a teacher, nurse, or doctor, you may want to do your due diligence before hopping on a plane with a one-way ticket.

If you’re trying to convince your partner to come to your city, don’t just wave off their concerns and say, “You’ll be fine! You’ll find a job in no time!” You’ll win more hearts and minds if you do a bit of research on their behalf. 

Check out how their industry is doing in your city on Glassdoor. Are average salaries higher in your city? Show that. Share a few potential job listings with them. Reach out to your own network and see if anyone can help you both out.

Which location works best for both of you?

Credit: Jimmy Chan

If your partner is trying to convince you to move from a big city to their idyllic little country town, there’s nothing wrong with that…but you need to be practical.

There are plenty of questions to consider. Here are some I had to think through when I made my move:

The FutureDoes the location match the future you have envisioned for yourselves?
Can you see yourself living there 5 years from now? 15 years?
Life GoalsDoes this location give you the ability to live out your dreams and aspirations?
Is there opportunity in this place?
FinancesHow is the cost of living?
Can you both afford to live there?
Will you be able to maintain your present lifestyle after moving?
If you can’t maintain it, are you okay with a change?
FamilyIf you’re planning on starting a family, is it feasible in this place?
Can you afford to do so? Will you have insurance?
If you already have children, how are the schools in the area?
Are there good childcare options?
SupportWill you be able to find a good support network?
Can you easily find new friends and build your own social circle?
If moving overseas, are there other expats you can meet?
LifestyleDoes it match the way you want to live?
For instance, if you want to travel, does it enable that?
If you want to settle down, is it a good place to do so?
ClimateAre there temperature extremes?
Will you be able to deal with them? (For example, snowfall, extreme heat, humidity?)

There will rarely be one absolutely perfect location, so be prepared to compromise and do what’s best for your relationship and your future.

Are you really moving for the right reasons?

If someone is to move, they have to make absolutely sure that they’re moving for the right reasons.

Are they moving because they continue to find this relationship fulfilling, and still have love and passion for the other person?

Are they ready to take a new exciting step in their life journey?

Do they see a lot of professional and personal development opportunities?

Or is it something else?

Bad reasons to move include:

  • Your partner just wants you around to not feel lonely anymore
  • You just want to feel like a “normal” couple again
  • You or your partner is overly dependent on you, or is trying to guilt you into moving

When it comes down to it, the person making the move is the one taking the greatest risk. That person has to be willing to give up on their daily life, their social circles, their family, and move into an environment that they may not be completely familiar with, and start over.

If the person moving isn’t 100% comfortable or committed to the move or to the relationship, then you should both talk about why that is and what that means for your future plans.

This move should align with your vision for the future

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After a few years of being together, my wife and I had a talk about the future.

We figured out that we both wanted children at some point. She was still trying to figure out her career path, but she knew it had to do with education. For me, I was already in the IT industry and other career aspirations.

We wanted to own a house, and live near family in a place that we were both familiar with. We both come from “traditional” cultures, so family was important to both of us.

I later realized that her mom’s health would play a big factor in how and where we lived our lives. That helped me come to terms with the fact that we would need to, at least in the short term, live closer to her mom.

I felt extremely guilty for leaving my mum. My dad had passed away when I was a teen, and I didn’t want to just leave her all alone in the family house by herself.

However, I wanted to make this move. In the end, my mum could see how sad I was when I wasn’t with my wife, and she encouraged me to go.

After my move

My wife and I, together at last!

When I arrived, my wife dedicated herself to making sure that my transition was as seamless as possible, and while it hasn’t been easy, she has been extremely supportive.

Now, my wife and I are in a place that is pretty close to what we envisioned all those years ago.

When making a move like this, make sure that it fits in with what you’re both expecting. Figure out if it makes financial sense, and determine if both of you can continue to live productive and fulfilling lives. 

There will inevitably be compromise and sacrifice. It may feel like one person is “losing” by moving away from their original home. But if you have a great relationship, home should be wherever you both are.