Love You... To The Moon?
Should you move for your relationship?
II met my fiancé after swiping left on what seemed to be every available man in New York City. At 27, I had reached the point on Tinder where the only potential matches were international guys who wandered into my five-mile search radius. Enter Daniel: a dashing Australian in town visiting his sister. Daniel and I saw each other only twice before he jetted back home, but our bond was undeniable. After 21 months, six visits, meetings of the families and a rendezvous in Hawaii, I sold my furniture, quit my job and moved to Sydney. (The partner visa process for me to go there was easier than for him to come to the States. Plus, as a writer, I could freelance from home, whereas he, a banker, couldn’t.) I’m not the only one uprooting my life for a relationship: in America, nearly half of 18-to-35-year-olds have moved to a new city, state or country to be with or to find a partner, per a 2016 survey by a US moving company. Thanks to social media and dating apps, “more people have access to a broad dating pool that was not as readily available before and now even far-flung corners of the world feel accessible,” says Dr Kristen Mark, a sex and relationships researcher at the University of Kentucky in the US. Not to mention: “There’s a romantic notion around moving for love,” she says. True, it is romantic, but it also comes with sometimes unexpected complications. Here’s what you should know.
1 / DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT MOVING FOR AT LEAST SIX MONTHS
It’s the minimum amount of time you should be together before globetrotting, says Dr Jane Greer, a relationship therapist. “Consider how involved you are in the other person’s world,” says Greer. “Is the only option for you to relocate because their job ties them to one location?” Also crucial: having “the talk” – the one in which you agree on future goals.
2 / MAKE SURE THE CHANGE CAN OFFER YOU MORE THAN COUPLEDOM
Might it fulfil a dream to live abroad? A chance to pursue a different career path? The thing you don’t want is to end up resenting your partner because you made a move that you weren’t ready for or that wasn’t right for you.
3 / THERE’S LOTS OF PAPERWORK INVOLVED
Each country has its own partner visas and working-rights restrictions and you’ll need to become an expert in yours. Brace yourself for long processing times (Australia takes 14 to 22 months to send you an acceptance or refusal letter), steep fees (upwards of R70 000 in Australia, for example) and intense applications (you’ll need to provide statements from close friends and family vouching for the authenticity of your love and provide evidence of your relationship, like texts, and plane tickets).
4 / PREPARE TO FEEL LONELY
You’re finally in the same place as your partner! But you’re so far away from your tribe. For me, the huge time difference makes casual phone calls to friends nearly impossible – so Daniel suddenly had to be my boyfriend, BFF, work confidante and family all rolled into one. He did his best, but I missed my network and sometimes grew frustrated when he wouldn’t say the “right” thing. I realised I was relying on him too much and learnt that engaging in a semi-old-fashioned email conversation with loved ones at home can be surprisingly therapeutic!
5 / INCOMPATIBILITIES WILL ARISE
Going from long-distance to living together will shine a light on differences you couldn’t have predicted. During our visits, Daniel was happy to bounce out of bed early on weekends to do fun activities with me, but in real life he prefers to sleep until 2pm on Saturdays and stay in watching sport all day. At first I pouted, but now the two of us make plans we can get excited about together, like trips driving down the coast. “When one of you moves for the other person, compromise becomes more important,” says Dr Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First. “We make concessions that help our partner to feel safe and secure and hopefully they will do the same.”
6 / THE SEX MAY NOT BE AS THRILLING
Gone are the days of excitedly bursting through the door and ripping each other’s clothes off after months apart. Once I moved, Daniel and I found ourselves settling into a sweatpantsclad Netflix-and-chill habit, heavy on the Netflix. Rather than a slow dip into the usual sex issues of long-term couples, the sudden routine felt like a jarring change from the spurts of passion that came with an LDR. We’ve both had to make an effort to keep things exciting in bed.
7 / CULTURE SHOCK CAN AFFECT YOUR CAREER
Even though I found a job as a digital editor in Sydney, I struggled with different norms. While the American companies I’d worked for seemed to value innovation, here I felt encouraged to maintain the status quo. As time has passed, I’ve accepted the more laid-back feel of Australian media. I’ve even found ways to build my skills, like the on-camera hosting experience I’ve gotten, which would likely have taken me years to earn in New York’s more competitive landscape.
8 / IT COULD BE YOUR BEST DECISION EVER
About a year after I moved, Daniel proposed on a gorgeous Australian beach and we’re getting married here this May. We’ve adopted a chubby rescue cat named Bart and I feel like I’m finally settling into this life, even if it’s temporary. We’re planning to move back to the States in the next two years – which will come with a whole new set of adjustments and visa challenges for Daniel that we’ll have to navigate together. We know it won’t be easy – but we’re determined to make it work.