No matter how much you love each other, living with your partner can be pretty difficult. Add to that a foreign country and extenuating circumstances and it could be the beginning of the end.
For Tom and I, it almost was.
This post was originally going to be called “How to Survive Living with your Boyfriend Abroad,” but I realized, that’s not at all what happened. We almost didn’t survive, so calling it that wouldn’t be authentic at all.
I did, however, piss him off – and vice versa – a lot. Here’s how you can follow suit, or better yet, learn from our mistakes if you’re thinking about moving abroad for or with your partner:
Move in together for practicality’s sake.
This was our first error. Obviously we cared about each other and all the rest of that sappy stuff, but we just weren’t ready. We were moving abroad to a place we knew to live on a decent salary, but we wanted to save on rent and get a nicer place than we could afford alone.
Every shelf on the book tells you not to do that. Don’t move in with your partner for financial reasons or because you think “it’s time”. And if you think it will be “just like when you went on holiday together” or that “it’s not much different than sleeping over,” you’re wrong.
You will be unprepared for what you learn about your partner and you will be confused about the peculiarities they display.
If you really want to make this test of your relationship even more difficult, follow the next step…
Set no ground rules or fail discuss expectations.
Tom is very particular. He refuses to have anyone touch his laundry and adamantly believes that items strewn across the floor is organization, as long as he knows where everything is. Also, you should never get in the way when he’s taking poached eggs out of the pot. Mission: Critical.
I am very particular. I believe that there is a certain order the bathroom items must be cleaned in and I prefer to buy groceries as needed rather than in bulk, resulting in 3-4 shopping trips a week.
Were there clashes of opinion? Hell yes. Could they have been avoided? Not all of them, but there were petty and unnecessary arguments between us that wouldn’t have happened if we had just asked each other questions about what we like and don’t like. Essentially, you are room mates and no amount of love is going to stop you from being pissed off when he consistently fails to soak a pot that you then have to scrub for weeks, no big deal.
Live in a small one-bedroom; share one car and only mutual friends.
Tom and I worked 12 hours a week. We had two week vacations about every six weeks. We were living in the Caribbean, so we should have been hiking mountains, basking in the sun and frolicking in the sand, holding hands, doing that lovey-dovey stuff, right?
Nope. I mean, we did those things, but sometimes it was too much. We shared a car, so if I went out, Tom was stranded at home and vice versa. We were together all the time. It doesn’t help that making friends is hard when travelling as a couple.
Those cute idiosyncrasies Tom had when I would visit on the weekend started seeming more like obsessive-compulsions; the adorable facial expressions I used instead of words started looking like crazy facial tics and mockery.
Get a hobby, find different friends, and don’t sacrifice space for more money. It’s tempting to try to save money by finding somewhere ‘big enough for the two of you,’ but you will want to have an extra room or space where you can pretend to get away.
Get annoyed that you don’t have your own lives. Then get irritated any time he does stuff without you.
To be honest, we both did this. I couldn’t go for an ice cream alone without a “Well, why can’t I come?” and if he stayed our surfing too long I would be like “Why don’t you love me?!”
I’m not the jealous type. Really I’m not. Tom and I are actually very independent people, but we were so reliant on each other those seven months, I think we both lost a bit of ourselves. As an effect of the last point, we needed time apart but couldn’t always have it, which led us to be overly dependent on each other.
Normal couples live together but have real jobs. They work 40 hour weeks so they generally spend more time at work than they do with each other – and you actually appreciate the time spent together more.
I know that braving a new world with the support of your partner is an attractive idea, but be aware that relying on each other for all socialization will put pressure on you and your relationship.
The moral is don’t rely on each other so much that you come to resent not being able to get away.
Believe that you can ‘take a break’ or break up whilst still sharing a house and bed.
I don’t even think this needs explaining… But just don’t waste your breath. Either find a new place to live or stick it out.
At the end of the 7 months in Martinique, we weren’t sure if we could continue. I was emotionally drained, Tom was confused about whether this was a normal experience for a couple. We really did love each other after all.
It wasn’t normal. The situation wasn’t normal, that is. After some time apart in the summer, we were able to step back from the entire situation. It wasn’t our relationship that was crap – it was living on a small island, in a small (but nice) apartment, sharing a small car that was crap.
The two of us, however, had survived. In making all of these mistakes, we learned to fight fairly and communicate before tensions arise. I’m not going to say that cliché line about adversity strengthening our relationship – it didn’t. It just about destroyed it, actually.
Tom and I didn’t just have occasional conflict – we lived in it.
What going through this experience did is teach us that if we’re willing to fight for our relationship, we can overcome any obstacle.
We learned to share household tasks, how to tell the other when we need space – and not to be upset when one asks for it.
Every time I hear someone, or a couple, saying “We never fight,” I used to say “That’s awesome, I wish Tom and I were like that!” And I believed it.
Now I can’t help but think that the person who says that is lying to me or one (or both) of them is lying to the other. I wonder what that couple will do when, inevitably, conflict arises.
If you are that couple that never fights or has arguments and has lived together, I would love to hear from you. Tell me your secrets.
Curious about how Tom and I are doing now?
Not too bad! I’m living and working in his hometown of London. We have our own lives but still spend plenty of time together and go through the typical ups and downs of a relationship – it’s like we’re normal or something…