I moved across the world for love.
It wasn’t as “irrational” and spur-of-the-moment as people might think, though. We both knew pretty well what we were getting into.
As an intercultural couple with two different passport countries, we both knew that continuing our relationship meant one of us would have to relocate to the others country.
There are a lot of good and bad things about moving across the world for love. I started thinking about this again, when I read this post by a friend who is anxious about moving across the world for love. Everyone’s experiences are different, but this has been my takeaway on the pros and cons.
The pros and cons of moving across the world for love:
Pro: You get to be together and don’t have to worry about regretting “the one that got away” for the rest of your life (or something like that)
I vividly remember when I was in high school, I befriended an older woman at work. She had done the whole “pursue a high powered career” and move to New York thing – dumping her boyfriend in the process. She made a ton of money and now was approaching her 40s, angry and frustrated that no one she dated was anything like that boyfriend she broke up with to follow her dream.
“I’m not saying you should sacrifice your dreams for some guy,” she told me, “But you should try to come up with some sort of compromise, or you will end up regretfully looking through old Facebook photos at the ‘one that got away.'”
I don’t know why, but something about that really just stuck with me.
Trust me, I’m not the kind of person who thinks you need a relationship to be happy. But I am the kind of person that believe that there is nothing more toxic to your happiness than regret. Regret sucks. Regrets can ruin your life.
I was 100% sure that Ryosuke was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with… after about three months of dating. Sure, we both made a couple personal and career sacrifices for the sake of our relationship, but they’re not really sacrifices when I am happier now, living with him in Tokyo, than I ever even DREAMED I could be.
I don’t believe in “the one.” I think there are hundreds of people in the world that have the potential to make you happy to varying degrees. I also happen to think that Ryosuke and my relationship is the best possible combination of those people.
Con: You will (probably) be completely dependent on your significant other for the first couple months/years after you move.
Which, of course, really sucks. I used to not be able to go to the city office (to file paperwork) or hospital without Ryosuke. I didn’t speak enough Japanese, I didn’t know how the bus/train lines worked, I didn’t know what paperwork I needed to bring, I didn’t understand the customs.
Simply put, the first couple months I moved to Japan kind of sucked.
Pro: You get to live in a new country and experience a new culture!
You get a chance to learn about a new culture and really examine your own, figuring out what makes you, well, you. That’s an amazing opportunity.
Con: You probably won’t ever feel like you truly “belong” in that culture – and are bound to make tons of mistakes when you first move.
Sometimes I forget I’m foreign. I’m almost completely self-dependant now, I understand Japanese culture enough to get by.
But then Ryosuke and I will be out shopping and a small child will point at me and shout “Look! It’s a foreigner!!” … and then I remember, “oh yeah, I technically don’t belong in this society and never will…”
Pro: You can learn a lot more about yourself.
Con: It can be difficult to find a community abroad. Your significant other will (most likely) have a much better support system and more friends than you, at least in the beginning.
Pro: No more Long Distance!
Because let’s face it, long distance relationships kind of suck. I’ve written about them here, here, and here – and while the main point of each post was tips for surviving the distance, there was also quite a bit of “this really sucks” mixed in.
Con: Moving abroad for love is huge commitment and you will probably wonder “did I make a mistake?” or “what am I doing with my life??” quite a bit.
Or at least I used to wonder this every week for the first six months.
It’s funny, I knew 100% that Ryosuke was the one for me. After moving to Japan, our relationship became even better (which is funny, because I didn’t actually think that was possible. We were already so in sync by the time we got married, it was kind of cool to see that keep improving)… but I still had problems.
I’m under the impression that people need three things to be completely fulfilled in life:
- Relationship fulfillment (relationships with a significant other and/or good friends)
- Job fulfillment (creating or working in a field that you believe in, so you get a sense of purpose and meaning)
- Personal fulfillment (having enough time/energy to peruse your hobbies, try new things, and live the kind of life that makes you happy)
I believe that you can’t be fulfilled by just one of these – and you really shouldn’t try. Being married to the “right” person won’t necessarily make you happy, especially if you’re in an environment that smothers you. You significant other can’t (and shouldn’t) be your everything.
Pro: It is a chance to thrive in a new environment and pick up a new skill. For example, I started this blog and published a comic book about my life in Tokyo.
Other friends have written a book, started volunteer organizations, taught yoga, taken up long distance bicycling… really, this list goes on. But I don’t think I could have started this blog (or, you know, people would actually read it) if I didn’t live in Tokyo. Texan in Texas just doesn’t have quite the same ring or fan base.
Con: Your job opportunities will (probably) decrease. Some countries don’t let spouses of nationals hold a job; even if you have working visa, finding a job is difficult. Most spouses seem to just teach English (or whatever their native language is).
A lot of my friends who moved abroad for love aren’t legally able to work in said country. It’s incredibly frustrating.
When I first moved to Japan, I didn’t have a “working spouse visa” for the first four months and I nearly went crazy. It was so hard. We were living solely on Ryosuke’s income (which really, was barely enough to support two people) and I felt like a failure of a person.
When I eventually got a visa and applied to a whole slew of jobs, the only ones that called me into an interview were startups and English teaching jobs. And, I only got a job at two English schools.
So now I teach English 1-2 times a week (which can be rather fun. I do enjoy teaching. Just not as much as I enjoy other things). I appear on TV from time-to-time as a token foreigner. I freelance. I ghostwrite for a couple blogs. I draw comics for a couple magazines. I’ve found my “groove”… but it was really hard.
Pro: You get to see a whole other side of your significant other.
Con: You might not like that new side.
Con: People change depending on their environment – your significant other might become an entirely different person. You can also change. You might not like the people you change into.
Alright, I’m going to get a little dark here. If you don’t want to read it, just skip to the next “Pro.”
People change. People change even more when they’re put in a different environment. When I first met Ryosuke, I fell in love with the person he was changing into. He was clever, absolutely ridiculous, and wonderfully optimistic about the future.
He still is, of course, but when I studied abroad in Japan with him… he started to change. And, for a while, I didn’t like the person he was changing into. Mind you, this is long before we ever got engaged, so the relationship wasn’t that serious. We had a lot of arguments about things I can’t even remember, but I distinctly remember sitting on a park bench with Ryosuke, two months after I arrived in Japan, and telling him “I don’t like the people we’re becoming. At all.”
After that, things got better. We still changed, but we changed together. I fell more and more in love with Ryosuke; he felt more comfortable sharing his deep, dark feelings with me.
We were lucky.
I’ve heard from a lot of people who weren’t so lucky.
About once a week, I get an email along the lines of:
“When I met my boyfriend/fiance/husband in [insert country], he used to shower me with praise. We were so in love. We never argued. We talked about marriage. Then his contract at work ended and he had to go back to Japan… so I followed him. When we got to Japan, he changed very quickly. Now we argue all the time. He controls all my money and controls who I spend time with. He doesn’t say “I love you” anymore. Sometimes he even hits me and calls me stupid. I don’t know what to do! How do I get back the man I fell in love with? Please help me!”
These messages break my heart… because I don’t have an answer. You can’t get him back. You might have fallen in love with who he was in, for instance, Germany – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are still compatible with him when you’re in Japan.
Pro: It’s an adventure.
Most people never get the change to live abroad. You do! Enjoy it while you can!
Con: It puts a lot of stress on a relationship, especially a new one. There is a sort of “this has to work out, otherwise I’ve just made a terrible, irreversible mistake” kind of feeling, running in the background of the relationship.
Most people who live in the same passport country meet, fall in love, date for a while, do a trial move-in, actually move in, get engaged, and then get married. It’s all done in gradual steps.
If you’re moving across for love, you don’t get that luxury. You don’t get those small steps, to ease you into this horrible irreversible decision. You just have to jump in and hope the water isn’t too bad.
Pro: The experience makes both of you more unique.
I love who I have become. Ryosuke has made me a much better person. I’ve also been able to learn tons about myself while living abroad. It’s fun. Apparently I’ve made him a better and more unique person too.
Con: It’s incredibly difficult to learn a new language, especially when it comes to hospitals, taxes, and other important necessities.
About two months ago, I had to get a cavity filled. It was my first cavity ever (*gasp*), so I had no idea how the process worked. The dentist told me they weren’t going to use any numbing stuff, so I should just raise my hand if/when it hurt.
And then they put a towel on my face so I couldn’t see and started drilling at that tooth. It hurt. A lot. But when I raised my hand, he asked me to rate it on a scale (I think). I said 8. I still didn’t get the numbing stuff.
They finished filling the cavity. I paid and left.
In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t too bad. But going to the hospital, government office, dentist, or phone company office in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language (perfectly, at least) can be rather traumatizing.
I’m glad I can go to the hospital alone, while Ryosuke is at work. I get sick a lot – this is very important. However, I remember when I first moved to Japan and barely spoke any Japanese… I had to go everywhere important with him. It was stressful and difficult.
This post turned out a lot more cynical than I thought it would. Sorry about that.
I don’t regret moving across the world for love. Sure, I have my days where the whole world seems against me, and I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t picked my overall happiness over my career.
But wondering won’t do me any good, so I rarely open that door.
For now, I’m just going to draw a couple more comics before lunch (my second book is coming out in February!), then meet up with my husband for an early dinner near his company.