Having made the international relocation to London myself, I often blog about the experience of the expat who moves to London on their spouse or partner’s behalf. Expat wives like Robin Pascoe at ExpatExpert.com have even made successful writing careers out of the experience. Why do we keep raising the subject? Because being an accompanying spouse or partner is HARD! It’s life-changing! And reflecting on it not only helps us continue to process this life change and seek to balance the positives and negatives that come with it, but it’s to help others going through it as well. It’s to let you know that you’re not alone and it’s okay if you’re feeling sad or mad about the relocation. It’s okay to find it challenging; you aren’t any weaker for that, and, if anything, you’ll come out even stronger.

I’m friends with a lot of other expat wives who made the relocation to London for their husband’s jobs, like myself. We all enjoy our London lives and the tremendous experiences this city and its proximity to other countries has to offer—a sense of adventure and knowledge and growth that is vast and diverse. Yet we’ve all also had to grapple with having to redefine ourselves when, in supporting our spouse’s job, our own career paths have been interrupted. We’re not all employed full-time, and it’s not for lack of trying—depending on your field, it can be difficult finding open positions in this economy or at least ones that are in keeping with the professional standards you left behind (in terms of pay, title, resources, commute, etc.). Why should we have to settle, after all? Our husbands didn’t when they pursued the desired jobs that brought us here, the jobs that promote the upward progression of their career track. And of course sacrifices are necessary in a relationship, but the accompanying spouse is already making a major one out the gate—as soon as he/she says yes to an international relocation and foresakes job, house, family, and friends in doing so.

Even when you make this decision with eyes wide open and know you’re genuinely excited about it, there’s inevitably still unfamiliarities to tackle (that’s true for anyone relocating abroad) and a point at which you’ll recognize the need to carve out a purposeful path of your own. When I myself moved to London, I kept wondering why I was having such a hard time adjusting and accepting my new life abroad, why I was so resistant to the change, why it seemed to rattle me so much from the core and why I hear my friends undergoing the same—all strong, intelligent, and professional women who have otherwise led confident and independent lives. Well, I recently read an article that spelled it out pretty clearly. More on that in Part 2 of this topic, but for now let’s just say that it all comes down to our fundamental human needs, needs that’ll be shaken up by your international move to London and could leave you feeling like just a shell of yourself. Needs that you will be able to fulfill here given enough time, support, and effort. More on that tomorrow…