At some point in your career, you may be faced with a choice of whether or not to relocate to a new city, state or even across the country for your work. In the corporate world, where takeovers and reorganizations are a fact of life, this is often a reality. Even if you never find yourself forced to move for your current job, you may choose relocation as a way to follow a new career path or move up in your company.
Experts say that relocating for your career can be one of the most stressful things you’ll ever face. It may mean leaving a hometown full of family and friends, or a city that you love. On top of adjusting to a new job and a different set of workplace characters, you have to create a new home for yourself and get to know a new town. There’s no doubt about it – relocation is a challenge.
But if you have a spouse or partner who agrees to relocate with you, then there’s someone else who is struggling with the transition and change as much or more than you are. For him or her, the stresses, sadness and frustration may be even greater than your own. You, after all, are moving to accept a new opportunity. For your partner, the future may seem very uncertain.
The period following your relocation may put a lot of stress on your relationship. As you adjust to the demands of your new job, your partner may feel alone and left behind in a new city. It is easy to become resentful during this chaotic and confusing time.
If you allow it, built-up resentment and lack of communication can make an already stressful time even harder. By being aware of the many emotions your partner may be experiencing and expressing your support, you can help your relationship to not only survive but thrive during this transition.
Things to Consider Before and During Your Move
Your Partner’s Career
Relocations are often most difficult for couples where both individuals are working professionals. After all, in order for one person to accept a new opportunity far away, the other person may have to give up her job to come along for the ride.
If your partner is unhappy in her current job, then this can be a blessing in disguise. The move provides an opportunity to take some time off and maybe start fresh with a new career. But if your partner enjoys her current work life, relocating will be an even larger sacrifice. She’ll be giving up something that provides her with professional satisfaction to move into unknown circumstances.
In either case, carefully research opportunities in your partner’s current field or career paths of interest before your move. Relocating to an area with very limited opportunities in her areas of interest may be shutting the door to her dreams, and ultimately not worth the sacrifice.
Of course, finances are one of the major considerations for any relocation. But they’re even more critical when a loved one is relocating with you.
If at all possible, don’t put your partner in a situation where he’ll have to take the first job that comes his way in your new town. If he’s agreed to embark on a new life with you, it will be important that your new salary allows the two of you to live comfortably until he finds something that will be professionally rewarding to him too.
In figuring out whether your new salary will be enough to support your entire family for a while, look at more than just annual income. Make sure you are familiar with the cost of living in your new area, the benefits package you’ll be receiving, and housing costs. Factor in any relocation costs not covered by your new employer. Also make sure you’ll be able to accommodate increased travel expenses, so that your partner doesn’t feel too financially strapped to combat homesickness by making visits to family and friends.
Your Partner’s History
Has your partner always lived in the same hometown as her family and close circle of friends? Up until now, has a “long time” away from her parents constituted a two-week vacation with you?
If so, then expect that the transition may be especially difficult for her. If up until now “visiting Mom and Dad” or “hanging out with my best girlfriend” has always entailed no more effort than jumping in the car and heading up the road for her, the realities of being without close ties in a brand new town may hit her hard. Be prepared for homesickness, loneliness, and perhaps increased demands on your time as she adjusts.
On the other hand, if your partner has moved frequently throughout her life and is used to starting over in new cities with or without family and old friends close by, then relocating with you may be just another adventure. She may even be able to help you with the transition.
Your New Home and Neighborhood
Selecting your new home will be critical for both your and your partner’s long-term satisfaction. No one wants to pack up and move across the country for a job, only to end up living in a run-down apartment for months on end.
Of course, you may need to make temporary arrangements. But make finding your home in your new town, whether it be a rental property you both love or a home on a suburban street, a top priority. It will be critical to “build roots” early on, especially for your partner, who may not yet feel connected to his new community through a job.
Social Life and Opportunities
For you, meeting new people and getting involved in the world around you will come somewhat naturally as part of your new job. But for your partner, it will be critical that your new community offers opportunities to participate in activities that interest her and help her make new friends.
If she’s always lived in the big city, a move to a small, rural town may make her feel isolated and deprived of stimulation. She’ll miss just being able to wander up the street to grab a coffee with friends, browse in a bookstore, or hit the market. Likewise, if up until now she’s lived in small, close-knit communities where everyone smiles and says hello, she may feel overwhelmed and inhibited by the hustle and bustle of city life and the relative distance of strangers who pass each other by on the street.
Children and Schools
What are the school systems like in your new area? What are the private and public school opportunities, and what kind of social activities are available for young ones? Are there many families with young children in your new neighborhood?
Chances are, if you are relocating for your job, your partner will be the one who is most involved in getting your children enrolled in a new school and helping them adapt to their new neighborhood. The stresses your children face will impact your entire family.
If you don’t yet have children, it is easy to overlook these considerations. But if you’re planning to have a family in the future and hope to build your long-term career at your new organization, it is well worth your time to research these concerns now.
Your Own Availability, Patience and Support
In addition to moving and adapting to a new town yourself, you’ll be enmeshed in learning your new job. For the foreseeable future, your work days will be filled with new people and challenges.
Meanwhile, your partner will be doing his best to build a place for himself in your new home and community. But he’ll need to feel that you’re concerned about his happiness and available to him.
Will you be able to leave behind the stressors of your new job to be supportive and helpful to your partner when you aren’t at work? Can you be patient and understanding if he goes through periods of being unsatisfied, frustrated, homesick or even resentful? Will you do your part to keep the lines of communication open and work together to get through rough patches?
Things to Suggest to Help Your Partner Find “A New Niche”
Even when you’ve considered all of the above and thought through your partner’s possible reactions and how you’ll handle them, there may come a time when she’s floundering and feeling lost. Unlike you, she doesn’t yet have a career opportunity in your new town to provide her with a sense of focus and connection. Instead of moving forward, she may spend her time missing her old work, friends, activities, home and community.
When this happens, of course you want to offer understanding and affection. At the same time, providing her with ideas for getting involved in new activities can help her find her place and feel at home. Below are some things you can suggest.
- Encourage him/her to take some time to explore what she really wants to do in terms of a career. Now may be the best time for her to go back to school or train for a new profession. Suggest that she visit a career counselor or explore continuing education programs at local colleges and universities.
- Suggest that he/she use the internet productively to occupy her time. Maybe she can start a blog on something that’s of interest to her, or as a way to keep in touch with family. Maybe she can find ways to make extra money online. Perhaps she can even work something out with her old employer where she can consult or do freelance jobs for them on a remote basis. The web is also a great way to explore what your new community has to offer from the safety of home.
- Task him/her with getting to know your new area and discovering all the best dining, cultural, shopping and entertainment venues for the two of you. That way, when the weekend rolls around and you have some free time, he can play tour guide and help you acclimate to your new city.
- Give him/her the opportunity to make your new home a project. Encourage him to take risks in interior decoration and design, and have fun with the experience. Let him make your new residence a place where he feels at home.
- Point out that now, without the distractions of the old demanding job and nearby friends and family, he/she has time to do all those things he/she always complained about not getting around to before. Encourage him to start that garden, take those cooking lessons, begin writing that book, join the gym or tinker around with jewelry-making.
- Encourage him/her to meet others through activities like joining a book club, taking a fitness course, volunteering at the local animal shelter or elder care facility, or getting involved in the local school system or community politics.
- Suggest a part-time job as a way to earn a bit of extra money, get out of the house, meet people and maybe even have some fun.
- Help him/her to plan a vacation or reunion where your out-of-town family and friends come for an extended weekend to check out your new home and your new town. Looking forward to seeing her family or friends helps anyone battle homesickness and loneliness.
The Little Things Mean The Most … What Can You DO To Help Your Partner Adjust?
In addition to making suggestions about how to get focused, connected and involved in a new town, there are things a partner can do to make the transition easier for the one whose career has been relocated.
- Be supportive of his/her new endeavors. Take an interest in the things he’s now doing with his time.
- Remind her/him that her/his contributions still matter, and that you wouldn’t be able to make the transition into your new career nearly as well without your partner. When you move far from your old home to follow a partner’s career, it is easy to feel like you’ve taken a backseat or that the things you are doing just don’t matter as much. Reassure your partner that this is simply not the case.
- Do your part to stay involved and connected with the people “back home.” Knowing that you too miss family and friends and are still interested in their daily lives will make your partner feel less isolated.
- Remember that in spite of the demands of your new job, it is more important than ever that you are actively involved in your home life. When at all possible, don’t let work infringe on your evening and weekend plans with your partner. Take an active interest in your new home and community yourself.
- Use your new setting as a way to rekindle romance. Enjoy the experience of discovering new parks, restaurants, nightlife and scenery. Use having new experiences together as a way to reconnect with and rediscover each other.
- Involve your partner in your job by sharing the interesting details of your work days. Let him know you value his/her opinions by asking for advice on how to handle a new responsibility, project or quirky personality in the office.
- Be your partner’s friend. In the absence of his old local happy hour or Saturday ball game buddies, go out for wings and a beer with him, check out the new local sports team, or scream at the TV together over a football game.
- Get to know your neighbors.
- If you don’t have one already and are willing to take on the responsibility, consider adding a pet to your family. A dog or cat can be a wonderful companion, provide structure and responsibility, and make a house feel like a home. Make sure you’re both willing to commit to the responsibilities of a pet and that you’ll be equipped to handle lifestyle changes such as your partner finding a job.
- Include your partner in your new work social circle. Invite your partner to meet you for happy hour with the new crew from work. If the girl in the next door office mentions her husband’s recreational softball league, get some information about how your guy could join.
There’s no doubt about it. Relocating is difficult in many ways, especially for someone who is packing up and leaving a good life behind for a partner’s new job. With sensitivity, understanding and supportiveness, you can make your career move the best thing not only for you, but your loved one. Over time, you can work through the rough patches and build the home of your dreams together.