Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets

I joined a new blog circle: Expat Women. You will notice the icon in pink on the right side of my sidebar. For any woman contemplating a move to a different country, it is full of tips and information. It also has some great stories and features by other expat women. I saw a “confessions” section. It inspired me to write this.


I have a confession to make. It is not pretty. It is not uncommon, but it is most definitely NOT something that people talk about. I live away from my home country because my husband wants to live in his. Most of the expat women that I know in this country are here for the same reason. Either we fell in love with a German or we followed our husbands for work reasons. We are “love immigrants .” And although we come out of love . . . we are not always happy about it.

This is my confession. In the life of every expat who immigrates for love, a little resentment will occur. You may love your partner deeply, but there are often times (whether because of homesickness or culture shock) when you will look at your spouse and wonder, “What the hell am I doing here?” The better version is, “I left my country for you. What have you done for me?”

Webster’s defines resentment as, “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” For me resentment usually occurs during the holiday season. Why does he get to spend time with his family and I don’t have any time with mine? Sure, my family is slightly crazy and dysfunctional, but they are loveable nonetheless.

I firmly believe that these feelings are normal. In fact they often pass quickly, but there are some important things to keep in mind, so that this natural feeling does not become a major problem.

First, it is important to acknowledge the feelings and talk about them when you have them. Do not wait until later when you are feeling particularly down in the dumps. You may say something hurtful in the heat of an argument. Also, your partner is there for you. If you talk about it, they may help you work through your feelings. (This is part of my two rules of marriage: always fight fair and communicate.) As you talk about it, you may begin to realize how these feelings are really just part of something else; something else which can be fixed.

Second, feelings of resentment occur often because we do not see this foreign place as our “home.” Therefore, it is important to carve out a life of your own when you move to a new place. Find girlfriends. See them often. Go to an English speaking movie. Join a Stammtisch. It is okay to do things away from your partner. It will help you make your life in the foreign place more “yours” and not just “his.”

Finally, remember the love that brought you to this new place. When times are really tough for me, I try to picture what my life would be like without my German. As the years pass, it becomes more difficult to imagine. He is a part of me now; for better or worse. And that means excepting him and all of his German-ness.

I am no expert. There are just some thoughts I had based on my experience. If you have these feelings and they increase in occurrence and persist, then you should talk to someone about. Also, know that you are not alone. We all have our dirty little secrets.


Dr. J said...

Oh boy, do I understand this post.

My turning point only came at the start of June - almost EIGHT years after moving here. I came for me, but stayed for him, but it wasn´t until I worked out what I wanted from life, and realised that I could do that here actually better than I could in Oz, that I really made my peace with it.

But I still have my moments.

Mike B said...

I came for career and stayed for her ... it can go both ways. The Partnerin and I have agreed to the UK as a "neutral corner" for the next movel, but she has to get paid out of her current job before she will make the jump.

Haddock said...

I came for beer and stayed for love :)
I like it here, even with the Germans! but it would be the same in France with the French, same in the USA as well. There's always something to complain about that isn't the same as home or what we are used to.

Besides we English like whingeing and complaining :)

Alejandra said...

Hi Claire,

Love your blog and I found this post especially heartfelt. I find myself feeling pretty homesick sometimes, but it soo helps to TALK about it with my boyfriend and realize my new home is with him.

By the way, I need to find a gym here in my area. How do you find a good one, any recommendations? It seems no one my bf knows has a gym membership!?!

Btw, I'm secretly addicted to bad tv here too like Quiz Taxi :)

Alex in Dortmund