After graduating from university more than seven years ago I moved almost immediately to a foreign country eight time zones away from my parents. I have no family here and knew only a handful of people at the time of my move. Needless to say, it has been extremely difficult to be so far from my family and I have struggled to build a social life/support system, career, etc. Many of my close friends have also been expatriates who eventually moved back to their countries of origin. Nonetheless, my experience living abroad has been amazing overall, and I finally feel really comfortable and largely integrated into my adopted society. This is in big part thanks to my wonderful boyfriend of a year and a half. We have been living together for about six months, and in many ways it’s been the best time of my life.
Given how well things are going, I’ve been very surprised to catch myself more and more often thinking about moving back to my home country. Financial considerations and potential job opportunities are two factors that really get me thinking about leaving. But the biggest issue is obviously my desire to be closer to my family. My parents are getting older, my nieces and nephews barely know me, and now that I’m out of grad school and working I can never visit for much more than 7-10 days at a time. My boyfriend knows how much I miss my family and also knows that financially we’d probably be better off if we moved. He occasionally jokes about moving, but he’s never even visited my home country (we’re working on planning a trip for this summer.)
I’ve gone through periods of serious homesickness before, but this is the first time I am genuinely thinking about the possibility of leaving (not even necessarily right now, maybe in another year). That doesn’t mean I’ll definitely do it, but I know it’s something I need to discuss with my boyfriend. In general we have very good communication, but this issue is just overwhelming me. I do think he’d at least consider moving (he’s not quite as close with his family as I am, and he speaks my native language perfectly – with just the cutest little accent!), but I’m afraid my interest in leaving will make him think I’m not satisfied with him. Again, he is the most amazing boyfriend in the world, and I really don’t see myself leaving without him. It would be a huge decision for both of us (even bigger for him, since this time he’d be leaving his family and home), and I have no idea how to bring it up. And if it eventually does come down to a choice between being with him and not being a 14+ hour plane ride from my family, well, I don’t even want to think about that! Your suggestions for broaching the subject without totally freaking him out are desperately needed! — Expat in Love
Before you broach the subject with your boyfriend of moving eight times zones away, you really do need to think about what would happen if you had to choose “between being with him and not being a 14+ hour plane ride from your family.” I’m sure it’s an idea that causes considerable amount of anxiety for you, but since there’s a very real likelihood you may be forced with that decision, avoiding it will do you no good. Are you prepared to lose your boyfriend to move back to your home country and be closer to your family and perhaps have better career options for yourself? Or, on the flip side, are you prepared to permanently sacrifice what you miss most about home so you can continue being with your boyfriend?
When you have at least some idea where your heart leans most, then broach the subject with your boyfriend. There’s no special way to have this discussion. If he’s dating a foreigner in her twenties-to-early-thirties, I’m sure the thought has crossed his mind that she may eventually want to return home one day. I wouldn’t think the idea would be a total shock. But if you want to cushion the blow a little, you could start dropping hints. “I’m missing my family more than usual lately.” Or, “I’m looking forward to you visiting my home country soon. Who knows — maybe you’ll love it so much you’ll want to move there with me.”
When you’re comfortable — or comfortable enough — with seriously discussing the possibility of a move back home, just tell him what you’ve said in your letter: you’re crazy about him and you love his country, but you miss your family and aren’t sure you can imagine putting down roots so far away from them. Tell him that you haven’t made any decisions yet but you need him to know that the idea of moving back home is something that’s been on your mind lately and you want to get his feedback on it.
I don’t know your situation to have any prediction how he’ll react or whether he’s be game for a move. But I do know that he if he DOES relocate to your home country with you, you’ll have some unique challenges to face. All that trepidation you felt when you first moved to your country of residence is what he’ll face when he moves. Imagine the pressure you’ll feel knowing you are the only person he knows. And don’t forget the stress of getting him a visa, etc. You’ve been down that road yourself, so you can certainly be of great support helping him navigate it, but eventually he’s going to need other people he can depend on. None of these things means your relationship wouldn’t be able to withstand a move together, but these are simply things you need to be prepared to deal with.
You have some big decisions to make in the near future. My advice is to face them and share them with your boyfriend as soon as possible. The voice in your head calling you home is only going to get louder and if you don’t share it with your boyfriend, it’s going to be This Thing that eventually starts coming between you. So be brave and communicate with him what you’ve been thinking. This isn’t a burden you can carry by yourself for much longer.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at email@example.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.