I think this is a syndrome that a lot of us, -who have moved to a foreign country before-, had experienced in some shape or form. But if you haven’t moved yet, this is definitely something to look out for. I’m not trying to scare you, but since it happened to me, I now want to help and support you! When I moved to America, I didn’t take all of these emotions too seriously. I thought it was normal, or that something was wrong with me, because I shouldn’t be feeling this way.
But after living in a foreign country for over a decade, and connecting with others, I had to realize that how I felt and what I’ve been gone through is common. However, I should have paid attention to my worries, and asked for help sooner.
For a job opportunity, studying, to adventure and travel, in a hope for a better life, to experience a different culture, … but most of us are changing our life for love.
This change doesn’t necessarily have to be forever! Maybe you are just relocating temporarily, or as a stepping point in your relationship.
The moving process in the beginning can sound pretty amazing. You are in love, you are about to have a fresh start, leaving everything bad behind, and you feel really excited. So at first, you have all of these great feelings about going to this new country.
Isolation doesn’t only mean physically distanced. When you’re not going anywhere, and don’t know anybody. Isolation can also be mental and emotional. Because maybe you do have a lot of people around you. Families, new friends, co-workers, roommates, your partner… But you still feel very lonely. You find it hard to connect and make others understand where you come from.
When I moved to America, in 2008, I did not expect any of this to happen. I was in love, and just wanted to be with Adam. I wasn’t thinking about …how am I going to live here,… what am I going to do,… am I going to feel happy,… how are we going to live?
Everything was amazing in the beginning. We were so happy to finally be together, and I got familiar with the place pretty quickly. But shortly after the honeymoon phase was over, we started to get into our everyday routine. Adam was going to work, and I was home alone. On the weekend we would visit his friends and family. We would do all the activities that he enjoyed and used to do before I arrived.
To be completely honest, I didn’t really enjoy playing video games or watching hockey for hours. LOL
Didn’t want to be rude. I wanted to be respectful. I wanted to fit in, and people to like me. So I did what everybody else was doing. But then I got really self conscious about my language. My English was really bad, and I felt embraced. So I would rather not talk. And if I did, I couldn’t really express myself. Meanwhile my husband was having a great time!
Granted, Adam was away from his hometown for two years. And when he came back from Milan, -essentially with a wife-, he really missed his family and friends. So getting back to his everyday life, and reconnecting with everybody made him really happy. However, I always felt isolated and excluded from this environment. And I don’t blame anybody, let me just clarify that! Most of the people that I’ve met in this small town have never left the country. They have never learned a new language. They never had to deal with living in another culture, or to learn about somebody who is different.
In the beginning, my husband and I where learning a ton about each other, but he also had these other connections that were fulfilling his life. An amazing job, climbing on a carrier ladder, playing hockey,… At the same time I was struggling to fit in.
Four months into our marriage we were expecting our first baby. I was super super excited, and since there wasn’t much for me to do in this foreign country, I finally had some goal, passion and purpose in my life! I started a blog, and was writing about my pregnancy. Took a lot of pictures, and documented everything! Back then there wasn’t much resource, support groups or online communities, so I would read other blogs. Part of my daily routine was to call my parents on Skype, after my husband left for work. I would just share all of the great experiences that I had. These hour long chats helped me a lot, but they were also pulling me back. My family didn’t know how lonely I was.
I felt very attached to my daughter. We would do everything together. All day, every day. Even after I got my Permanent Residency, there was no point for me to get a job and leave my baby. In Hungary, moms would stay home for 3 years with their children. So hearing that in America everybody would go back to work after 6 weeks was shocking to me.
Some of you may think that I was so lucky to have my husband’s friends and family in town. That I had all of these relationships already given to me. But it was actually pulling me away from my husband. I saw him in this environment that I wasn’t part of. I couldn’t fit it! He would talk differently, behave differently, and there was a complete disconnection. Not to mention all the culture shock I was experiencing at that time!
That’s why I think that starting fresh in a foreign place would have been better for our relationship. A place where we are equal, where we feel like a team. A power team who is going through these bumps together, and trying to figure things out as a couple. But in our situation I was the only one feeling alone.
I’m not blaming my husband, because I didn’t tell him any of this. I didn’t even know myself that I was struggling. So I ignored it! I kept everything inside. Plus I didn’t have the language skills good enough where he wouldn’t misunderstand me.
Often when I was trying to bring in some of my Hungarian traditions or beliefs, I felt judged. Thankfully no bad things have ever happened, nobody said anything rude to me. It was just something that I was dealing with deep inside of me. And like therapists would say: “Lot of things that we see are actually how we see OURSELF.”… Or something along those lines. If we think that somebody things something about us, maybe that’s just how YOU think about yourself. You are just reflecting your thoughts and feelings on the other person.
So that’s why I say that this may not have happened intentionally, but that’s how I felt. Judged, misunderstood, and ignored.
When I had my baby, I cried a lot. I know it’s normal in the beginning, but it was really hard for me. I cried to my mom, I cried to my husband. Yeah, it was probably the sign of feeling isolated and lonely. But I thought to myself; I need to be grateful about my situation! Didn’t wanted to disappoint anybody, or embarrass my husband. I wanted to be grateful that I can stay home with my baby, and that I’m able to live in this country. And all of these thoughts made me pull back from expressing my unhappiness and worries.
One thing that was great for me is starting a blog! I would recommend this to everybody who wants to keep themselves busy and feel like their time is worth something. I was also taking a lot of pictures. This may just come from my love for photography, but -thinking back now- it helped me a lot to stay connected with the people I left behind. And to feel less guilty that I can’t be with my family. That I’m raising my parent’s first grandchild so far away from them. Doing these activities helped me to value and appreciate what was going on with me. Kind of the same thing that I’m doing on the GMM podcast. I really feel like this is a therapeutic way for me to discover and discuss some of the feelings I’ve forgotten about.
I thought about this a lot. When I moved to Italy, i didn’t know anybody. I didn’t speak the language, I was lonely, I didn’t have friends, my family was far away, and I was going to school and working. So it made me think how come these feelings didn’t come up there?
Probably because in America I had a partner who I love, who I was worried about, who I was relying on, and with whom I never had a chance to develop a deeper connection. Lot of things were pulling me back from achieving what I wanted in my life. I couldn’t work, and I was forced to stay home. Not in a literal way! I could go wherever and whenever, but I didn’t have any goal or purpose to do that. Other than going to the grocery story.
Italy I was alone. I didn’t have a relationship, but I had roommates and friends at school. I got lonely sometimes, but I was never alone. It was a fun and exciting journey, and I loved the Italian culture. It was definitely a different level of experience.
My husband and I talked about the hard times that we had communicating with each other, and how that has become an issue in our relationship. We weren’t able to communicate our feelings and wishes, and 4 years into our marriage we reached the bottom. Our daughter was 3 years old. I started to get really overwhelmed, and decided to end everything! We got completely distanced from each other, so I filed for a divorce. But the separation and me moving out was a huge wakeup call for my husband. He realized how important and fragile this marriage is, and how much pain I was going through during these years. So he started focusing on self improvement and fighting for our family. Successfully! Took him 4 months, but I finally decided to give another chance to this relationship.
Now, it’s like having a new marriage! We are so aware of making sure that we don’t run into any huge problems, like we did in the beginning.
Thankfully we don’t really have this particular issue anymore, because I’ve acclimated to this country and we moved to a much bigger city. I talk a lot about how much this change helped me! We are around more culturally diverse people, and I was able to join an amazing local Hungarian community. My English got better, and I found my passion to do what I love, and what fulfills me. Adam and I will forever have challenges in our marriage, and I still have some self consciousness inside of me, but these past experiences have taught us to always pay attention to our feelings! And communicate!