Relationships, social media and moving abroad
Since moving to Australia, I’ve been asking myself a lot about two things: 1. our childhood expectations of romantic relationships and 2. the ironic illusion that is social media.
At 25, I expected to have it all figured out (ha) and from a very young age imagined that once you decide you’re ready to live with someone, you never argue, never fight and never get mad about anything (haha).
Over the past few months, I’ve also received plenty of lovely messages from friends and acquaintances telling me how it looks like I’m living the dream here, messages which I have often ironically opened while stressed out of my head about money (full disclaimer: I currently have $3.74 in my bank account and a screenshot to prove it), missing my best friends or crying over a stupid argument I had with James.
So after much reflection on these matters, I decided to write a short reminder to anyone considering moving abroad with their boyfriend/girlfriend, people who have already made the move and everyone who wastes time comparing their lives to what they see on social media.
James and I have been together for four years.
In this time, we’ve managed long distance, handled being fired (just me on this one lol), dealt with periods of unemployment, grieved some very personal deaths and made a few incredibly difficult, life-changing decisions that not all young couples have to face.
But in the end, I can honestly say that nothing proved as challenging for our relationship as packing our lives into two backpacks and moving across the world together to a city we had never stepped foot in before.
Before leaving Ireland in April 2018, our everyday conversations mostly involved what country we should to travel to next, where we aspired to be in five years time and what restaurant to try for our next date night.
In the first months of our new life in Sydney, these conversations still happened all the time, but were often overshadowed by almost business-like discussions about money, jobs, rent, where we should live, and the burning question of Ireland’s generation emigration: how the f*@$ do you make friends as an adult without coming across like a desperate weirdo? *Have since made friends FYI - evidence below.
Almost all of this is true of any couple moving in together on home turf, but throw uprooting your lives to another country into the mix and you have the added stresses and strains of visa problems (more on this in another post), job applications and interviews, new friendships to forge with different nationalities and a different culture to assimilate to (even though Australia appears very similar to Ireland on the surface, I promise you it is very, very different).
Like everyone, social media only shows our ‘best of’.
Even though we spent the majority of our time together in Dublin, moving in with someone means that while you might be see each other more often, you need to work harder to create quality time.
Finding yourself in a strange city without your usual support system of parents, old friends and familiarity makes you automatically more dependent on your partner, a situation which can sometimes feel a bit suffocating for both of you.
At one point during our first month in Sydney before we’d had time to settle in and make friends through work, anyone from home who had been here left for farming or visits home, and we found the only person we had to hang out with, drink with or do anything with was each other.
What you haven’t seen of our relationship since we arrived in Sydney are the stupid sulks we both fall into when we’re hungry, tired and travelling (especially with 20kg backpacks to carry and nowhere to stay in), the inevitable times of doubt about moving away, the stressful, tearful (again, just me on this one) fights about what country we should live in next and what we want from our careers, the drunken arguments, the evening we hauled furniture after work for three hours in glaring silence because we were so exhausted or the two occasions one of us packed our bags (with a handful of socks and a token bra on my part) to stay somewhere else (with no real intention of actually doing so).
(Special mention goes to my nearest and dearest who may not have seen, but have definitely heard about all of the above via FaceTime and hysterical voice notes.)
No matter how consistently crazy in love couples appear online, whether you know them as friends or just follow their lives because it looks like they’re living the dream, we are all tested with a steady stream of highs and lows.
I am the world’s worst driver with zero spacial awareness and it still baffles James to the point of rage that I can’t park a car and start screaming whenever I have to overtake a truck.
He is the world’s most annoying person to sleep beside after a night out and I’m still teaching myself tolerance to deal with his drunk snoring and the body lock he puts me in with his legs.
I am perpetually losing my keys and he will be leaving the lid off the toothpaste until the day he dies; I never close a door behind me and he’d leave his lunchbox unwashed for half a year if I didn’t go rooting for it in the bottom of his bag; I will always need 250% affection and he will be ringing me asking where his shoes are for the next 60 years, but I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
No matter what we’ve been faced with or how infuriated we become at each other, we never leave an issue unresolved for more than a few hours, try our best not to go to bed angry (although I have recently learned that sleep is a great healer - everything is better the next morning) and without fail always laugh about our stupid argument when we make up.
Moving to the other side of the world together hasn’t all been sunsets and cocktails (even though we’ve enjoyed plenty of both) and it definitely hasn’t always been as easy as it may seem from Instagram, but it’s been more rewarding, more fulfilling and more worthwhile than anything I’ve ever done.
It will take time, but once you settle into the lifestyle and rhythm of a new city, find your feet with new friend groups (another special shout out to all the Aussies who took me under their wing from the day we met) and start your new chapter wherever that may be, you’ll see things with a whole different perspective.
If you can make it through the tough times with a (semi) level head, deeper love, greater respect and to be honest just a generally healthier relationship is waiting on the other side.
I wanted to write this for couples, both living together and not, who may feel their journey isn’t living up to the millennial standard of perfection, and also for any single person mistakenly believing that life would always be ideal if they found a partner.
Happiness begins and ends with you; your boyfriend or girlfriend should enhance it, but being happy should NEVER be dependent or conditional on someone else.
I think it’s important for everyone to realise that moving overseas does not make your life or relationship perfect - it tests you and makes you question things you never considered before (which is why I believe living abroad is so important for personal growth whether you’re in a relationship or not).
Whatever your current situation, don’t be hard on yourself and (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) DON’T COMPARE YOUR LIFE TO INSTAGRAM because no one takes pictures of the hard times.
Take what you see digitally with a nicely balanced pinch of salt, stay in your own lane wherever it may take you and never stop challenging yourself.
If you’re considering a move to Sydney, I’ll be sharing tips and answering your questions on finding somewhere to live, getting a job and (most importantly) how to make a new group of friends as an adult on Alice Asks next week.
Feel free to slide into my DMs with specific questions in the meantime x