There is an old saying about friendships: “Friends come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I am reminded of this when I think about the wonderful, varied friendships I’ve formed in the last 5 years of being an accompanying spouse.
One of the biggest benefits of being an accompanying spouse is connecting with and learning from your fellow accompanying spouses. These are the people who are on the international relocation journey with you; people who have been where you’ve been, or are going through it right now, riding the up-and-down waves in tandem with you.
When I look back on the last 5 years, there are people I have met for a reason, a season, or a lifetime:
A friend I met at a fancy gala holiday event within the expat community; we bonded over the fact that we both felt like outsiders; this person continues to be my ‘it’s ok to care about your career, it doesn’t make you a workaholic’ friend.
A seasoned accompanying spouse who has moved with her family 5 times in the last 15 years; she assured me that all the challenges and turmoil I was feeling as a new accompanying spouse were very normal. Even after so many moves, she still feels the same series of emotions, every time she moves! She taught me that I wasn’t alone and that my feelings were normal, even expected.
My walking buddy. We discovered we are kindred spirits, going through the stages of cultural adaptation at the same time; we share resources and talk about fear, self-compassion, happiness, and purpose.
A friend from a culture very different from mine, who was joyful and energetic and wanted to explore our new home together; we had the same perspective on the adventure we wanted to have as accompanying spouses.
A potential friend who became a workplace challenge when we had different priorities and ways of doing things in a volunteer organization. This person taught me how to be less diplomatic, more direct, and to set boundaries for myself.
A colleague who grew into a friend, this person has a personality completely opposite of mine. I value her because she helps me see things from a completely different perspective, and her confidence is inspirational.
A fellow accompanying spouse I met at a professional training course; we meet sporadically to talk about our passion for our work and how to navigate our careers while supporting our families.
A friend I shared a leadership position with. We were able to share ideas, talk through problems and act as each other’s sounding-board to resolve conflict within the group we were leading.
A friend who was more of an engaging acquaintance who I would constantly see in my expat community; she acted as a resource hub and maternal presence for many newly-arrived accompanying spouses. This person brought a lot of clarity to an uncertain time.
All this to say – friendships with your fellow accompanying spouses come in all shapes and sizes. If you are a new accompanying spouse and just building your community, it takes courage and vulnerability to put yourself out there and form a connection with someone. Not everyone will be your automatic kindred-spirit-best-buddy; you may have to go on a few awkward ‘friendship first dates’ before you find your people.
As I was building my new accompanying spouse friendships, I was also grounded by the lifetime-friends that I had made back home before I moved.
Weekly and monthly check-in calls to stay connected with my lifetime-friends felt like a lifeline to help ground me as I set out and tried to build my new community in my new home.
So, what’s the message for today? I want to express gratitude for all the many forms of friendships I have made along my accompanying spouse journey; and encourage newcomers to take a risk and invite that new acquaintance for coffee or to grab lunch, because you never know what kind of friendship could grow.
Liz Parsons has been an accompanying spouse since 2017, through 2 international relocations. She is a certified coach with 10+ years experience, a Master of Education degree, and the Founder of Comfort Challenge Coaching. Liz helps accompanying spouses and partners feel like themselves again after an international move.