Moving abroad for love is a tricky subject. So many of my female friends have had to move abroad as a result of their spouse’s career. In fact, this post was requested about three years ago when a friend was heading off to join her husband outside of Nigeria. Sadly, that relationship didn’t work out and the relocation might have been one of the reasons.

It’s been a little over five years since Tola and I moved to the UK to start a new life after getting married. Although I had a job in London waiting for me, I had technically first considered moving because of his own career. He had found a great job that he wanted to pursue. The elephant in the room was, therefore, whether or not I would be lucky enough to find the same. Thankfully, during my master’s degree, he did the hard work of churning out applications and helping me land a job.

According to research, relationships and families actually do better when couples move for the woman’s career. Why? Because she’s unlikely to accept a role or move that isn’t great for the family or partner.

Moving abroad to join spouse. is it worth it? how to make it work

But many women often don’t have that luxury and are usually the trailing spouse — the ones who move abroad or relocate for their husband’s or partner’s career. Unfortunately, in more cases that not, it takes a huge toll on their them, their career, and confidence.

What are the major issues?

Primarily there’s the issue of your identity. Uprooting yourself from familiar faces, your job, and everything you’ve known and then being thrown into new situations. These could make you lose yourself as you grasp to recreate an identity and find your self-worth.

The other hurdle is often financial — especially when one is pretty stable in the existing location and has little or no prospects post relocation. Becoming newly financially dependent can cause a huge strain on a person’s happiness and satisfaction within a relationship.

Finally, there’s the potential culture shock and uncertainties of the new location. It’s been more than five years for me, and several things are still jarring to me.

In my experience, however, a few things — besides already having secured work — helped me through this time.

What can you do before the move?

  • Be fully convinced (well at least as much as possible) that moving abroad to join your spouse is best for you both. Still, come to terms with the fact that you may be isolated from family, have to re-strategise your career goals and be financially dependent. It’s also helpful to discuss any concerns you may have and practical ways to deal with them. If possible, put in time stamps for re-evaluating how you’re getting on and what to do if you’re not fully happy.
  • Consider trying to keep your current job — either by transferring or working remotely. If your organisation has a branch in your new destination, it’s helpful to reach out and initiate conversations ahead of time.
  • Learn a skill or start a business: Not every trailing spouse has the good fortune of having a job at the new location or finding one in a short period. So learning a handy skill is a back up to ensure that you can both keep yourself busy while possibly earning some money. These could be hands-on skills like hair styling, crafting homemade goods, art, making clothes. Or they could be more tech-related skills like web designing, graphics, social media management, etc. Try planning the move so that you have sufficient time to learn or brush up on such skills and how you might implement them.
  • Network. This is definitely a good time to deep dive into your high school yearbook or Facebook groups and re-connect with people who could potentially be in your new destination or link you up with people there. Don’t worry too much about not having kept in touch all these years. You may send a generic message that says “Hi X. It’s been a long time but I see you’ve been keeping well. I’m currently contemplating moving to Y and would love to reconnect with old classmates there. I’d be happy to have a chat soon.” Besides your online social network, make sure you utilise your real life one. Tell people where you might be moving to and any tips or assistance you require.
  • Research your new destination. There are a few things you may never be able to fully comprehend. No matter how much research I did, I didn’t exactly have a clear idea of London’s underground tube system until I saw it firsthand. But at the least, a good dose of research will provide a general overview of how the transport system works, the shopping areas, the basic dos and don’ts, weather, and so much more. 
  • Decide what material possessions to take with you. You may have the luxury of shipping everything you own to your new destination. Or perhaps, like me, your options are limited to two 25 kg suitcases. Interestingly, I barely took any clothes with me and stuffed my luggage with Nigerian food items which may have been tricky and expensive to find. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take a few sentimental items such as photos or memorabilia — they come in handy on those days when you miss the familiar!  

At your new destination

  • Connect with people as much as you can. Don’t be shy to introduce yourself at relevant opportunities. This is particularly necessary if you haven’t secured a job that allows you to connect with people often. 
  • Explore the area (on foot!). The more familiar you are, the more you feel begin to feel at home, and discover hidden gems or activities that interest you. 
  • Focus on the positive reasons for moving. There will be low and uncertain days when you’ll wonder if you made the right move. When those come up, try to focus on the positives and always try to be open with your partner about your concerns.
  • Stay in touch with loved ones at home. This is necessary. Thanks to technology we can stay in touch through group video calls at least. It’s not the same as being there in person, but it sure helps!

One last thing about moving abroad for love  

Don’t get tempted to spend every breathing moment with your spouse. Yes, they may be the only person you know there but it’s unlikely to be for the best, especially if said spouse often goes out to work and gets a chance to do other things.

Explore, connect with people, find your new identity and make this new place work for you. Also, remember that things take time — whether it’s learning the language, adapting to the food and weather, getting a job or making new connections. Be patient and soon you might just be preaching and converting more people to join you in your new destination!

What do you think about moving abroad for love? Did you move abroad for love or to join a spouse? Where did you move from and where do you live now? How did you adapt? What was difficult? Any more tips?

Read more: A fun husband tag and how my love language has changed over the last 12 years.


13 COMMENTS

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13 Comments

  1. Oreoluwa

    October 3, 2019 at 13:53

    Interesting read. I think both of their goals have to align before a move decision is made. Personally, I don’t think I would mind moving and I don’t even know why.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      October 5, 2019 at 19:01

      Hahaha. Maybe just because you’re in love! I agree that both goals have to align – but sometimes the reality is that the woman’s goals take the backseat in the interest of what’s best for the family.

      Reply
  2. Oluwatobi

    October 5, 2019 at 03:41

    For me, I’ll be willing to move because I don’t like families that are built apart in different locations. It’s worth considering for me tbh.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      October 5, 2019 at 18:59

      Yeah totally it’s always worth considering. I’m not a fan of long distance as well. Some guidance just make the move easier.

      Reply
  3. Tayo Adeyemi

    October 5, 2019 at 06:58

    I moved from Nigeria in 2016 to join my spouse in the UK who started a Ph.D the year before.
    Until this year, i hadn’t partake of any social gathering, I missed my family…even though hubby and I hung out almost every weekend before baby came, I still felt lonely, especially in the first 3 months before I started a new job.
    I am called to the Nigerian bar and was practising before I moved here and though it wasn’t paying much but I knew it had prospects to grow…here in the UK I started from customer service and now I’m building a career path in Project Management, taking this on has helped to build me and shape me in so many ways…now I work for a tech company and I love what I do…I didnt see things turning out this way before I moved here, which is great.
    If you are moving, I would suggest you surround yourself with people you can socialise with and who have built careers in the area you are interested in, there is so many opportunities but they are not being handed out, you take them.
    I almost lost myself in the last 2 years until I decided in this 3rd year to accept that this is my new home and to make the best memories of it.
    You can too.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      October 5, 2019 at 19:02

      Thank you Tayo, this is so helpful. A social community is so important and ofcourse being open to changes. Love how you’ve moved from Law to Project Management and totally loving it.

      Reply
    • Yomi

      November 25, 2019 at 18:56

      Thank you so much this encouraged me……just moved into the uk January this year and it’s been so tiring especially with finding a job….this response made me realize it’s ok to be tired actually but it just how to bounce back!
      Thank you very much ma.

      Reply
      • Tayo Adeyemi

        November 26, 2019 at 18:48

        Hello Yomi,
        I’m glad you found this helpful and welcome…if you need help finding a job, I’m happy to lend a hand.

        Reply
  4. Ogor

    October 5, 2019 at 23:28

    Thank you Kachi for this post. I’m currently a PhD student in the UK, while my husband is in Nigeria. We haven’t decided whether or not to make ‘the big move’, but we’re definitely thinking about it. My husband owns and runs a thriving Men’s fashion business in Nigeria and in as much as I desire for us to be here together and possibly raise our kids in the UK, We’re still very concerned about his chances here, job/income wise. This is one of the tough nuts. I’d be grateful for any advice. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Kachi Tila-Adesina

      November 26, 2019 at 08:18

      Hi Ogor

      Would you please email me and perhaps we can speak. Xx

      Reply
  5. Olamide

    October 6, 2019 at 13:46

    Hi Kachi! Thanks for sharing this, I’m sure this tips will come in handy!

    Reply
  6. Aisha

    October 7, 2019 at 05:38

    Loved reading this and the responses. I think it’s quite difficult/tricky if it’s the guy moving to the woman as in Ogor’s case above but one thing I would say is Nigeria isn’t getting better so it’s advisable to leave the country when there’s an opportunity to do so. Moving away from your familiar place is hard either abroad or same country, different states. Do your research, check for opportunities before moving, decide on what line of job you wanna go into at the new place and how viable it is. It’s difficult but I like to look at the long term goal.

    Reply
  7. Tee

    December 5, 2019 at 11:10

    Such an interesting read. I equally moved to the UK after my husband got a job but thankfully, we are both in the same career path and working in multinational firms back in Nigeria, So I equally had a job waiting for me in the UK and joined him 3 months after.

    My major challenge was the culture shock and adapting to the food. Guess what? He was literally having white rice and ketchup and all sorts of ridiculous meals before I joined him. It really took a while before I got to know the African stores around as my husband made me believe that there was none in the area, which I believed without doing my research.
    Thank God for a Nigerian couple in church who finally took me to an African store after I casually asked her how she’s been coping with food and all. You could imagine my shock when I got to the store and I saw loads of African foodstuff.
    Long and short of my story: Consult and ask questions. Don’t limit your relationship to your spouse alone ☺️

    Reply

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