Helping your partner move

This post is dedicated to the one I love.  Actually, this post is dedicated to a professional that I admire and her sweetie.  He (the sweetie or partner if you prefer) has lived in the same place most of his life.  She might want to move to a new location (school/town/state) sometime soon.  Apparently, this is a conversation that has been a bit rough when she has approached him.

For me, moving has been a way of life since I turned eight.  I have moved every three years (or sometimes even more frequently than that!).  There are major upsides to this and some major downsides.  However, this post is all about how you bridge this conversation with your partner and how you, as a team, can make this happen.  Or, at least this post is about the conversations I have had with my sweetie – and some of her reactions and reservations.

I think as student affairs professionals, many of us realize that the easiest way to move up is to move to a new school – this often means moving to a new town.  But, our partners or families might not be always up for this.  Even for us, sometimes moving means leaving behind really great friends, restaurants, family, and memories- lots of memories!  Moving can be scary – even just to think about!

So – here are my 10 tips. (although I realize I could go on & on for days about this…)

1) Talk about the why first.  Really sit down with your partner and sort out why you want to move.  Be as honest with them as you can.

2) Conduct a needs/wants assessment.  First have both of you do one individually (privately) then share the results – then compile a joint list that applies to both of you.  Part of that assessment should include columns of things that are non-negotiable, things that are negotiable, and things that don’t really matter but might be nice.

3) Setup a timeframe.  Share with your partner when you are thinking about conducting your search & when you want to move.  For my current situation, I started this conversation with my sweetie almost two years ago.

4) Share your fears & excitements with your partner.  This is crucial!  You need to show them that you are scared/excited about different parts of this move as well!  You have no idea what it will feel like to live on the moon!  But, you know you are excited for the 1/6th gravity!  (or whatever it is)

5) As a couple, whenever you get an opportunity to travel and stay someplace new for a a few days – DO IT!  While you are there, walk around one day and say “hey, let’s pretend we live here and talk about this place as if we do.”  See how the conversation goes, look inside the grocery store at the prices & brand names (yes, there are regional brands – some that are fantastic!).  Spend a few hours doing ‘non-tourist’ type things.
If possible, try to even spend an extended amount of time in a different location at some point.  My sweetie and I were fortunate enough to spend 6 weeks in Seattle – living at a friend’s house – this past summer.  We experienced the weather, observed what the locals do, rode the bus every day, got library cards…etc  It was a great learning experience for us both.

6) Talk about how to make friends in a new place.  This is the same conversation you have with the home-sick first year student.  Now you are having it with yourself & your partner!  Think about the different types of community activities you could get involved with (theater, book clubs, bowling leagues, volunteer at an animal shelter…etc) – think about stuff that could involve co-workers and also things that might have nothing to do with work!

7) Figure out the geographic limitations of the search.  Talk about weather, climate, culture, faith communities, closeness to an airport, price of tickets to go see family, cost of living, perks…etc.  For my current search, my partner has said “anywhere in the world – outside of New England.”  She also thinks that NY, NJ, and DE are all part of New England (I’m the former geography teacher in the relationship… we had a brief educational moment).  But, I did interview for jobs in other countries – as well as all over this country.

8 ) Throughout the process of looking for a job – continue to return to your needs/want list.  Make sure your partner is on board with each location.  For us, we looked at a map every time I got excited about a new position or a new interview and google searched where the important things for us were relative to the new location.  Is it ok to have my favorite grocery store be two hours away?  What would that really mean to how I cook and eat? How does my partner feel about this?

9) Share your feelings.  Ask for theirs.  This is self-explanatory.  However, you need to do this often.

10) On campus interview: take a TON of photos.  Take pictures of the community, the airport, the highway, the trees, the grass, the weeds, the flowers, the buildings (in some states residence halls have no interior hallways, in other states they do (same thing with k-12 schools)!  in some places all of the buildings are made of red brick, in others all concrete…etc) — ask your host/hostess/guide for ideas of things to take photos of.
When you come home from the interview, share the photos with your partner and walk them through everything they see – explain to them what you liked and didn’t.  Try to talk openly about the similarities and differences between where you currently are, any places you have traveled (#5 above), and the potential new location.

Obviously this is a challenging experience – and can be really rough!  But, I know it is doable.  Final piece of advice, turn to your board of directors and ask them how they might have had similar conversations with their partners/families.  They are, after all, your board of directors – make them work for the title! (kidding… well, sort of.)

Feel free to post comments, questions, or other ideas below!

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