I moved around for my husband's work. First to Canada, then to Germany, and then to the Netherlands.
I gave up everything for my husband and children: a job, family, and my country.
At first, I felt useless in a place where I didn't speak the language or couldn't find a job.
"I was offered a year-long Ph.D. position in Winnipeg, Canada, and I accepted it," my German boyfriend said shortly after we became a couple.
I was shocked. Canada was thousands of miles away, and we wouldn't see each other for a whole year. The apprehension kept building up until I couldn't handle it any longer.
"What will I do when you go to Canada?" I asked.
I held my breath waiting for his answer, but his hand felt heavy and soothing on my shoulder.
"Then you'll come to Canada," he said. And so, I did.
I would follow him there and later, to Germany and the Netherlands. I thought I was the one who sacrificed everything for our relationship. But with time, I realized I was the lucky one.
Many moves followed
After he returned to Hamburg, I moved into his tiny apartment. We had met and fallen in love in this city two years prior when I was an exchange student from Poland and he was a local. He had dark-blond hair and eyes that were the very definition of cerulean, but it was his brilliant mind I found the most attractive. It wasn't too long before we became a couple.
When we got engaged, and I got pregnant, my boyfriend-turned-fiance applied, and was accepted for a job in the Netherlands, a country I wasn't familiar with, where I didn't speak the language.
This meant that I would spend the remainder of my pregnancy and the first few weeks after birth apart from my fiancé, but I was determined to make it work.
Before he left, we got married in an intimate ceremony, with guests flying in from all over Europe.
Even though we're not religious, we chose words from the Bible as our wedding motto. "Wherever you go, I'll go. Wherever you stay, I'll stay."
I moved to the Netherlands six weeks after our daughter was born, and for the first time in my life, became fully dependent on my husband. I was now, as they call it, a trailing spouse. I spent my first few months in Holland grieving everything I gave up: my country, my family, my friends, my career, my independence.
It felt like all I did was drive my daughter around in her stroller alongside the beautiful canals and old houses, shopping for groceries, and for the first few weeks, taking care of formalities, making sure my daughter was registered at the municipality, and finding a daycare for her, and all of that while trying to graduate from the German university I was taking classes at when I first moved in with my husband.
And I struggled. Add baby blues and severe sleep deprivation to all this and I was not doing well at all. And then there was the fact that I couldn't find a job in The Netherlands. It all made me feel useless.
It put a strain on our relationship
"If it was me with the fancy job, would you move abroad for me?" I pushed my now husband.
I liked to lump all my "sacrifices" into a pile and present it to him. He listened to my sporadic outbursts, until one day he said, "Hasn't it occurred to you that I had to make sacrifices, too?"
No, it had not. I thought he was the lucky one. He had a well-paying job and the power to decide where we were going to live. I was home with our two, then three children.
But as much as I was complaining about the countless moves and starting from scratch in new places, I was curious about local habits and traditions. I started a blog that then morphed into a freelance writing career and led me to authoring a book about niksen, the Dutch art of doing nothing. I was almost as much in love with the international lifestyle as I was with the man who made it possible.
All that time, I thought I was desperately clinging on to my husband, following him wherever he chose. But instead, I was at his side, a willing and equal participant in our adventures. I was not saying yes to any place or country.
Instead, I was saying yes to my husband, wherever we went and wherever we stayed.
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