Expat emotions: What to do when you resent your other half

I have spent weeks avoiding this post. Part of my maremma tuscany is sharing the realities of expat life, the good and the bad. But I wasn’t all that keen to publish this side of it. Mostly because I’ve already received emails from strangers telling me I complain too much and I don’t particularly want to receive even more saying I should get a divorce.

It’s no secret that I’m an expat by circumstance, not by choice. I moved to Tuscany because my husband is from here and because we had a deal – a decade in Italy for a decade in Australia. But to say you’re in Tuscany because you’re still serving your 10-year sentence doesn’t sound particularly romantic, does it? So I try to look on the bright side and find my own reasons to love Tuscany and my life here.

Still there are days when you just want to book a one-way ticket back to Australia. When my grandmother fell ill a few months ago, I went into melt down mode and seriously considered it. I even flirted with the idea of living apart from my husband – a bit like Helen Bonham Carter and Tim Burton, except they live in separate houses and not separate continents. It’s something Giulio and I are familiar with. For the better part of seven years, we lived a long distance relationship. He would visit twice a year and vice versa. We were fine with it. Everyone else was not.

It sounds crazy, but my reasoning is pretty simple. In Australia, I have a family and friends that I happen to be particularly attached to. As an English speaking journalist, the job opportunities were pretty good, not to mention, the added bonus of being able to answer the phone without worrying about whether or not the person on the other side can understand you. In Italy, there’s just my husband. No friends. No relative-in-laws. And as much as I love him, the scales skew in a direction that is not in his favour.

Cards on the table, I resent Giulio for insisting we live in backwaters Tuscany. On particularly discouraging days when nothing seems to have gone in my favour and I have to ask the person to slowly enunciate the sentence they’d like me to write, I want to scratch his eyes out. I know it’s not his fault that he lives in small town Italy or that he had the misfortune of being my other half – if you believe in that sort of thing – but sometimes I wish I could have picked an easier life. One where I lived, worked and died 15 minutes from where my mother and grandparents lived, married to a completely innocuous fellow Australian who spoke my language and understood my pop culture references.

Since no good comes from complaining, I have tried to process the resentment. And I have a few slithers of advice to help those of you who are in the same situation.

BE HONEST

Refuse to pretend that everything is a-okay when you speak to your other half. Lying gets you nowhere and only serves to isolate you more. Giulio. knows how I feel and accepts it. On the flip side, it’s given him a complex, where he feels guilty all the time.

Remember that your feelings count too. You’re allowed to be unhappy and homesick. You’re allowed to want something different. The problems comes when you let those feelings become caustic and start lashing out at your partner. Be honest not bitter. If things get bitter, then maybe you need to work to find a solution you’re both happy with.

BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN DESTINY

The original plans I had for my career have changed, but that’s the nature of longterm plans. I can’t blame Giulio for my career failures.

Rather than abandon your dreams, you need to find a workaround and set your sights on that. It’s an uphill battle creating your own career, but you don’t really have much of a choice. It’s make something of yourself or do nothing for eternity. Take the time to map out where you want to be and what you want to be doing. Then break it down into small, actionable goals and do them. It sounds so simple, but the only thing stopping you is you. Can you be bothered to really put the work in? If you spent half your day on YouTube, you probably won’t get anywhere fast.

FIND YOUR OWN REASONS FOR LOVING THE TOWN YOUR IN

Manciano doesn’t have a lot going for it, but I embrace the friendliness of its residents, the beauty of its natural surroundings and pure lifestyle and the DIY-awesomeness of my father-in-law. But more importantly, I try to remember that living in Italy means seeing the world. I have travelled to dozens of countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Countries I would never have seen if I’d stayed in Australia, where even a flight to Sydney costs $300.

The experiences and opportunities that have arisen from expat life are the ones that stay front and centre when everything else goes to shit. Whatever you do, make friends, join a club, get out of the house. Force yourself to live the life you would have lived at home, no matter how hard it is. The more you have to love about your life, the less resentment you’ll feel.

2 thoughts on “Expat emotions: What to do when you resent your other half

  1. Alison Boyd Matteini says:

    Oh I hear you, Elisa,
    It’s difficult trying to get across to the seriously wonderful yet workaholic husband the reality of being without family or old friends close by is difficult. I’m honest with him but I feel guilty for his guilt. Dark old Februaries on Monte Amiata are difficult for me and earlier this year I was seriously considering an annual November – March move back to Aus as I could feel the bitterness creeping in. Instead of what would become a half-life disruption to my business, friendships and life here, I’ve doggedly pushed back at that and followed the creative work I want to do, making the most of where I am with what resources I have. That’s hard work, especially here, and If that means living in Firenze for part of the year for my work, somewhere with a nearby functioning forno and a comune that’s even a fraction more with it (Manciano is positively metropolitan in comparison to Santa Fiora!), then that’s what I need to do.
    We do live in a lovely part of the world, aside from its natural beauty as you mention it’s conducive to travel, I can be with my sister in London in a few hours.
    Gorgeous blog, by the way. ABM xx

    • Elisa Scarton Detti says:

      Hi Alison,
      Glad to here I’m not the only one! I know Santa Fiora well and if Manciano is a culture shock than Santa Fiora must be like getting hit with a sledge hammer! Thanks for the moral boost! You’ve made my day 🙂 All the best, Elisa. P.S I’m so jealous you have a sister in London. My entire family is resolutely glued to Melbourne!

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