Third Culture Kid Dating; adults who have spent their developmental years outside their parent's culture

When I finally settled down in a city, how did I work on building sustainable relationships?


In my previous post, I mentioned an article by Bill Drake about how adult Third Culture Kids (TCKs) have less problem-solving skills in relationships and friendships than other adults. He explains that the reason for this is that they move so often that they don’t need to resolve issues that come up within their relationships. They simply move on to the next city and make new friends, rather than working on those older relationships.

Although I was surprised by this statement at first, I then realized it was true, at least for me as a TCK.   When I moved to London for my first job out of uni, I made the conscious decision to change.  I had to start working on my relationships here as I knew I would be sticking around for a while!  I had to build more sustainable relationships.

After two years in London, when I noticed I was pulling away from one of my close friends, I had to figure out why I was doing this.  On the one hand, I had spent amazing moments and times with this friend: dinners out, late cocktails on Friday nights, chatty coffee breaks at work, and endless conversations on life, career, friends and love.  The problem: I was bored.  I didn’t feel that same level of excitement I had at the beginning. I was annoyed by some of the little things she did.  I didn’t feel like working on the relationship either.  I simply wanted to drop her and make new friends. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s what I had done repetitively throughout my life as a Third Culture Kid, and over that time, it was not always by choice. It’s all I knew.

I had reached that two-year point, and normally at this stage I would have moved cities and therefore built new friendships and met plenty of new people. Meeting new people gives you that adrenaline rush. That flavor of excitement.  That feeling of getting out there, reaching out to people, charming them to make them like you.  And it’s just not the same as keeping an old friend.

She felt it. That I was pulling away.  For some reason, she knew and expected it too. Probably because I had mentioned this sort of situation in the past when moving from city to city.  She called me out on it and told me that I meant a lot to her and that I wasn’t going to throw her away.  This made me face the reality of it. I couldn’t constantly be throwing away friends when I got bored.  I needed to work on my friendships, build that spark back into it.  Plan fun and exciting nights out over gin and tonics in Shoreditch.  Leave our routine, and get out there to meet new people. Go out again to house parties with her and flirt with the cute guys we met. Make up ridiculous stories to the ones who were drunk and annoying us.  And funnily enough, when we did that, I didn’t feel bored anymore.  That relationship is stronger today because I have been through more with her. It’s more interesting. It’s built on past experience. It’s built on memories. It’s built on stories she knows about me. It’s built on holidays away together. It’s built on hour-long conversations about that wonderful first date we had with a guy met on Plenty of Fish.  It’s built on more glasses of red wine than I’d like to count.

I know this is going to be a constant challenge for me. Not to get bored. Or more importantly, when I get bored, to work on a relationship. To fight to bring back that spark. To shake things up.  Not to throw away the old and look for the new.  To build.


4 thoughts on “When I finally settled down in a city, how did I work on building sustainable relationships?

  1. This is so true! I struggle with this so much. It’s weird, too, because I have no problem working things out in romantic relationships – maybe because we’re taught from a young age that those go through ups and downs? But with friendships it is really easy for me to just say, “Oh, well. I can always make more friends!” It takes work and focus, but it’s worth it to develop long-lasting friendships.

    • That’s so interesting. I find that too actually. For romantic relationships, I definitely work on it because I feel it’s worth it. For me, it’s because it took me forever to find a great guy who I found interesting, funny, open-minded and so on! So I feel that amazing boyfriends are hard to find so once I found a wonderful one, I had to make sure I didn’t lose it. Whereas like you said, with friends, I think I can always make more. It just takes a bit of effort of getting out there, going to some new house parties, or joining a new sports team, anything really!

  2. I can relate to this so well! My “pull-away” reflex comes at about two years too. In fact, it’s happening right now. I guess that being aware of it is the first step towards working on developing some of the relationships skills that I’m lacking!

    • It took me someone else to tell me that I was doing this! It was definitely something I was repeating over and over again. But like you said, it’s all about being aware of it :)!

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