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

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Can you want what you already have?

Have you watched the TED Talk by Esther Perel on love and desire?  If you haven’t yet, I would highly recommend watching it.  She looks at couples in relationships and tries to find out if there is a way to keep that romantic feeling and desire in a long-term relationship. She asks the question: Can you want what you already have?

You may have met someone a couple of months or years ago at a bar, a cafe, a party, through friends.  After a couple months of dating, you think, I’ve finally met someone who makes me laugh, who makes me smile, who I can’t stop looking at, who I admire, who I believe in, who proves me wrong, who is different to others.  Little by little, you discover more about that person: what they love, what they don’t like, how they react, how they listen, what they care about, what their dreams are.  The mystery of that unknown person that you first met slowly evaporates as you find out more. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Your relationship gets stronger. You get closer.  You trust each other. That bond is tighter than it was before.

But how do you keep that romantic feeling and desire after months, years?  If you have that person and you love them, where does that feeling go and how can you maintain it?  Well, Esther Perel did the research in a large number of countries by asking couples in long-term relationships when they find their partner most attractive. And guess what she found out?  The girlfriend, boyfriend, fiance, husband, wife answered: I’m most attracted to my partner when: I see them at a party, and others are drawn to them. It’s when they’re on stage singing. It’s when they’re playing sport.  It’s when they’re in their element. It’s when they are doing what they love. It’s when they are doing what they’re passionate about. It’s when they’re confident.

It therefore appears crucial for your relationship to keep doing the things you love. To keep setting goals for yourself. To keep that dance class that you love. To keep playing rugby on Saturdays. To challenge yourself. To keep setting goals for yourself in your job, in your career, in your life.  Don’t forget the things you are passionate about. That’s what makes you you! It can only make you more confident, happier, and satisfied with where you are in your life. How can that not improve your relationship?  That person met you when you were independent, striving for more, setting goals for yourself, getting out of your comfort zone. Why take that away when that’s potentially the reason they fell for you.  Stay true to yourself. As Esther Perel says, keeping that romantic spark and love is having: “the ability to stay connected to oneself in the presence of another”.photo



Do TCKs remain detached and avoidant in adulthood?

I found the following piece written by Ruth Van Reken really powerful. I’m curious to know what other Third Culture Kids think about it…

Due to the fact that I experienced my TCK experience of moving around every couple of years in such a positive way, I never expected it to have repercussions in my adult life. I loved moving to new cities and meeting new people. And I couldn’t be happier to have met all of those students from different cultural backgrounds as it gave me an awareness of other customs. However, as Ruth’s piece explains, TCKs tend to become detached in terms of relationships.  In order to feel emotionally stable, they need to. Since classmates are constantly leaving your school and you are often months away from leaving that city yourself, you need to find a way to manage your emotions.  As a child TCK, I think you do this unconsciously. It becomes natural, second nature to you. However, what happens when you grow up? As an adult, do you still stay detached from relationships? Do you ‘not care’ and remain avoidant in terms of resolving problems?

I have realized that as a result of moving and leaving cities and schools so often that I’ve always been quite detached. Although I can form close relationships with people, I always remain slightly removed emotionally, in case they leave or in case I do.  It avoids the emotional goodbye.  If you speak to other TCKs who have moved around often, they often agree with this.

Third Culture Kids would sometimes rather run from a problem that comes up in a relationship rather than taking all of that effort and emotional drama to resolve the issue. And maybe not all TCKs react this way; others may have learned to cope with change and departures during their childhood in a different way.  However, some of us run or stay detached, and Ruth’s piece reminds us as to why we do this. It’s all about how it first started in childhood: “I used to mind when people came to our area for a short time and then left again. Then I decided not to care and I’ve been fine since then.”

I think as a Third Culture Kid you sometimes just decide to stop caring. You detach. You remove yourself emotionally from the situation. And it literally does not affect you. It’s a coping mechanism. But what’s very interesting to me is that it seems to stick long into adulthood.  Do you need to consciously decide to change your behavior as an adult? Or would the coping mechanism slowly disappear over time in adulthood when you stop moving and settle down in one place?33477_752658154867_7070397_n


Focus on local news rather than only global news!

So I’m sure there are plenty of challenges we all face as third culture kids. And I guess that everyone will have very different opinions as to what the most frustrating and exhausting challenges are. Here is my first challenge as a TCK. I’ve also realized while writing about this challenge that there would be ways to tackle it!

One of the challenges I face as a TCK arises when I am out with a group of people who are from one country. So for example, here in London, when I go out with a group of mainly English people. I often find that some of the references that are brought up are completely unknown to me. They’ll be chatting about a band that’s coming to London, and I don’t know the name of the band. Or it could simply be a festival that’s happening in the summer, and I’m not sure the one they’re referring to. Sometimes it’s a politician that has done something outrageous in the past, usually some years before I moved to London, and I look at them with a blank stare. It’s annoying, not knowing these bits and pieces of the culture. And it also means that I can sometimes feel like I am not really a part of the conversation. The problem is though that by not knowing these things, these kinds of activities and gatherings can come across as boring. And actually it may simply be a lack of knowledge and awareness on my part.

So I’ve realized that it’s not that they’re boring, it’s that I need to make an effort to really start incorporating this kind of information into my ‘daily feed’. So, for example, up until now, I had a subscription to the Economist and I watched BBC Breakfast in the morning. I’d sometimes buy the International Herald Tribune on the weekends. Well, the BBC breakfast is good as it gives me a brief of picture of what’s happening in the UK and London specifically. However, although the Economist is great at giving an overall picture of different regions in the world: the politics, economics and business-related news around the world. It does not focus solely on the British political news or British business. Also, instead of reading the Metro newspaper in the morning like I used to, I’ve been reading the Economist on the train. The benefit of reading those free newspapers and magazines like ‘Metro’, ‘The Evening Standard’, ‘The City AM’, ‘ES’, ‘Stylist’ is that you have a better understanding of what’s going on in London and in the UK specifically. By reading the local paper rather than global papers, you will know when festivals are coming up. You’ll have an idea of the stand up comedians going big in the UK. You will find out about that outrageous event surrounding that politician in London.

I think as Third Culture Kids we still want to know what happens in the countries we’ve lived in or just have an overall picture rather than a narrow view on one city or country. However, I think that by focusing our awareness on the city and country we live in, it can only help us integrate more fully into the culture we currently live in. On top of that, we can choose to get ‘The Observer’, ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Daily Mail’, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and surely after some time, like anything else, we will be much more familiar with what’s ‘big’ in one city and country rather than a brief overall picture of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still think being aware of what’s going on in the world is essential, but I do think it’s time I make more of an effort to know the music, art, comedy, business, politics, and everything else that goes along with it in the UK. I think I’ll struggle giving up my subscription to the Economist, but I think from now on, I will be picking up ‘The Observer’ mid-week and reading ‘City AM’ and ‘The Evening Standard’ on the overground.

More challenges to come… Until then, what do you think? Do you take the time to really fully understand the city and country you live in? What about the history of the country you live in?