A friend of mine has just returned from a long time overseas. He is a little disoriented by his first few months of reintegration. His expectations of naturally falling back into step with relationships are not being met. Things are not going according to plan – if you can have such a thing.
Relationships! Where do we start?
The irony is that the primary reason for returning home can be the most confusing and frustrating aspect for the returning emigrant?
I have been where my friend is – some days, I still am. It can be ugly and messy. Expectations of regular invites, catch-ups and time with one another did not happen as often as we thought. At one point, I attended coaching sessions to help me with some specific challenges.
When you leave, all is a clean blank canvas. When you return, an old watermark can inhibit a new bright picture from being drawn. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The problem – and the beauty – with relationships is they are not linear. We cannot always see a clear link between action and result. It makes them complex to manage. They are unpredictable. We can feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall.
Here are some challenges and things that worked for me – after a lot of trial and error.
Problem 1: Unreasonable Expectations
Family is often the primary reason you return – to reconnect with your roots and to offer your children the upbringing you had. Your expectations are high – these often lead to disappointment.
Problem 2: Assumptions
You assume that everyone in your family will be available as they were on your holidays home when you were the feted Prodigal Son or Daughter. Fatted calves do not last long.
You also assume they will relate to you and you to them. But time and life have moved on and that does not always happen. That’s just the way it is. Nobody’s fault – everyone is managing as best they can and sometimes these things happen.
Problem 3: Today’s world and Priorities
Yes, I do think there is more we can do if these things are a priority. But things that are a priority for you may not be a priority for someone else. That’s the price of everyone having different value systems.
Problem 4: History and Difference
The moment you f*cked off, (I am quoting a loved one), you took a fork in the road. The longer you live away, the further from the road you end up. It seems obvious (in hindsight), but you cannot return to where the paths split. But maybe you can walk a path that returns closer to the main road.
You became different once you left. Maybe you were different before. My Dad said to me once he wished he was brave enough (he had ideas of emigrating to Canada). There is nothing wrong with going away – and there is nothing wrong with staying. But explicit decisions, as opposed to the status quo, tend to attract our inquiry and self-doubt.
So that’s it – you’re different. Sometimes we love it. Other times, we yearn to fit in.
Problem 5: You think it’s only you.
At one point I thought it was only me needing to adjust as I had moved. But don’t underestimate the big adjustment for others. You being home after a long absence is strange. What do they do with you?
Problem 6: Attachment
When I sought help with some of my relationships, I realised I had become attached to them working. I would send a text or an invite and hang hope on it. I would read into the words in the reply, excuse or rejection and try to analyse everything or link it to something I had done.
That does not help.
There is a gap between our expectations of a relationship and the actual reality. When that gap is negative (the relationship disappoints us), we focus on fixing it. When that gap is positive (the relationship is better than we expect or surprises us), we enjoy it, but we rarely focus on it.
So what do we do if we cannot change the relationship?
 Change ourselves
First, maybe we can consider changing our relationship with the relationship itself.
By our human nature, we notice and focus on the negatives. These days, I prefer to enjoy relationships that work – and matter.
 Reduce Attachment
For those that do not work but still matter, I stay open but try not to get attached. I stay light and avoid anything heavy. I had to move from attachment to lightness. I keep the door open to the relationship but cannot sit there for someone to come in. Turn your attention to the relationships that work.
 Go easy on yourself, and others
Why would we expect relationships with others to be perfect when our relationship with ourselves is not?
Work on being patient with yourself. Talk nicely to yourself (70-80% of our internal thoughts are critical). Practise gratitude.
 Stay True
Live in alignment with your values – and the relationships you attract will bring joy and peace to your life. You do not need to act differently around people with whom you are comfortable. If that happens, question that relationship.
All this is easier said than done.
But maybe over time, the paths will meander closer together. It might be enough to wave or to walk side-by-side awhile. And who knows? Eventually, you might forge one road off into the sunset.
Meantime, stay on your path and trust yourself.
James Parnell is the founder of A New Dawn in Ireland community and provides online coaching for anyone inspired to change their life.
This article is an excerpt from the book A New Dawn in Ireland. If you would like to be notified when the book is published simply register here.