Are you one of those expats whose family is constantly putting you on a guilt trip for living abroad?
Maybe you are constantly second guessing yourself: Am I really doing the right thing? Am I being selfish? Wouldn’t it just be easier if I buckled under the pressure and went home?
This week’s podcast helps you deal with those guilt trips from friends and family back home. I will share tips on now only how to see it from a fresh perspective, but how to navigate it so that both you and your global family can stay connected.
What You’ll Discover in this Episode:
- How to redefine guilt.
- Why it’s important to stop feeling guilty for living your life abroad.
- What might really be motivating your family that sends you on a guilt-trip.
- What you can do to respond to unhelpful comments or pleas to return home.
The most important thing of living abroad is ensuring that you are living the life you love and that it is in alignment with what is most important to you. Connecting with family differently so that there are fewer guilt trips, and more love and acceptance is a great start.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- EP6: Living Abroad Without Regret
- EP56: What Friends And Family Really Think About You Living Abroad.
- EP94: You’re Selfish If You Don’t Do This.
- EP112: Global Families.
- EP113: Am I Unknowingly Spoiling My Kids? Overindulgence With Dr. Bredehoft.
- EP114: What You Wish You Could Say To Your In-Laws.
- EP115: When You Feel Like You Live In A Different Country To Your Partner. But You Don’t.
- EP116: Breaking Through The Stay Or Go Dilemma.
- EP118: Why You Should Talk About Grief Before It Strikes.
- This is the valued organization and upcoming conference mentioned in this podcast Global Families In Transition Conference 2019.
Don’t miss this brand new opportunity to start putting the way in which you are showing up in your family to the forefront: Global Parenting on Purpose.
Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
“When are you going to come back home?”
“It’s so much safer here I don’t understand why you live there.”
“When are you going to settle?”
“You are keeping the grandkids away from me.”
Any of this sound familiar?
If you are like so many of the individuals living abroad that I’ve talked to, you receive constant pressure from your family to move back home or questions of why you would choose to live there when you could live here. Sometimes it goes so far that it creates massive conflict in the family, or at minimum leaves you with a pit of guilt in your stomach.
Some of you might be tempted to look at your family members square in the eye and pull a Cecily White from the Prophecy Girl and ask “Do you give frequent flyer miles with that guilt trip?”
You’re so tired of hearing things like that.
I totally get it.
The question of how do you live abroad without feeling guilty about it is something that weighs on so many people’s minds. And I get it you’re tired, you’re tired of hearing things like: “You’re missing out on precious time.” or “You’ve got nothing there, come back, we’ve got a good life here.” “Your kids aren’t going to know who they are.” “You’re being selfish.”
They are really good travel agents for guilt aren’t they?
And the problem is you don’t know if they’re right or not.
Listen, we’ve been talking about global families since episode 112. We’ve talked about how not to spoil your kids, how to manage big gaps between your in-laws and to even manage the stay or go dilemma when you don’t know what to do next. If you’ve missed any of those go to the show notes and check them out.
You’re also going to want to hang on to the end because I have something special that I don’t know if you’re aware of. And today’s episode is something that I watch a lot of people struggle with, just in fits and bouts it comes and it goes. So we’re going to look at how to deal with guilt trips from friends and family back home.
So to get started, let’s take a good look at guilt. Ann Smith from Psychology Today talks about how for most of us moderate amounts of guilt is actually sign of love or strong attachment and commitment. Right? To do the best that we can, to be the good daughter or you know the right type of parent, or the supportive brother, or the loving grandchild, or whatever it is, your best friend. When you think about all of the people that you love, if they’re putting guilt trips on you it can feel hard. It puts your own choices into question and it might even make you feel resentful towards them, which is actually the opposite of how you want to feel.
So, let’s take a look for a few minutes on guilt. Let’s dive in and see what it means for you as you say yes to living abroad. And then I’m going to share a couple tips with you to help you navigate this differently.
So first let’s look, guilt is really just an emotion, It’s not a response to what you’ve done, it is an emotion that you feel. And when it comes to that creeping feeling of guilt for choosing to live abroad, guilt is that emotion that people experience because maybe they’re worried that they’ve caused someone they love harm.
Okay, so we’re going to just gently approach guilt and see it as “What if it’s because I’m worried I’m causing someone harm?” Instead of just carrying that heavy feeling of guilt. It’s basically your brain saying “Maybe I’m responsible for screwing up my family, maybe I’m responsible for my friends struggling.” And when you believe that, boom you are flooded with that emotion of guilt, but here’s the thing, you can think and feel this but it might not even be true. You might be thinking about something that you’re not even responsible for, like your friends and family’s happiness that’s their responsibility, not yours. And it sounds harsh but we truly cannot take on the responsibility for the happiness of someone else. It’s not even possible, people have to find that themselves, even to work on their own strategies on how to feel connected, how to stay in contact. Whenever I find myself thinking “Oh, I’m really upset I can’t go and visit this person right now.” or “I’m upset that I haven’t seen this person.” While my husband will be like, “Hey, it’s a two-way street.” I was in a Facebook group and one of the one of the people said that airplanes go both ways.
So we can’t always take all that on right?
So the first thing I want to focus on is that guilt is an emotion and probably coming from a place of love that you just don’t hurt anybody, that’s your positive intention. But we need to be careful because guilt is not a great compass. We are not responsible for other people’s emotions, we are responsible for how we show up in other people’s lives, but not their emotions. And legit guilt, that is that only counts when you’ve done something out of line with your integrity.
So when you really want to get clear about it, think about the guilt that you feel right now about living abroad, of your family when they say things like that. It creates that feeling of guilt. Have you done anything that is out of a lime with your integrity? And if yes, then it’s time for realignment. If no, then we need to relook at that guilt, because legitimate guilt is a sign that you’ve done something out of line with your integrity and if that’s not the case, we’ve got to look at guilt in a different way.
Because when you’re feeling guilt what you might actually be feeling is love, because you love your people and you want them to make you happy because you want to please them, you want to avoid conflict, you want to feel connected.
So when they say you should move back, what they’re really saying is “I love you, I’m tired of missing you.” or even “I’m afraid.” So that guilt is probably a better measure of love, because we hurt when we aren’t pleasing the ones that we love, we hurt when we’re not doing what they want, we hurt when we’re not fulfilling their wishes.
That’s all from love.
So don’t you think it’s a way better place to operate from, from love rather than guilt?
So, how do you stop feeling guilty for living abroad? You stop feeling guilty and you start connecting to that feeling your belly of love. Because guilt turns into resentment and that leads to disconnection and that’s the opposite of what all of us are so hungry for. Even your Auntie who says those things of the table that makes you feel like crap.
So the first thing we’re going to do is transform the way we see guilt and look for the love.
So when you’re getting guilt trips from your family, I want you to look for the positive intention behind the comment. I know this can be hard, and you know what if you’re in a toxic family what I’m offering right now might go way beyond that. So take what you can if you’re in kind of an extreme situation. But if you’re in that regular side with comments that are wearing on you, then I want you to look for the love, look for the positive intention behind that comment. Because they miss you, they love you and they’re probably afraid of the unknown because they haven’t lived abroad, they don’t live in that country, they don’t know, they love you and want to protect you.
So what I would like you to do now, so you can look for the love, is make a list, your guilt trip list. What are the things on that list, what are the things that they say that stab you in the heart?
You know, I know for me the hardest part is when my parents miss my boys. Or when I’m not face-to-face with my girlfriends when they really need me, I can feel that. I’ve learned to transform that from guilt to love, because I just love my people so much and I’m living the life I know I need to live and they know that too.
So make your guilt trip list. What are the comments like I started the top of this episode with that you hear?
What’s on the list?
First thing you want to do is look have you done anything on that list as out of line for integrity that merits guilt? If the answer is yes, you need to realign with your integrity and stop doing that. But listen, I have a hunch that there’s not one thing on episode that list that is out of line with your integrity. And so what you want to do is look at that guilt trip list and look for the love. Okay, because that’s their ill-intentioned way to show you that they love you, to say that they want you around, kind of a face plant in terms of execution, but that’s what they’re doing.
So let’s just hold that for a second, everything on that guilt trip list that you hear from them is because, what if it’s because they love and miss you? What is the one thing you can do when that happens, when you hear that comment? You can hear the love, hear the missing and give them what I call “a bucket load of empathy”.
Because the thing is they don’t live abroad, they aren’t making your choices. They’ve made a different life for themselves, the life that they think is the good life, the right life. But they don’t see what is on the other side, they haven’t lived in your shoes, and they’re just trying to protect you.
So what you can do when you hear those comments is say “I know it’s hard, I hate being away from you too, I wish that you could spend Sunday mornings with the grandkids too, I get it, that’s hard.”
So that what you can do is give them a bucket load of empathy, saying that you get it and you feel that way too. That pit in your stomach, that’s not guilt, It’s actually love, because you wish that those things could happen, but they’re not happening because of your reality. To sympathize and say “I know it I wish that I was there having wine with you on a Friday night, I wish I could give you a hug.” You could also say “There’s times when I think, God I would love to move back home, I get that, I know it feels like an easy solution, I know it feels like it would fix things.” Just acknowledging that can help them see that you see them and help them see that you love them like that too.
What you can also do if they don’t know what your life is like. You can also share more of your reality at home so that they can see what the joys are. Because one of the things I remember, my mom said something to me, It was so sweet. They had a really hard time with me marrying a guy from across the world and when they got to know him and his friends and they saw the life that we lived, my mom once said to me “You know what Sundae, what I really want is for you to be happy and I’d rather you marry a great guy from across the world then a piece of crap next door. Like I’d rather you be happy and be far then be closed and be unhappy.”
So if you can, not in a way of like you know instagramming, Facebooking show, in their face, you know, your holiday type of thing. But like the little moments, the little joys, if you can share those with them and help them understand why it lights your fire. You know why this choice is working, share the joys that your kid has at their local school, you know opportunities they don’t get in other places that will help them see the joy that you’re living and help them feel happy.
Maybe they’re afraid of the unknown, like maybe it’s your parents and they’re in their 70s and don’t know, you know, they’ve never been abroad or they just don’t have in their paradigm to hop on an airplane for two weeks. You know, maybe you can help them feel safe by sharing examples of other parents in their 70s or in their 80s, of course assuming good health that are visiting and what they’ve experienced, that maybe they could experience that too, an invitation to reduce their fear. And the one of the other things that I’ve seen, you know when I lived in West Africa in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso, there were times when people were afraid for me. And they were afraid of the unknown and to be honest there were many times where I felt safer in Ouagadougou than I did in my home country, my birth country, but they don’t know that, they just watch tyres burning on CNN and people throwing rocks. They just get those news flashes which show a tiny slice of life.
So what are some of those guilt trips coming from their love that they’re afraid that you’re in danger. I know it sounds ridiculous because they’re probably relying on horrid stereotypes depending on where you live. But the way that we can reduce uncertainty is by sharing information. Share photos of the joyous times, the safe times, the good times and help them know that you’re safe. Because maybe if they understand how your kids are benefiting and how you’re benefiting long-term, that helps them feel safe.
The other thing I think that’s important when you’re getting the guilt trips is a healthy reality check. I know one of the things that I’ll never forget is when we were in Puerto Rico for my sister’s destination wedding and all these family friends from when I was young, like since I’ve been born where there with my parents and we’re all together, and one of the couples said to my mom “You’re so lucky you get to see your grandkids so often.” And I was standing right there and I was like, “Yes.” Because it was that moment where she said “Listen, I only get to see my grandkids like twice a year and only on weekends, you get to have your grandkids for four weeks at a time.”
So sometimes that helps them see the benefits of you living abroad, but not from a place of you know, “You shouldn’t feel that way, you get to see them more than other people.” But of embracing, cherishing, a celebrating, in those moments over coffee we’re like “Aren’t we lucky we get three weeks together?” Not coming from a place of proving but a place of noticing the joys when they’re happening.
Noticing the joys when they’re happening, that is a way for them to let that in to feel less defensive. And let’s be honest, what’s the alternative? You know you buckle under this pressure, you ignore the guilt and you don’t recognize it as love. You go back home and then you live from a place of resentment, you rob your kids of that global experience, you put your career in jeopardy.
Really? Is that the easier option?
I would rather love the crap out of my people and do what I can to make the most of my life abroad so that I can have both.
Both of them are going to take effort, you can’t get away from that, if you buckle and move back and it’s in alignment with who you are and what is important to you, great. But if you move back and it’s from a place of obligation and you feel resentful, you’re going to have work to do because you’re going to be unhappy, and that’s going to spill into every other part of your relationship.
Okay, when you’re feeling that nudge, you know, it’s important for you to feel “Is it true, is it time for me?” And if you’re struggling with “Should I stay or should I go?” Then check out one of my recent podcast, should I stay or should I go? Because we talk exactly about that, that is episode 116, breaking through the stay or go dilemma, that’s different when you’re really wondering if it’s time. What I’m talking about is dealing with the guilt that’s coming in. If you want more check out episode 116 of the stay or go dilemma.
You would probably be be surprised if you listen to episode 53: what my friends and family really think about me living abroad because that blew the doors off of what I thought that helps smash guilt also. Any remnants that were left for me helped transform it completely into love. So check out episode 53: what family friends and family really think about living abroad. it gives you the exact questions to ask your friends and family, and if you’re like me, I’m sure you’ll be surprised by the answer.
Episode 6: living abroad without regret, helps you get really clear on how you can love your people to pieces.
So there you have it folks have been talking about guilt, how maybe guilt Is really just coming from a place of love. We do have a little warning there if there’s legit guilt going on to have a realignment, to help you see the love in their comments and to help you love them right back by showing empathy and then sharing with them those moments of joy in the moment, so that they can feel safe and they can feel loved.
All right, what I promised is something special you might not know about, I have done a three part series on guilt, on how to stop the guilt on raising your kids abroad. It’s totally free and you can check it out in the show notes.
To go one step further, if you want to smash guilt, check it out.
All of this has been in dedication to the series on global families, and I am getting excited because I am heading to Bangkok in Thailand to the Global Families in Transition Conference coming up at the end of April. So if any of you are in Bangkok and you are a listener of Expat Happy Hour, let me know because we could meet, not for Expat Happy Hour, but happy hour. And it would be great to get to know you in person.
For those of you who are in my global family already, I’m really looking forward to seeing you in person at the Global Families in Transition Conference.
If you don’t know what Global Families in Transition is, you should check it out because it’s a wonderful organization.
And that’s why I dedicated the last several episodes on global family. So check them out starting at episode 112 through episode 119 because you don’t want to miss it.
All of this is in service of you living a life abroad that you love and one step further, if you want to go one step further to deepen how you’re showing up in your global family don’t miss the Global Parenting on Purpose Program.
The applications are open, I’m hopping on the phone one to one with individuals right now to hear what they want to change about their global life and how they want to show up differently so they can live abroad without regret. Showing up as your best self for your global family without losing yourself.
Alright folks this is it how to smash the guilt for living abroad, how to make the most of it.
You have been listening to Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Bean and thank you for listening.
I’m going to leave you with the words of George Carlin “Don’t take guilt trips, take a trip to the mall, to the next country, to a foreign country, but not where the guilt is.”