“I’m Finnish, my husband moved from Ghana to be with me”.
“I’m from Britain, my partner is Finnish and we are temporarily(!) living with his parents”.
You have taken the leap to a new country to live with your spouse, a native. This is what both of you longed for and prepared for. Still, as you pick your way through the labyrinth of immigration procedures, feel the constraints of not being able to have your own bank account (despite regulations saying you are entitled), not being eligible for a contract with phone companies and face the fact that employment possibilities as well as social contacts are curtailed by your lack of local language skills, issues pertaining to autonomy and independence become manifest.
Autonomy concerns the sense of being able to regulate oneself, of one’s acts being self-determined rather than compelled. If we experience many of our actions as having been imposed from outside, as sometimes happens when we deal with the nitty-gritty of immigrating, our sense of autonomy may be undermined. Then it helps to reflect that these behaviours are in aid of something we value and have chosen, e.g. a close and loving partnership. Adjustment in a new environment and sense of wellbeing are enhanced by factors that support autonomy. For instance, your move to a new country may provide opportunities to do something you have always wanted to; grab hold of the chance! As you find ways of living in a partnership and make compromises you may want to take seriously and to act on urges to “do your own thing” every now and then.
What does this letter – in impossible Finnish – mean? How do I keep mobile in the public transport system – especially when the app that is supposed to direct me has stopped functioning along with the rest of my iPhone due to the freezing weather conditions? How do I ask my partner for financial support (and how can s/he give the support in a way that respects my need for independence)?
A migrant’s sense of independence can be undermined when everything is strange and resources like skills, knowledge and life experience seem useless or irrelevant in the new context. “Not-knowing” can be frustrating and induce a sense of helplessness.
Could you brainstorm with your partner, friends or a professional how your seemingly useless resources may be (made) relevant in your new context? Are you aware of the range of possibilities your new environment offers to augment and refine your skills and knowledge or to become involved in meaningful activities? Your partner, other migrants and various media can give you many ideas in this regard. While “not-knowing” may impact negatively on one’s sense of independence it can also generate curiosity and a sense of wonder.
It is possible that neither you nor your partner understood the extent to which you would be dependent on him/her as a native of the country. If this is the case, re-viewing and understanding your decision to immigrate as involving a choice to be dependent on your partner, at least for a while, may enhance your sense of autonomy.
Especially if you are from an individualistically inclined social and cultural context, it may require considerable mental and emotional gymnastics to realize that asking for help and accepting it gracefully is a worthwhile experience and skill. Remembering what it feels like to give and creating opportunities for you to give can help you in the process.
Paljon kärsivällisyyttä sinulle ja sinun puolisollesi!