OK, maybe not quite. We still need to actually get clothes in suitcases, but the “big ticket” items are all set: renting our house, long-term dog sitters, renting a house in Utrecht, residence permit applications, and apostille stamps received for our birth certificates. (That was a new word for me: As defined by the Secretary of State, “An ‘apostille’ is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. A list of countries that accept apostilles is provided by the U.S. State Department.”) I’m not going to lie — though I’ve been more than happy to do it, this has been a big project.
But I certainly haven’t done it alone; there’s no one else with whom I’d rather partner on a task this big than my wife, Nikki.
This mutual project has done wonders for our 19-year marriage and, while I hold no right to give any type of advice on the topic, I’ve found this project has forced some really important aspects in our already-strong relationship.
We’ve had to be terrific at communication — and that communication has not always been face to face. As many married couples who are in the throes of teenage children can attest, we are often pulled in different directions, moving this way and that, only seeing each other for a few minutes before we drift to sleep.
That said, whether in those face-to-face minutes or through text messages, we’ve frequently checked in with each other’s emotional well-being as well as communicating that I got the finances prepared or Nikki checked on international phone services. We have been able to clearly communicate the removal of items from the ongoing checklist. Whatever the scenario, communication has both kept us from redundancy and kept us close emotionally.
We’ve each had to make choices for our upcoming time away: choices where we didn’t have the full picture, but where a choice needed to be made anyway.
First, the difficult choice with how we were going to educate our children: each option having its own pros/cons. International school is taught in English, but too expensive; Dutch school is great for experience, but too confusing for academia; online American schooling keeps them on track, but doesn’t offer socialization. We just had to make a choice, knowing there isn’t a best option; rather, that each option is good. The girls can get a lot of social activity through community involvement; that’s the plan. Whether it’s “right” or “wrong,” we’re having to decide, knowing we’ll make the best of every situation.
Neither communication nor decision-making matter much if they aren’t founded on trust. I trust Nikki to make housing decisions even without being in country. I trust Nikki to communicate needs to our landlords. I trust Nikki with everything. And I know that trust is reciprocated. She’s trusted me with residence permits. She’s trusted me with transportation. We’ve trusted each other in knowing that this journey is the right decision for our family at this time.
The good news is — I don’t think the project has to be European-travel size to be good for your relationship. Just work on something together in order to continue the practice of communication, decision-making and trust.
See you in the Netherlands!
About the writer: Spring Lake High School teacher David Theune has received a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching grant from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Through the grant, Theune and his family will spend five months living in the Netherlands. Theune, 41, will work on developing and building upon the Share Chair Podcast that he started in Spring Lake three years ago. He will continue to write about his adventure in this monthly Tribune column.