Moving to a new city, no matter the circumstances, can be tough. When you pile moving on top of a newly established marriage and all the changes that come with it, life can quickly become overwhelming. While I was beyond excited to stop long-distance dating, for me, getting married meant packing up my life and moving it to a brand new city and state. Darling husband aside, I was exceedingly unprepared for how hard it would be to move away from the comforts of my life in NC. With three major moves under my belt in the first four years of our marriage, I feel like I’m becoming a bit of an expert on how to settle into a new city and make it feel like home, especially in the newlywed stage of life. Since you can’t rely on your partner for all your happiness, here are a few of my best tips for making that post-married transition a bit smoother!
1. Wear your “I’m New” nametag with pride. Step outside your comfort zone and strike up conversation with people you interact with in your new city, be it a server at a restaurant or the checkout gal at the grocery store. Fessing up to being new can lead to quick conversations where you learn about places to go and things to do. My go-to questions are “Do you have a pizza/sushi place?” and “Where’s your favorite brunch spot?”. Be brave – remember, many of these conversations will be random one-time interactions with little pressure, but can lead to new places to explore and new things to do to help you fall in love with your new zip code. And, who knows: I met my first new friend in Blacksburg while I was getting a manicure on a dreary February afternoon. A simple “I’m new to town” conversation led to a follow-up lunch date and a full-blown friendship.
2. Go on friend or double dates. We live in the digital age, so use it to your advantage! Spread the social media word that you’re in the market for new gal pals and couple friends in your new city. Ask your friends and family if they can connect you with anyone in your new landing spot. Say yes to invitations for coffee or lunch. Take it from a girl who loves to make friends but spent the first few months post-marriage fairly friendless and moderately homesick – not everyone you meet is going to become your next BFF, but it’s worth it to keep trying. I could tell you a lot of stories about failed connections. (I distinctly remember being in a spin class and commenting on the pearls the girl next to me was wearing. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.) I also met one of my dearest friends in Florida because I shared about our move on Instagram prior to moving and she invited me to brunch once I got relocated. This works for double-dates, too. Couple friends are valuable assets as you settle into married life. Perhaps your new husband has a colleague at work or a new acquaintance at the gym. Having a few new friends in a brand new city can make you feel a whole lot less lonely!
3. Get cozy. All friendliness aside, having a safe space to retreat to after a long, hard day in a new place is invaluable. I’m a big believer in settling into your space no matter how temporary. Ikea has very inexpensive drapes. Command Strips let you hang pictures without putting hole into the walls. Candles, framed pictures, a few blankets, and a plant can do wonders for making any room feel more homey. While I am a card carrying extrovert, I understand the importance of having a place to rest and recharge. I also think that living among piles of moving boxes for too long can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, so get to unpacking fast! Being able to make coffee and scramble some eggs a few days after moving in can do wonders for your well-being and outlook on your new city.
4. Dig into your surroundings. Joining something is a great way to meet new people. Go to the gym – you can burn off some steam and meet people in a low-key environment. Find a church and investigate their activities calendar. Join a kickball league or look into volunteer opportunities. Research opportunities to take creative classes — these days you can find everything from hand lettering to cake decorating around the corner. Learning a new skill alongside someone who is also learning a new skill means everyone may be feeling little awkward! It’s really easy to hide away at home when you’re feeling lonely and homesick, but it’s also nearly impossible to make new friends that way. So, go out and pursue your interests, and be open to finding a new friend along the way.
5. Practice a “365 Days of Acclimation” mantra. A few months after moving to VA, I remember someone asking how long it had been since I’d moved to town. At the time, it had been a little more than five months, and while it was getting easier, I still didn’t feel ‘at home.’ She wisely said, “Give it a year – you won’t believe how different you’ll feel once you cross that 12-month line.” Remember, there’s a lot to figure out, from navigating the layout of your new grocery store to driving around your new city without using GPS 24/7, so show yourself some grace. Moving is hard. Give yourself 365 days to get settled and comfortable in your new location.
6. Make new friends, but keep the old. Just because you moved doesn’t mean you have to let go of all the great friendships and relationships you established in your former location. Schedule consistent phone calls, FaceTime dates, and Skype hangouts. Drop postcards in the mail. I averaged a weekly mini meltdown in the months following our wedding, so having regularly-planned times to connect with old friends was invaluable for resetting and regaining courage after a hard day.
My sweet grandma says, “Home is where you make it.” My granddaddy was in the Army and they lived all over the world for the first twenty years of their marriage, so I’m confident she is an expert on today’s topic.
Have other ideas for how to settle into a new city, especially after getting married? Please share them below!
P.S. I’ll never forget having coffee with someone right after I moved to Blacksburg, VA. She gave me a “Welcome to Blacksburg” booklet to share some of her personal hints and tips about my new town. It was a handful of half-sized pages, hole punched, tied with a ribbon in the corner and overflowing with information – everything from the best local car mechanics, to recommendations for new doctors and her favorite restaurants (including some of her favorite things to order). I can’t tell you how many times I referenced it in the first few months. If you’re the one who is settled in – here’s your chance to help out a new friend!
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