Rewiring TCK Relationships

One of my greatest assets as a TCK has always been my malleability. Whatever the setting and conversation, I have found a way of keeping an open and engaged mind, with the ability to contribute in some shape or form. This malleability has meant I can make others feel engaged and comfortable, allowing me to form wholesome and rich relationships.

My TCK identity has been a source of both motivation and apathy for partners. I bring a different context to every event and conversation: a reminder that life is multi-layered and nuanced, a sentiment that is taken on very warmly by most. On the same note, that different context has brought anxiety and insecurity for my partners about the ease of global mobility that my global perspective brings with it. I had all the prerequisites to drop things as they were and hurtle off in search of a new adventure at any time.

This was a recurring feeling I noted in partners, and was something which I, at the time, felt was a sign of weakness from them. They hadn’t been fortunate enough to have such multi-faceted experiences. I would even go as far as saying it resulted in a feeling of condescension, where I inwardly questioned their self-worth and reflected on whether I wanted to be romantically involved with someone with such a supposedly warped view and stunted personal development. I held this feeling well into my 20s, where, upon critical reflection of my romantic leanings, I pondered whether the issue was not within my partners, but within myself.

This introspection led me to a realisation which I have used to rewire my thought process: a process which has been long, painful, and exhausting. That realisation is that, as a TCK, my global mobility is a great privilege and benefit to myself, but isn’t a barometer of someone else's worth. Everyone has their own journey, which moulds their own perspective. One's level of exposure definitely correlates to their perspective on certain issues, local and global, but by no means is an indicator of their ability to provide happiness to themselves, and therefore happiness to their partner. Your partner doesn’t have to be a TCK or, for that matter, doesn’t even have to have left their country, city or hamlet. They just need to be open to dual perspectives and new experiences. The rest is up to the relationship journey itself, which a good partner (no matter where they’re from) will provide guidance and support on.

Having had TCK and non-TCK partners, I have found no correlation between one’s cultural exposure and emotional quotient. Empathy, commitment and support aren’t nurtured on round-trip flights or across passport pages. They are a result of one’s innate sense of self and the environment in which they’ve been raised. One’s global mobility does affect their environment, but doesn’t necessitate traits I would look for in a partner.

The other elephant in the room I had to grapple was one many TCKs have to bring themselves to account over: does being a globally mobile TCK mean you can’t settle in once place? Does it mean we are destined for virtual relationships over telephone lines and fibre optic cables rather than through touch and feel? For many years, I felt relationships were momentary, and the TCK call to chart new territories meant romantic relationships ended with national boundaries. This left me feeling hollow, with a gaping lack of fulfilment. The cultural experience which was supposed to be a windfall gain to me as a person, was not such.

This led to my second major rewiring, which was to come to terms with the fact that for me, as a TCK, a singular relationship which I can continually build on is more important and fulfilling than multiple ones which are time and location bound. In the current age of interconnectedness, one can traverse the world not just through travel (even though ideal), but through books, movies, theatre, chance meetings and intimate conversations. Finding a compatible long-term partner, who wants to go with you on that journey—a journey built on mutual respect, understanding, and at times, compromise—doesn’t denounce one’s TCK image, it strengthens it.

I feel I am now at a point where I have consolidated this process of rewiring, and come to fully accept non-TCKs, or even TCKs less travelled or exposed than myself, as rich entities of knowledge and wisdom whom I can learn from just as much as they can learn from me. It has required great vulnerability, but it has been a fulfilling and humbling journey, one that has changed what was once arrogance and condescension into humility and inner peace.