Marriage is tough, but an expat marriage can be even tougher. Living away from family and friends and a support network, while trying to adjust to a foreign culture and a different country can often take a toll on even the strongest of marriages. Statistics on expat marriages are not surprisingly hard to come by, since this issue is usually swept under the rug and is an aspect of expat life that does not bring forth a large amount of admission.
But as expats living in a foreign country know, the pressures are intense. Often one spouse is the breadwinner and travels heavily for work while trying to adjust to a new work culture, while the other trailing spouse suffers from a lack of identity, lack of job opportunities, or language struggles. Both partners often struggle with raising children abroad, away from the support of grandparents and immediate family members.
However, it’s important to remember that a move abroad can strengthen a marriage if both partners are on the same page and tackle the challenges together.
So here are 5 important tips to help your expat marriage:
- Be as prepared as possible: It’s important before going into an expat assignment to gain a clear understanding of your new country. Do your research and move to your new country with as much information as you can have. Involve your spouse in the decision making process on housing, school, cars etc. and if possible ask to arrange a “go-see” visit prior to moving there. This can help both you and your partner gauge your possible new location better so that you both start your expat stint with realistic expectations.
- Respect one another and support one another: Marriage is all about supporting each other’s dreams. Hopefully living abroad is a dream that you both share, so when it happens try to support one another through it; the good, the bad and the ugly. Respect that your opinions and experiences may differ from one another, but be committed to understanding and supporting each other, making sure you both get enough time to explore and discover your new surroundings.
- Don’t forget you’re still a team: Just because you’re facing different issues, doesn’t mean you are not a team. One of the hardest parts about expat life is that the roles are often more extreme; in your home country perhaps both you and your partner were working, and sharing child care responsibilities jointly. But in your expat location, perhaps one of you is busy working all the time and traveling, (meaning extended absences from home), while the other partner is left to figure out everything else – get the kids settled into school, daily household management or navigating your way through a foreign healthcare system. Don’t forget you’re still a team and help each other out, even though you may be facing vastly different struggles.
- Keep the lines of communication open: Resentment of one another, comparisons of roles and responsibilities and the challenges of building a life abroad mean it is now all the more important to maintain open and honest communication between each other. Trust is key. Talk about your experiences, share how you are feeling and how this expat experience is shaping up. Keeping the lines of communication is vital and can help you both through the rough initial adjustment or later periods of discontent.
- Enjoy the adventure you are on together: Most people dream of a chance to go live abroad, so try to enjoy this adventure you are both on. If you go in with the right attitude, you will find that being thrust in a new environment could really work wonders for your marriage. It could bring new excitement, new challenges and new levels of partnership. Accept it all as part of the process and try to enjoy the adventure of expat living.
Got other tips to share? Share them on ExpatConnect!
About the Author: Mariam is an eternal expat who 15 years, 7 countries and 3 continents later, is embarrassingly a seasoned expert at getting lost in every new city she calls home. She is the founder and writer of the blog ‘And Then We Moved To’ where she writes about her expat life. She is a regular blogger for Expat Connect and currently lives in Dubai with her husband and two children.