The Challenges of Being an Expat Spouse

……What Unique Opportunities Exist Here?

What are the challenges you are facing as an expat spouse?
Do you see yourself here by circumstance or has this move been your choice?
Is this a unique opportunity or something you are tolerating until your spouse’s contract is over and you can go home?

It is important to realize that the experience you have is your experience and that it may differ from your spouse’s. You may love the place; they may not. Or it may be the other way around. Many people manage the move and then, after the initial glow of living overseas has worn off, one partner becomes unhappy. Often it is the trailing spouse, the one who is following his/her partner to this new location…you!

Make this a unique opportunity.…To do something that you have always wanted to do, to stretch your creative muscles, to spend more time with your family, etc. If you have always dreamed of writing a novel, join a writers group and get involved with other writers. If you want to get fit, join a team sport to increase your fitness and your social network. Have you always thought about studying something that deeply interests you? This might just be the ideal time and opportunity to do that! Or have you just wanted to spend more time with your partner and family? How can you do that now?

Is your spouse busy and involved in his work?
Do you find yourself with more time on your hands than you know what to do with?
Do you feel lost in the shuffle?

You may have to adjust to doing more things on your own and managing more of the home/family duties than previously. There will often be times when you do things on your own, when it would be nice to be doing them together. Realize that most of your expat friends are in similar situations. Look for ways to empathize with and support each other.

Make this a unique opportunity…. to spend more one-on- one, quality time with your children, if you have children or to deepen and strengthen your friendships. Have you always wanted to do meaningful volunteer work? What opportunities are knocking here?

What will this move mean to your career?
Have you lost your sense of self?
Do you find yourself asking yourself…. What’s in this for me?
…. Where/How do I fit into this picture?

You may not be able to work or you may not want to. Either way, adjusting to being a non-income earner can undermine your self confidence. Have you thought about a stock answer that you can pull out when you meet someone who discounts you because you are not working? Do not apologize for your position. State it proudly. The decision you made to become an expat living in a foreign country demonstrates that you are adventurous and willing to experience new things.s”

Make this a unique opportunity…. To find as many ways as possible to enjoy the adventure of living in a foreign country. Have you always wanted to study that foreign language? Now just might be that time. Have you always wanted to take 6 months off and just spend it with your kids? Grab the opportunity and make the most of it. Who knows when it will present itself again?

Do you feel isolated and alone?
Is there anyone who truly understands what you are going through?
Are you missing your family & friends?

Make sure that you establish support networks. You can’t rely on your partner to fulfill all of your needs – they simply can’t do it and they probably didn’t in your home country either. Join clubs, attend functions and make the effort to get out. People won’t usually come knocking on your door asking to be your friend – you have to get out there and make it happen. Reach out to others in the same situation.

You will find that expatriate friends often play the role that family play back home. They are often the closest friends that you will ever make. Remember you are all in the same boat. Find opportunities to support each other.

Make this a unique opportunity….. To reach out and create an overseas family. Reach out to local families. Learn the local customs, ask a local to teach you how to cook the local cuisine. Be creative. Look for opportunities to connect with others. Bring others into your global family and enjoy this unique time in your life.

How are you handling the challenges of living in a different culture?
Do you find yourself unsure of how to deal with the simplest of things?
What are your needs and interests and how are they being met?

You will have the opportunity to do things that you have never done before. This is a great way to learn new skills that broaden and make you more self-sufficient. Things as varied as simply coping in a country where everyone speaks a different language and learning how to manage in an unfamiliar situation, teach you a degree of independence and autonomy that can be empowering.

Remember that other expats are in the same situation. You are not alone.

When you live in a place for all of your life you get complacent about what that country offers you. You don’t take advantage of the opportunities it offers because you have all the time in the world; expats don’t. You are in this country for a limited time period. Use it to your best advantage.

Make this a unique opportunity…. To see and do as much as you can while you are here. Be creative. Think outside the loop. It may provide the solution that you need. Take advantage of as many of the different opportunities that you can. Optimize every chance you get to explore and do different things.


Quote of the week:

“A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.” Andre Maurois