Many people dream of starting a new life abroad, and while stepping out of your comfort zone can take courage, the rewards are truly worthwhile. If this is you, I know that you're someone who has adventure in your heart and inspiration in your soul. Perhaps you've relocated to one country, or perhaps you've resided in several countries. Or maybe your new life is still in the planning phase. Regardless of your circumstances, one thing is clear: you're a driven and inspired person who understands that life is all about exploring new horizons and evolving as a person.
However, while relocating can be an exciting adventure, it can also come with its fair share of challenges, especially for couples. Alongside the common adjustments that all expats face, such as cultural differences, language barriers, and navigating the intricacies of bureaucracy, there are additional challenges that expat couples encounter in their relationship.
It’s important to remember that these challenges are quite common, and by overcoming them, your relationship will become even stronger. You'll discover new horizons in your relationship, as well as your location!
Here are some common issues that you may relate to as an expat couple, along with advice on how to navigate them.
Bringing Your Problems With You
It's only natural to hope for a fresh start when you're starting a new life. We all want to leave our problems behind and start over. But the reality is that we often bring our old issues with us, even when we don't want to. I see this all the time with my clients. Couples will come to me and say,
"We thought moving to a new country would be the perfect opportunity to start over. We thought we could leave our problems behind and start fresh. But it seems like we've just brought all our old baggage with us. And now, the challenges of making the adjustment to being here is making our old problem feels even worse."
Many couples have never previously considered couples therapy to help them get past their problems. That's because all their focus has been on looking to the future when they can relocate and everything will work out for them. It's just human nature to do this, but unfortunately, those problems don't go away.
If you relate to this you're certainly not alone. Having some couples therapy sessions will help you address those old problems once and for all so that they’re no longer dragging you down. Then you can go on to have a much happier relationship and really enjoy expat life together.
Experiencing Expat Life from Different Perspectives
Adapting to expat life can sometimes be much easier for one partner than the other. When this happens, it's not unusual for each person to struggle to understand the other's perspective. One of you may be feeling overwhelmed and homesick, thinking, "I know I should feel grateful to be living here, but I feel overwhelmed and I just want to go home!"
The other may be excited and confident about the future, thinking "What’s changed? We knew it may be a bit of an upheaval, but this was our dream!"
There's a lot of frustration, confusion and guilt. One minute you were on the same page, dreaming and excited about your new life together, now you're seeing everything from completely different angles. At times like this, and with the added stress of dealing with bureaucracy to deal with, it’s easy to end up feeling unheard and arguing. If left unresolved it can really hurt your relationship.
Couples therapy can help you connect at a deeper level, hear each other, and navigate through this situation together.
Losing Your Support Network Impacts Your Relationships
In today's interconnected world, we have the incredible ability to stay connected with our loved ones, regardless of location. However when you relocate, you no longer have your support network in the same way that you once did. While it's great that you can stay in touch online, it's not the same as being able to go off and spend time with someone, away from your partner, and have a bit of a moan! People tell me:
"We pictured ourselves in this new life, with great new friends, socialising and relaxing, but actually, everyone has their own busy lives, and we often feel isolated."
In most cases a support network is definitely there, but it can take a while to build up those connections. It can also seem a bit daunting to get out and meet new people. This means you can spend some time feeling isolated as a couple; it can seem as though you are an island alone. Being in each other's company so much can magnify minor issues that you might otherwise have overlooked in the past.
Having some therapy sessions with a qualified therapist who understands expat life can really help you find ways to communicate in less sensitive ways, to rediscover each other in new ways in this new chapter of your life, and to find confidence to go out and explore new friendships too.
Pressures of Expat Working Life On Your Relationship
I've found that expat couples have two main issues around working life:
It can be that one person has to make a big adjustment in their career. This could be changing their role altogether, working from home, or spending time away. If they are away from home a lot it can impact things more than expected. For example, where one person is commuting and travelling to maintain their work commitments. This can disrupt the momentum of the relationship, especially when children are involved. The whole family dynamic changes every time they go away and return again. People tell me:
"One minute I'm dealing with home life and the kids by myself. The next minute, we're back to being a family unit again. The kids are confused. No one knows the rules and frequent arguments are happening."
Pressures of Expat Businesses On Your Relationship
Another significant aspect of working life for expat couples is business. It's quite common for expats to run their own businesses. Many couples dream of starting their own business when they relocate - it's all part of the exciting vision for a new life. However, once they make the move and set up the business, they come to realise that it brings its fair share of long hours and stress. That leaves very little time to get out and truly enjoy their new life.
Couples tell me: "We were so excited about starting our business. But now we're so busy earning a living that we never get to enjoy it! Life wasn't meant to be this way. We're always arguing and getting caught up in resentment and bickering."
Being thrown together everyday, and having to navigate different approaches to managing the business can cause a lot of stress. The clash of perspectives and styles often leads to conflicts and challenges that you may have never anticipated.
If you relate to these pressures of expat working life, please be assured that you're not alone. Many expat couples have gone through similar experiences. But with the right help, you can overcome these hurdles, create a thriving business and still enjoy a great relationship in your new life abroad.
pressures of Expat Retirement On Your Relationship
As you head into retirement, you'll notice that life takes a new turn, and suddenly, you and your partner will be spending a lot more time together. The routines you once had might change, and there'll be more opportunities for shared moments. It's a wonderful thing, but it also means you might need to think about personal space differently. As you navigate this exciting phase, finding a balance between enjoying each other's company and cherishing your alone time becomes crucial.
How To Get Help For Your Relationship
These are just some of the issues that I've helped many expat couples overcome. Sadly if not resolved, they can go on for many years with resentment and unhappiness building up. It's important then, that you get help from someone who is professionally qualified to help you overcome your relationship problems and who fully understands expat life too!
So don't be held back. These are all issues that can be overcome, whether they're new problems or things that have been troubling you for a long time.
As a couples therapist specialising in working with expats, I have a deep understanding of your unique needs. I'm passionate about helping expats overcome these challenges and move forward. It's not about getting back your old relationship - it's about finding an even better relationship!
I can help you get past all the frustration and conflict. I can teach you tools and techniques, and powerful communication skills that will help you both to feel truly heard and understood so that rather than pushing each other away, you get to thrive in your new life together as a happy and fulfilled couple.
So don't let the concerns of expat life take a toll on your relationship. Take the first step today.
Let's Have a Chat
I've helped many expat couples overcome challenges, improve communication, and come back to a happy and thriving relationship.
If you're interested in learning more about how I can help you with your relationship, please click the button below to find out more and schedule your free 30-minute call with me.