Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Photo credit: Unsplash by Jonathan Borba
Marriage is like a business. I understand this might not sound romantic, but let me explain: business is defined by what you invest and the services and products you make out of it.
It is not how much you invest in it, but the quality in it.
Similar to an investor's contract, in marriage, you cannot predict every aspect of the market. Only time and experience will allow investors to keep their business on the right path. A great investor will always keep track of the market and be ready when the tide changes.
With this perspective, it is essential to understand that every marriage has its business dynamics, products, and services. While moving abroad is an excellent opportunity to fresh them up, it can become a trigger for closure. Moving to another country comes with life challenges and cultural barriers for all. Still, for an expat wife who seeks to support her spouse's calling, this might also mean sacrificing a professional career or figuring out life all over again. Changes can be stressful.
We start feeling vulnerable or frustrated, and at times we start searching for someone to blame -- if we aren't conscious of it, the recipient of your worst emotions could be your spouse. This negative behavior can cause unnecessary trauma in your relationship and health, especially if both partners feel stressed about life abroad.
For those who are struggling, here are 7 tips to help you to take care of your marriage while living abroad.
1. Your social life has vanished, but not his/her's,
and that is no one's fault.
For some of us, it might be challenging to build a social life from scratch in a new country. Even though you came as a couple, you might experience social disadvantage compared to your working spouse. Before moving to the US, my husband already knew some of his colleagues. Also, as part of the expat program, the company made sure to make him feel welcome.
These conditions made his adaptation process more manageable, as he had a social circle that supported and guided him while I ended up having to figure out everything by myself. Recognizing without blaming, that your expat spouse has different opportunities through its career enhancement is essential for both as it can guide you both, on how to build conditions that work out the best for your individual needs. What helps me the most in this case:
Understand that you do not need to make new friends urgently or know everybody in town, simply because your spouse already does.
Create a habit of often communication with the friends you already have, regardless of the distance or time zones.
You can take advantage of your husband's social-work circle but it is okay not to do so when you are not feeling like it.
Sometimes it is excellent to search for support from friends when your partner is not around, but it feels beautiful when you can find that friend within yourself.
2. Don't panic if you feel he/she is "changing."
One of the most attractive characteristics of moving abroad is discovering new traditions, food, or habits! Yet, when moving abroad with a partner, we might make the innocent mistake of assuming that you will do everything as a couple.
But, we need to realize that even though you and your partner are united in a marriage, you are still two individuals who are allowed to experience life differently. It is healthy and essential for each of us to explore our individuality.
There will be moments when your partner will try out new things that do not necessarily include you. I understand how difficult it can be when you do not have other friends that can join you. While this might hurt or make you feel lonely, remember which were the reasons that made you agree to move abroad.
With the process, I learned that the new things my husband tried by himself do not change him. He always comes back as a fulfilled individual. We still laugh together at his journey anecdotes, and my heart warms as I listen more about him, even when I don't get the chance to witness it.
Enjoy the beauty of solitude. Every time your spouse decides to go out with his/her friends, it does not mean that you have to run away and meet yours as well. Try to understand your needs as an individual.
3. Arguments about money will continue to rise
until both of you reach a regulated agreement.
Losing a job can make us feel extra sensitive about money and expenses, even if our partner can cover up most of the needs. Dealing with a new country and new culture on top certainly doesn't help. Without a proper plan in place, it might take years to have your finances figured out.
Thus, every marriage should have updated financial plans, or at least an agreement on how to manage money. This dynamic can also reflect on how well you can take care of yourselves and your relationship.
You should not assume that your marriage already has a financial plan but regularly go over it with your partner.
When my husband and I moved abroad, our financial plan needed an update. After a long talk, which included writing numbers in the back of old cardboard, crystal clear rules, and a firm handshake, the money talk evolved to the next level. For us, this was extremely important because it cleared doubts and fears we had of each other's expending habits and how it will affect our new life.
For those that by moving abroad, lost their income source, and feel concerned about it.
4. Taking more responsibilities than you need to will not fill the void.
After all the excitement of moving to a new country fades, expat wives might feel that they have a lot of time in their hands. In my case, as time passed in the new country, I kept adding tasks I "should" be doing to consider myself a productive person that could not work.
The task included all home errands, job hunting, browsing for a new career more suitable to the country, language lessons, trying out new hobbies, daily gym routine, you name it; I thought it would be possible.
Deep inside, I was scared and assumed the responsibilities would keep me busy. I was suffering in silence and did not tell my husband how much I hated doing everything around the house, only because I could not find an excuse for not doing house chores.
So how can expat wives manage their free time without disturbing themselves?
Drop all the tags and evaluate your needs as an individual. Do it gently, do not push yourself to do everything you think you should be doing, because someone said so.
Talk with your spouse about how you feel about all the "free time," house chores, and other joint responsibilities. You might soon discover that your spouse does not need you to do everything. He/She wants you to be happy as well and will gladly share that load if you ask for it.
Make sure you have the right mindset for the challenges that will come. If you fall into negative mindsets, soon you will find yourself hating everything about your new life.
Do not let toxic people near you, especially when you are feeling vulnerable. Take your time until you are ready to face the world.
5. Blaming him/her for your situation is not a smart move.
Usually, emotionally-mature couples do not claim each other for sacrifices they've made to the relationship, as they recognize their responsibility in decision making. However, when your plans take a sudden turn, you might be caught off guard. And it only worsens when you have only one person close enough to discharge the stress (your spouse).
It is clear that you have moved abroad to support your spouse's career. Yet, it is crucial to understand that there is only one person responsible for the decisions you make; that person is you. Marriage does come with commitment and actions that might feel like a sacrifice. But, always keep in mind: you have voluntarily joined the relationship.
By using phrases such as "I moved here for you!" you are behaving unfairly to your partner, and will only make him/her feel guilty. Such actions can quickly set your relationship into a manipulative and unhealthy state. When one of the partners thinks he/she is in debt, he/she will start doubting its ability to make life choices, affecting every aspect of the relationship. If you start feeling like falling into a blaming trap, this is a great time to take prompt actions!
Marriage is a voluntary commitment,
and even though you swore oaths to each other,
remember, this was not a slavery pact.
6. Feeling envy is common, but do not let it consume you.
Watching your spouse's career bloom as it best, while yours feel like is long gone, must have been one of the hardest things to do. When we do not have what others seem to enjoy, it is common to feel envy. For some people, jealousy is the best reason to push themselves further towards their goals.
However, if you find yourself feeling self-pity, being hopeless, or all kinds of negative emotions that bring you down, then comparing yourself to others is an unhealthy habit. Start by being conscious of how you react to the comparison, especially now that you might be desiring more things of your life. Keep a gentle treatment to yourself, and use all that energy to build goals that can adapt to your reality. Think about the advantages of your current situation and use them!
7. Do not forget you came to the new country together;
keep your mutual goals in mind.
As you struggle to figure out how life will work out as an expat spouse, you will soon discover that you won't have an infinite amount of free time. When you start settling, it is easy to forget what were the main reasons for moving abroad.
When my husband and I start talking about moving abroad, we could only imagine how it will be. With it, we throw all kinds of ideas of what to do, visit, and eat. Since we are best friends, it was easy to start enjoying our new life and try new things. But even when that was the case, somehow, some goals were set aside. When we do not discuss this with our partner, resentment might build up. It is easy to assume your partner is happy about how things turn out. However, there could be something bothering either or both of you.
It is helpful to have recurrent conversations to review your goals and expectations. Try to find out what excited you from the idea of moving abroad, and if it still does but it hasn't happened, ask for it. Does the idea of taking dance classes together still excite you? If so, then encourage him/her to take action on it.
Be brave and build a life for both to enjoy.
Lastly, remember that you are here to enjoy life! You already have all the support needed to become a better version of yourself. Whichever path you took in life, I know you did your best with what you knew at the moment, and that is what matters. The same goes for your partner. I understand how difficult and stressful it can be, but marriage is not a lonely road.
Moving abroad is still one of the most fun things a marriage can experience as it allows you to learn new things from each other in an environment that will challenge you both. Keep yourself focused on what brings value, and remember to behave like a great investor in what can be the most successful business of your own!
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