Expat Couple? Unique Relationship Problems You May Be Facing, and How To Overcome Them.
Many people dream of starting a new life abroad, and while it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone, the rewards are well worth it.
If this is you, your bravery is to be admired. 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 multiple 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 growing, 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 complicated (and often puzzling) bureaucracy, there are more specific issues that expat couples face in their relationships. It's important to remember that these issues are very common; overcoming them is just another step on your journey, and by dealing with them now, your relationship will ultimately be stronger than it's ever been. 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 deal with them.
Bringing Your Problems With You
It's only natural to have high hopes for a fresh start when you make the move. Of course! We all want our life to be free of the problems that plagued us in previous times. However, the reality of the situation is often different. I find that my clients have brought their old issues with them. Couples tell me:
"We thought this new life was going to be so much better - easier and far less stressful. The reality is that we've brought our old problems with us. The challenges of expat life just seem to make our problems feel even worse."
It's true that every relationship encounters its fair share of challenges; that's simply a part of life. I find that many couples haven't sought help for their issues before, believing that starting a new life abroad would automatically resolve their problems for them. But sadly, those problems don't go away, and the challenges of expat life only serve to amplify those issues, making them feel worse than ever before.
Having some therapy sessions can help you address those issues once and for all so that they’re no longer dragging you down. You can go on to a freer and happier relationship.
Experiencing Expat Life from Different Perspectives
In my experience, I've seen that adapting to expat life can sometimes be easier for one partner than the other. While one of you may be feeling overwhelmed and homesick, the other may be excited and confident. When this happens, it's not unusual for each person to struggle to understand the other's perspective. It's confusing and upsetting - one minute you were on the same page, dreaming and excited about your new life together, now you're seeing everything from completely different perspectives. There's a lot of confusion and frustration. One of you may be feeling resentful, thinking:
"I can't understand what the problem is, we knew it would be difficult for a while but this was our dream!"
The other person may be feeling guilty and thinking:
"I look around me and realise that I'm so lucky to be living here, but still, I feel overwhelmed and I just want to go home. Then I feel guilty for being negative and ungrateful!"
At times like this, and with the added stress of expat hurdles to jump through, each person needs emotional support. But because you both need this support at the same time, you simply don't have the bandwidth to be there for each other. So you end up arguing and feeling unheard and uncared for.
Having some therapy sessions with a therapist who completely understands this complex expat situation means you can begin to connect at a deeper level, hear each other, and be there for each other again.
Losing Your Support Network
When you relocate, you no longer have your support network in the same way that you once did. You've left family and friends behind, and 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 them, 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 lost and isolated."
In time, of course, you'll make new friends and meaningful connections with people in your new location. That support network is definitely there in most cases, 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. That means you can spend some time feeling isolated as a couple. You have become an island alone, and 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 life, and to find confidence to go out and explore new friendships too.
Pressures of Expat Working Life
In my experience as a therapist, I've found that expat couples have two main issues around working life:
One person has to make a big adjustment in their career. That could be changing their role altogether, working from home, or spending time away. Where one person is commuting and travelling to maintain their work commitments, they are away from home a great deal. This can disrupt the momentum of their 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 alone. 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."
Another significant aspect of working life for expat couples is business. It's very common for expats to run their own business. Many dream of starting their own entrepreneurial venture even before they've relocated - it's all part of the exciting vision for a new life. However, once they make the move and set up the business, they quickly realise that it comes with its fair share of long hours and stress. It leaves very little time to get out and truly enjoy their new life. People tell me:
"We were so excited about starting our business abroad. 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 caught up in resentment and power struggles."
On top of that, they’re now thrown into the mix together, having to navigate their different approaches to managing the business. And let's be honest, that can cause quite a lot of problems. The clash of perspectives and styles often leads to conflicts and challenges that they never anticipated.
If you relate to these pressures of expat working life, please be assured that you're not alone in facing these hurdles. Many expat couples have gone through similar experiences. With the right help, you can overcome these hurdles and create a thriving business while still enjoying a great relationship in your new life abroad.
How To Get Your Relationship Back On Track
These are just some of the issues that I've helped many expat couples overcome. If they’re 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 fully understands expat life and is also professionally qualified to help you overcome your relationship problems.
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 these specific needs. I'm passionate about helping expats overcome these challenges and discover new horizons in their relationship, as well as their location!
I can help you let go of frustrations, and stop arguing. I can teach you tools and techniques, and powerful communication skills that will help both of you feel truly heard and understood. You’ll be able to overcome past issues and easily navigate current hurdles, 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 stress of expat niggles take a toll on your relationship. Take the first step.
Let's Have a Chat
If you're interested in learning more about how I can help you on this journey, please follow this link to find out more and schedule your free 30-minute call with me.