The Expat Marriage

I am no marriage expert. Heaven knows I bump along in my marriage with my fingers crossed that we are going to “make it” (not sure what destination “make it” is? Not getting divorced before one of us dies, I guess) but the past 18.5 months have taught me a few things.

Mainly that moving away from everyone and everything you have ever known will test your marriage in ways which you will not, and can not, expect.  In the beginning stages it’s exciting and new and kind of like a holiday.  In the early days it’s invigoration, with both of you working together to figure out and shape your new life. Exploring your new country of residence is fun and you throw ourselves into playing tourist with gusto.

However, that level of excitement can’t be maintained and you will soon move into “normal life”.  This is the bit where all the “stuff” (good and bad) in a marriage that was there before the excitement of the move took hold will rise up.  Add to that a spouse who is often travelling for work more than he/she is home and a marriage can become wobbly very quickly indeed.

So, the moral of the tale is that your marriage will not get easier when you move overseas.  Just like a having a baby will not fix a wobbly marriage, neither will moving to a new country.

PS: I can’t downplay the stress that moving overseas has put us under but we are together and happy with each other the majority of the time. 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Expat Marriage

  1. This is a big topic that’s not much discussed. Relocation is a major life event that challenges every marriage and ideally needs to be undertaken when a relationship is very strong. Although many will say that the adversity brings the family closer together, if the marriage is not good to begin with, the added stress of a move will probably make things worse. For the accompanying partner, there is often the additional stress of giving up a career or at least changing careers and all the accompanying identity issues .

  2. I’d agree with Judy – you need a strong marriage as a foundation for dealing with the massive changes and roller-coaster emotions. I found whenever things got tough and I felt resentment rear it’s petty head, I’d remember my reasons for doing it. My husband worked in the middle east for six months while I stayed at home with 2 kids under 5. It was so hard and it didn’t get any easier as time went on. I swore we’d stick together after that. When we left the UK for Canada a year later, I knew I had the choice of staying put, but I made my decision and remembering the reasons for it helped me through the difficult times.
    Two years on, I’d still do it again.

  3. I have spent the afternoon reading your blog. Thank you! I have sent you an email but it bounced back. We are moving to Singapore in a few weeks and our lives appear to be so parallel it’s amazing. Please get in touch…

    • Hi Jo,

      I have sent you an email and also fixed the broken email address on my ‘About’ page. Sorry about that. I am happy to give you loads or a little advice (whatever you need) and offer friendship as well. The majority of my good friends are leaving in the next 2 months so I need to replace them. 😉

  4. Absolutely – remembering why you choose to be a part of this lifestyle and to be with this person is key to keeping together when a marriage hits a rough spot, particularly under the stresses and strains of expat life. Although W and I are not married we’ve been together 16 years, twice as long as our first marriages. We’ve spent 10 years as expats with a baby at the start of it all – lets go for full on life changing stressful experiences I say – in for a penny in for a pound ;). I choose to go with W firstly as I grew up a child of a part time marriage – my father worked abroad a lot and lived in London in the week when in the UK and I was aware of the difficulties my parent’s relationship and overall family life had had. As I was pregnant when W started his role overseas I wanted him to be part of it all and hence choose to be a family with him.

    My mother choose not to go with my dad all those years ago (as she felt the impact on the family, particularly the children (12 year age range of 5 children), would be too much – I thought she was wrong as a child, but when I lived the expat lifestyle I realised what a wise woman she is indeed!

    I choose to move back to the UK about 15 months ago, W stayed in the Netherlands working and commuted at weekends. I have ended up living life as my parents had despite all the best intentions! There are new difficulties to this lifestyle and resentment can still rear its petty head as you’re at home with the kids still and he’s out at a gig, for a meal, with friends as easy as that, but I feel happier than I did for the last 4 years of our expat life and that results in a happier relationship even if distant at times. This will no doubt change again in the years as child grows up, job changes, possible expat life entices me again, but who knows?

Anything to add? I love to hear your thoughts!

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