You fall in love with someone from another country and decide to move to that person’s country. It will be an adventure! Your love will conquer all! You will visit home and your family and friends will visit you! You’ll get homesick, sure, but it will pass and you will make a wonderful life with your new partner. How very exciting and romantic it all is.
And then this weird stuff happens that neither of you (especially the partner who isn’t an expat) are prepared for.
Every relationship has bumps in the road. Duh. But expats have the potential for a bit more turbulence. There’s that thing about being from another country that causes issues like Culture Shock and Homesickness to shake your relationsip, sometimes to such grand degrees that most people don’t know what hit them. The native partner, sitting all cozy in his or her home country without a clue as to what demons are fighting in your head, is completely baffled by the sudden burst of sadness or the tears or the loneliness or the need to spend this holiday ‘back home’ with family (yet again), instead of on an island somewhere, or in a self-catering in France. Your mysterious moods kind of start to feel personal to them. Like you would rather be back home. And maybe you would because at least there people understand you. There’s cross words. More isolation. Maybe more tearful phone calls back home. A wedge develops…
I know some of you are nodding your heads. It just doesn’t always work, being married to those foreigners. But a lot of people figure it out either through patience, or research or hanging out with other couples in a similar situation. In my case it was a lot (a LOT) of patience. I’m lucky that my English husband ‘gets it’ but only through lots of conversation and as I said, patience. It’s more difficult for new couples and especially difficult for couples where the native partner hasn’t traveled much or ever been an expat himself.
With that in mind, I’ve put together some top tips to help the partners of expats. Over on my monthly column at Expat Focus you’ll find 10 Tips for the perfect expat partner, and if you’re the expat… feel free to share with your partner