Expat Couple And Orphan Spouses – The Great Paradox

This post is the last in a series of three articles on orphan spouses. We first walked in the shoes of the accompanying spouse (a woman in this case), then in the footsteps of the leading spouse. Today we’re concluding with THE major challenge of this situation. Want to know more? Without further ado…

Free pictures SEPARATOR - 29 images found
Let’s face it: if you’re the working partner in the couple, it can be difficult to know what to say to your other half.

Suppose you’re very enthusiastic about your new job – chances are you’ll meet resentment, frustration and bitterness from your partner.

‘I bet you have a good time, travelling to nice places, meeting interesting people and working on inspiring projects. You have a meaningful job that brings you recognition and personal development. Because we’re so dependent on the money you bring, everything you do gets priority. But what’s in it for me? I resigned to become a stay-at-home mum. I enjoy having more time with the kids but I’m burdened by mundane household chores and I feel I have to raise our children as a single parent. You come home and put your feet up. I’m working my tail off for free without any recognition so that everyone else can enjoy a pleasant life.’

If, on the contrary, you’re unhappy about your new job, try to express your feelings and here’s what might come your way:
‘What? You made us move, you made us sell our house. I left my job, we disrupted the kids. All this for you and for this job. And you’re not happy? All this for nothing?’

Anger, disappointment and disbelief are what your partner may throw back at you.

Admitting that this decision was a bad choice is extremely challenging.

You blame yourself, you feel guilty, and you try to cope in silence.

In the meantime, you vent your anger in other situations: the kids are noisy, your wife is grumpy…

You can’t win. Whatever you feel, you can’t share it.

Free pictures SEPARATOR - 29 images found
Now, if you’re on the other side of the fence as the accompanying partner, you don’t have it easy either.

If you’re unhappy, your partner may feel guilty and powerless. After all, it’s because of his work that you had to move, resign from your job and give up your (financial) independence.

It’s hard for him to listen to your complaints.

‘What are you always whingeing about? You can spend time with the kids and your only concern is to choose the coffee shop where you’ll meet up with your friends. You don’t have the pressure and the stress I have to deal with!’

If you’re happy, you’re the exception that confirms the rule!

Have a look at the comments from a previous article Why Trailing Spouses Can’t Be Happy (and What Can Be Done)

Now that you’re both uprooted and have no support networks, you only have each other to rely on.

The great paradox is that you don’t feel able to do so! This is a MAJOR challenge.

Communication is close to impossible and often leads to more misunderstanding.

It’s not only on an emotional level: one spouse’s emotional state triggers another one in the second half.

But it’s also on a practical level: there is very little quality time together face to face. Taking care of the kids is very demanding. Without family nearby to look after them, you struggle to carve out some couple moments. Moreover, there’s a period of adjustment after each arrival and departure.

Some people assume that when you’re isolated within your own little family unit, bonds become stronger.

This is not necessarily the case.

So what can you do?
Get help. Separately.
Find your own support network.
Find people who ‘get’ you without long explanations, people who listen without judging and without trying to fix everything …
Because you need to be able to express yourself freely without censure.
Because you need to mourn your losses.
Because you need to regain some strength.

That space may often prove hard to find – but not impossible.
There are Facebook expat groups, expat coaches, school mums, meet-up groups.

From time to time, I offer a program called ‘Unpack Your Bags’. This 4-week online peer support group is a first step to get some support and to provide some clarity. It’s a taste of what may develop into deeper connections later on. More details are available here.

Now, I’d like to hear from you: how has the communication with your partner evolved after moving abroad?


Credit music Free Music Archive credit pictures Depositphotos


Speak Your Mind