Expatriate Employee: How To Screw Up Your Marriage

As an expat employee, there are many ways to mess up your marriage. Broken_Heart_symbol

For your convenience, I’ve gathered the best ones here.

Keep doing these and it’s guaranteed: your relationship will be on the rocks in no time.


1. Promise your wife* that the assignment is only for 2 years. Keep in mind that all your colleagues who have been sent abroad did get a promotion only if they accepted further assignments overseas. Preferably every 2 or 3 years.

2. Assure your wife that she’ll find a job and blindly trust your company to help her. Don’t check the employment conditions for your visa: whether or not your wife will be allowed to work. Needless for her to make a stink before you’ve sold the house and she has resigned from her current position. She’ll know it early enough.

3. Don’t negotiate any benefit for your wife (spouse stipend or salary loss compensation). I know, this sounds detrimental for you too, as a family. But don’t pay attention to this detail. Remember: you’ve got a good promotion with a nice package. Insist on your wife being mean to consider those money issues.

4. Once abroad, organize immediately as many trips and meetings as possible. Especially in the first weeks of your arrival. You certainly don’t want to stay home. After all, you have to prove you did not get this promotion by chance and you don’t want to hang around when the house is a wreck in the middle of all the boxes and a crying toddler.

5. Insist that for all decisions (renting a flat, buying a car, securing an Internet connection, subscribing to a phone plan) you’re left out of all the hassle (paperwork, visits, technical details). But require nothing to be done without your express authorization and written signature.

6. On the same note, monitor your wife’s access to the Internet if you’re not living (unfortunately for you) in North Korea. She should only be allowed to contact her parents and siblings. Certainly not granted access to subversive sites providing support for expatriates.

7. When your wife decides to invite “locals” or other expat “friends” at home, be very cold and distant. Check your mails every 5 minutes ostensibly, yawn and periodically disappear to show how interested you are in the conversation.

Extra tip: plan a teleconference in the middle of the dinner to show your guests how indispensable you are at work. If you’re lucky, they’ll feel a bit guilty to eat while you’re working. They might want to leave early.

8. Call your wife and tell her you arrive in 15 minutes. NEVER show up on time. She should be fully aware that you can’t be reliable with your job. She has to be flexible. After all, you don’t want her to call you in the middle of a meeting, as soon as you miss a connecting flight or when you’re quietly having a drink with your girlfriend.

9. When you’re going to choose some furniture, specify that you’re allowing her to come but that she doesn’t have anything to say because she’s not footing the bill.

10. If your wife is looking forward to an important meeting –  important for her of course, it’s not a teleconference to talk about a multimillion dollar contract! – like a cup of tea with other moms or a networking event with other expat women, find anything (an accident in the plant – even minor – a production problem, an urgent report to bring in) to be absent at that time. It should be easily manageable as she has been telling you about that meeting weeks in advance. Tell her that it’s bad luck. She won’t be able to go because there’s nobody to look after the kids. And insist that finding a baby sitter is not an option. You don’t trust any and if something happens, you’ll hold her responsible for till the end of your life. After all, she insisted to have children. Let her assume them.

11. When you mess up your clothes, require her to go for you to the dry-cleaner because she’s got the time.

12. Ask her repeatedly what she does all day long. And imply that she must be very badly organized when she whines she hasn’t got the time.

13. Ignore all her projects/activities/interests/friends. She should not become more confident. She could make some comparison. It could occur to her that you’re not the perfect husband. You already have enough to deal with at work.

14. Remind her constantly that she should find a job (without ever helping her of course). Tell her that you wouldn’t be so stressed if you hadn’t got all the responsibility of the family on your shoulders. She’s got a PhD after all. It should be easy for her to find a position.

Once she finally lands her dream job (a casual position at the local university – much less paid than you of course – but with some good opportunities to get a permanent contract and a further promotion), tell her you’ve got to move because you’ve just been offered a new position 10 000 km away.

15. When you’re traveling, bring her back a dress, preferably size XS. Pretend you did not know she had put some weight and be sincerely sorry for your mistake. Soothe her by mentioning that the dress will be great on your teenage daughter.

16. You don’t have a teenage daughter? No worries. Suggest for your wife to drive over to the local charity store and to donate it. It’ll keep her occupied. After all, what does she have to do all day long?

17. Finally, ask her to be eternally grateful to you for having brought her in such a beautiful country.

I know you’re a creative thinker. They love you for this at work. So you certainly have got other ideas. Sharing is caring right? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.


* Accompanying spouses are still mainly women. For convenience purposes, I chose to present those situations in a rather conventional setting (working husband, accompanying wife). But feel free to reverse roles if necessary. There’s no sexism here 🙂

Credit image Wikimedia Commons, Credit music pianosociety



  1. Phew, I havent yet gone through all of them in my life! 😀

    • See? There is always room for improvement 🙂
      *(More seriously, I wish you won’t go through any of them, of course!)*

      2013/5/20 Disqus

      • well, as you say above – it hasn’t killed me and we have grown stronger together 🙂 thanks, this was the best article i have read from you :))

        • Thanks so much Liga-Krista for your feedback! Much appreciated. Very glad you enjoyed the article :))

          2013/5/23 Disqus

          • Emmanuelle says:

            Hello Anne, thank you for this great article. The financial dependance is what kills me since we moved to Greece. Had a great job (relocation adviser (!) and suddenly had to ask for money. It changes the whole balance of the couple and this is not good. Fortunately I haven’t been trough all of your examples!!!

          • Thank you very much, Emmanuelle for taking the time to share your experience. I can totally relate to your concern about financial dependence. In a world based on money, this is a huge hurdle to overcome. And for the couple a new balance to find (even if the issue is only temporary, hopefully!). I had a look at your website and your book. Beautiful!

            2013/5/23 Disqus

  2. And if your OH is a doctor working 140 to 90 hrs per week – treble your chances. Still – got through it all somehow, and celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary at the end of the month…

  3. If I had a dollar (or euro) for every empty promise I received from my ex-husband or his employer (or my divorce lawyers for that matter), I would be an extremely rich woman these days!!
    While Global Expats is still “just getting off the ground,” what I can promise to “trailing spouses” around the world, is that we are dedicated to Reality vs. Rhetoric, as apposed to the Rhetoric vs. Reality that I have been faced with in the past 7 years.
    Quenby Wilcox
    Founder – Global Expats

    • So sorry for your experience, Quenby. It seems to me that you’re living the motto “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!

      2013/5/23 Disqus

  4. Melanie Saucier says:

    This totally made me smile and cringe at the same time :/ I, like Emmanuelle, am financially dependent now. I miss the little business I was running and don’t enjoy being a SAHM a whole lot (though I can see the benefits for the entire family of me being flexible and available). Thing is I don’t know how long will be this “temporary” situation and it’s killing me! I can relate to a few of the points you mentioned but hopefully (and I don’t think so) I won’t have to go through them all 🙂

    • Bonjour Melanie, it’s great to discover your comment this morning. I can totally relate to this discomfort (to say the least!) of living in uncertainty and being financially dependent. What are we supposed to learn from this experience? I had a look at your stunning pictures on your bilingual blog (French / English!). They made my day!

      2013/6/6 Disqus


  1. […] this whole “procedure” hasn’t been described in a written form. It’s not mentioned in your marriage contract. Nowhere can you find that when you prepare a nice meal, your partner has to come on time and show […]

  2. […] fail because men and women don’t have the same needs. To feel fulfilled, we yearn for very different […]

  3. […] you imagine the disaster? You have the best intentions in the world and you’re not reaching your most desired outcome. The […]

  4. […] independence, intellectual stimulation and social integration. It prevents a huge imbalance in the couple relationship […]

Speak Your Mind