Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The expat life - trouble and strife?

There's an excellent article in last week's Wall Street Journal titled "The Marital Strain of a Life Abroad". It does a great job of highlighting the potential positive effect of a move abroad on a relationship:
A move abroad can strengthen a marriage if both partners are on the same page. We are about to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary during our third year in China. I believe that coming here shook us out of our routine, precluding any hint of the boredom that can infect any long-term relationship. Becoming expats has provided us an opportunity to share a long-running, intense, life-changing experience.
but also discusses the potential pitfalls:
Of course, the same forces can crack a fragile union, and many marriages hit the rocks on foreign assignments. It can be a time of great stress, major dislocation and morphing marital roles. Couples confront these issues while dealing with new resentments that can surface if both partners aren't equally enthusiastic about their new life. They often must do so while living in cultures that seem to have a more benign attitude towards adultery than we generally do in America. If there are cracks in a relationship, the foundation can crumble under these new pressures.
In amongst the time we spend preparing for a move overseas (sorting out visas, shipping our belongings, vaccinating the cat etc.) few people have the time left to look inwards at themselves and their relationships. However, whether we're the breadwinner taking up a new job, a trailing spouse or one half of a retired couple it makes good sense to think seriously about how the stress of moving is likely to impact on our relationship. Like all forms of forward planning when moving overseas, the ability to identify challenges ahead gives us time to formulate our best response. In this case it could mean the difference between building a future together or drifting irreversibly apart.

How did becoming an expat affect your relationship? Are you concerned about the stresses of moving abroad? Please feel free to comment!

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