Moving Abroad With Your Partner: Questions to Ask Before You Get On the Plane
Moving abroad with your partner can put a lot of stress on the relationship. If you there are kids in the mix, it can be even tougher.
As we’ve moved again and again (and again), I’ve realized that the strength of the family is directly related to the strength of the partnership.
Moving abroad is hard, no matter what. Moving abroad with your partner is insane.
It is absolutely VITAL that your marriage is strong before moving abroad together.
Once you arrive in your new country, you’ll be on your own for a while. You won’t have quick access to your friends, your family, or your therapist.
Don’t get me wrong, I love living overseas — I wouldn’t be doing this otherwise. But when you’ve spent 12 hours trying to get the internet hooked up, in a language you don’t speak, then you really want to make sure that the person sitting across from you at the dinner table is a source of support and relaxation, instead of one more issue to manage.
You and your partner will have to come together in completely new ways, and if there are any trouble spots in the marriage, I promise that these will come blasting to the foreground.
Your kids are a reflection of your marriage — if you are stressed and unhappy, then they can’t help but to pick up on those vibes.
My husband and I had been through a lot during our tour in Boston — multiple miscarriages, the birth of a new baby, and a new job for both of us, just for starters.
I am proud to say that we went to therapy for a few months. It didn’t fix everything, but it certainly gave us new insights and helped us grow closer together. I am so glad we took the time to work on our partnership before moving with kids to Guatemala, which was a particularly long and stressful move.
Before moving abroad with kids, be sure to have an honest heart-to-heart with your partner:
- Are we solid?
- Do I feel like we’re a team?
- What happens if things get rocky? Do we have a game plan for seeking help? Remember that it can be tough to find local therapists who speak your language, depending on where you move.
- How will the division of labor shift in our new country?
- How will we manage childcare? Housework?
- Who will be working?
- What is our plan for making sure each person has the time and space to pursue their own passions and interests in our new country?
- Who will manage the budget? How will the non-working spouse have independence and access to funds, particularly in countries where women can’t drive or go out alone?
- How integrated do we want to be in our new home? Are we looking for mainly expat friends or mainly local friends?
- How we will meet new people? Do we want to attend expat mixers?
- How will we access support and resources in our new country? This is particularly important for the non-working spouse, who is often more isolated at home.
- What do we want out of this overseas experience? Why are we doing this? (Be specific!) <– This is a great list to refer to when things inevitably get hard.
- How often do we want to travel and explore? Remember that as exciting as travel can be, it can also be exhausting (doubly so with kids!). If someone in the partnership is an introvert, they might not be able to handle a weekend get-away every single week.
- How long do we plan to stay?
How do we want to remember this experience in ten years? What do we need to do to make that happen?
Maintaining Our Roots
- What is our plan for keeping in touch with family and friends?
- How often do we plan to return to our home country? How will we budget for this? Will we use vacation time?
- How will we keep our kids connected to our home culture while abroad?
Other recommendations for focusing on your marriage before the big move:
- Try a short course of couples therapy, just as a check-up and to learn new ways of communication.
- Find an online therapist before your move, and continue checking in regularly after arrival. Someone who knows you before the stress of the move can be invaluable.
- Get away for a short trip (1 week to 1 month), just to test the waters before you go all-in as a couple or a family.
- Institute a routine way of checking in as a couple that you can continue once abroad. Consider weekly date nights, a monthly family meeting, an evening cuddle in bed while you talk about your day — whatever works for you. Try to start this before the move so it’s one less “new” thing to add to your plate.
- Read books on marriage as a couple, and spend time discussing them. Make it enjoyable, not a chore — make a monthly coffee date out of it or simply text a photo of passages that move you to your partner.