“Can moving to a different country with my partner inject a healthy fresh-start to our relationship?”
It depends on how negative the relationship was in the first place. Despite the exciting opportunities of expat-living, moving abroad can contribute stress to one’s marriage. Especially if a marriage was already struggling with personal issues such as depression or addictions, or relational issues such as jealousy or poor communication.
Adding in the stress of expatriation for instance, finding appropriate housing, children adjusting to new schools, new unfamiliar languages, learning new directions, missing home, and not having much social support, it can easily add stress to a relationship and seriously jeopardize the continuity of the marriage.
Here are three suggestions to what can couples do to prevent the stresses of living abroad from destroying their marriages
1. Recognize that healthy relationships do not just happen—they need to be cultivated. Couples would do well to hold “weekly couple meetings” where they discuss and work on relationship and family matters with just as much seriousness as they would their professional work. In addition to weekly couple meetings, set aside date nights at least once, if not twice a month. During date nights, do not try to problem solve, but focus on having fun and romancing each other to upkeep the reservoir of positive memories.
2. Learn to communicate effectively. Learn to hear what the other person is saying, and give feedback to help them know that they have been heard correctly by paraphrasing what they said. Take turns being the speaker and the listener. This is especially important when talking about sensitive issues or hot topics. Learn how to speak and listen sensitively and respectfully.
3. Develop a network of social support to avoid feeling isolated. Many companies have expat services, gatherings, and other resources that can be helpful to family members adjusting to a new place, language, and culture—make use of these. Remember that it takes time and effort to cultivate new relationships.