The (un)happy expat partner
Updated: Mar 4
Rumour has it that moving abroad as an expat is a glamorous and exciting adventure that will change your life for the better. But what if you find yourself unhappy, dissatisfied and frustrated with the challenges that you experience in your new home country? In fact, many expat partners find themselves lonely, frustrated and out of touch with who they used to be. According to expatresearch.com family-related issues are the number one reason that expat assignments fail.
Looking more closely, it becomes apparent that partners generally have very different experiences abroad. While the working partner is busy with the new job and well integrated into the corporate culture, chatting away with colleagues, the accompanying partner is usually the one staying at home, unpacking boxes and challenged to fill their time with meaningful activities.
Moreover, many expat partners were working in highly skilled jobs before moving abroad and often can't work due to visa restrictions. Going on just another coffee date, to the gym or learning a new skill - for some, nothing seems to fill the void that now being the wife or husband of "..." has left. In fact, more often than not the overall challenge of moving abroad and being an expat partner can have severe mental health consequences, such as depression and anxiety if it's not adequately addressed.
Expat partner mental health support
While there are certainly expat partners to whom the above description doesn't apply, many more feel this way than is talked about. And although companies have begun to offer support through pre-assignment preparation such as cultural training and educational support, there is a need to support partners on a more emotional and spiritual level. In short, there is a need for mental health support tailored to expats.
Because of the unique situation that expat partners find themselves in, they need support that suits their lifestyle, such as being able to work across different time zones. Also, understanding what it feels like to change cities, homes and essentially a part of your identity every couple of years needs to be met with understanding.
As an experienced psychologist and multiple expat, I believe that the key to living happy anywhere lies in establishing a constant that we can take with us wherever we go. In order to achieve this, we must draw on the resources that lie within ourselves. This can be achieved through the resources and tools that Positive Psychology and Mindfulness offer.
To learn more about Positive Psychology and Mindfulness techniques click here