I briefly read that about 200 million people living outside their passport country. For sure I don’t want to generalize expat marriages and relationships. But as I count a lot of expats to my clients, I can share the experience made in my talks during a divorce consultancy. Approximately 70% of our clients are male, but when it comes to expat clients, the female proportion is about 80%.
I have to ask you: what do you associate when you hear about expat life?
Leisure and luxury? I agree, but in the meantime I associate as well the physical and emotional cost of relocation to a foreign country to it. The price that is paid for the luxury and leisure life is high. Expat life can be exciting, the question is how to manage that a marriage doesn’t fail. Expat marriage failure rates are high and can vary between 20% and 50%, depending on the country.
What are the reasons for failure of expat marriages?
A lot of expat-wives are feeling a social isolation and are not getting used to the cultural inflexibility. Most of them are not having a job, although wanting to work and possessing a good education. They are challenged with the long working times of their husband and removed from any kind of setting like friends and family.
I am talking to a lot of women, who are taking care of driving their kids to school and sports and whose days are laden with long lunches, home furnishing, personal trainings and manicure appointments.
A latest study shows that “marital problems among expatriates undoubtedly result from a divergence of priorities among couples, often as the number of assignments increases and as high-level careers advance” (Lazarova et al., 2015; McNulty and Inkson, 2013)
Everyday problems and feelings of social isolation don’t provide a good basis for a lovely relaxing talk with a spouse after his 14hrs working day, while incoming E-Mails are making the smartphone blinking. Expats are generally excited about a job abroad and gaining international experience. As a result, they often work long hours to do “whatever it takes” to be successful.
It is difficult to link this excitement to a family life, but it can be manageable. It’s all about balancing between career and family, an open communication and taking time for each other. And this doesn’t only apply to expat marriages:
Marriage is like a bridge. It has to be built repeatedly… every day; ideally from both sides.
Brigitte Kaps, CEO