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Is being an expat the kiss of death for most relationships?

(77 Posts)
MrsSchadenfreude Fri 18-Sep-15 18:09:41

All of our friends in Paris, who were expats (or one of the couple was, and the other French) have split up. Of my expat school gate friends from Brussels, they have all split up too. In nearly every case, the man ended it, and has moved on to a new, younger wife and a second family. The wife is either left with the kids, to struggle in a country that isn't "home" or heads back to the UK with the kids, and they hardly ever see their father. Our UK friends are not like this! It all seems a bit bizarre to me.

Ifiwasabadger Fri 18-Sep-15 18:22:31

i've been an expat for 8 years and haven't seen anything like you mention.

MyFriendsCallMeOh Fri 18-Sep-15 18:49:47

Been an expat for 20 + years and yes, I've seen cases of this but it's mostly where husband and wife don't live in the same country or spend long periods of time apart. I think it's more a case of growing apart due to distance and calling it a day rather than anything else.

johnImonlydancing Fri 18-Sep-15 18:53:29

IME no. It sounds more to do with the man being a 'high-flyer' and feeling entitled to a new model (like company cars, innit grin ).

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Fri 18-Sep-15 19:04:38

I stopped being a "real" expat for reasons very close to this...

(What I mean is that culturally quite a few places I have lived (Netherlands, Australia, Germany, England) have been pretty close to where I grew up (Canada) so I haven't considered myself a "real" expat, and there were not that many differences between me and the locals.)

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Fri 18-Sep-15 19:05:48

Fuck. I am so tired I am not making sense and can't even formulate my thoughts. I am afraid of saying something offensive and stereotyping so I think I better stop now!!! blush

LillianGish Fri 18-Sep-15 20:00:34

I think being an expat is tough - you both have to really want to do it. Any cracks in the relationship are harder to ignore because you are far from family and friends. I would say the expat lifestyle has brought our family closer together and it honestly feels like we could live anywhere as we take our own little unit with us wherever we go, but I can easily see how this might be difficult if the idea of having to be your own little unit is part of the problem. You need an equal tolerance about being far from family and a tolerance of one another's families when they come to stay and you need to be in agreement of whether you go home for holidays or whether you just go somewhere else regardless. You also need to be able to accept that if one half is posted then the other half follows - I've seen most problems arise where one stays behind either for work or with the children. I think where both halves are different nationalities it can be even tougher - keeping up two different cultures and languages while abroad and one person always being an expat even while being in one of the home countries. It's not for everyone and the problem is you don't really know if it's going be for you until you try it!

MyFriendsCallMeOh Fri 18-Sep-15 22:59:44

Lilian makes a good point. We have moved so often that we live a very insular family life - friends come and go but my husband is always there. He is my best friend, my sounding board, my support, my shoulder to cry on, my biggest fan and I am all that to him. I don't have a best friend in this country, or a sister, a mum or anyone who has known me more than 2 years apart from him. If there are cracks, they may develop under this pressure ... or they may just mend....

Disclaimer: I do have friends in real life too, they're either very far away or very new!

Laptopwieldingharpy Sat 19-Sep-15 06:27:38

Sad. In my experience, what you describe is still in the minority.
And the couples were already at a tipping point. Back home it would have translated into a long life of deceit and adultery or simply indifference and resentement probably. In a way, moving on is much better.

yakari Sat 19-Sep-15 06:52:22

Laptop - your point made me wonder if once someone has made the leap too ing abroad, they realise that change is possible and have worked out how to handle change. So if there are cracks and these become apparent then separation is just 'another' change.
If you've never made a really big change then the thought of splitting up and everything changing is very daunting. Hence maybe couples aren't necessarily happier but stick together?
Don't know - maybe utter tosh, but it's made me ponder.

guihailin Sat 19-Sep-15 09:10:25

According to UN statistics, over 70% of marriages end in divorce in Belgium, and over 50% in France. So, what you are seeing is probably more symptomatic of the ages of your friends, than expat. Having said that, the expat element does make the legal issues for divorces quite a bit more complicated (relocation, Hague, visas, enforcement...)

Laptopwieldingharpy Sat 19-Sep-15 09:53:15

Yes Yakari i agree totally. Although the couple i'm thinking of are well travelled and had already lived the high life alone and as a couple in major capital cities.
They all have (women included) large complicated egos in common.

Laptopwieldingharpy Sat 19-Sep-15 09:54:29

3 couples actually.

exexpat Sat 19-Sep-15 10:08:40

Lots of couples get divorced wherever they live. I was an expat in Japan & Australia for ages, and also know lots of expats who moved on to HK, Singapore etc. Most of them are still very much together 10 or 20 years on - I can only think of two couples who divorced.

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 19-Sep-15 10:40:23

Interesting - maybe it is just a European phenomenon then? Although when I lived in West Africa, there seemed to be a raft of couples who got married one year, had a baby the next and then split up the year after. And the unpleasant expat men who would live with a local woman, maybe have children with her, having gone through a "marriage of native law and custom", then go back to UK on his own, telling her that the marriage was not legal in UK...

In some of the couples, the wife was the reluctant expat, so I imagine this would have contributed to the problem, living somewhere you didn't want to be, in a strange language and culture, often unable to work.

BoboChic Sat 19-Sep-15 16:56:41

Funnily enough, all my expat friends in Paris are pretty happily married to their first spouse. It's the French who are all divorced and live in "familles recomposees" of mind-boggling logistic complexity. Most of DP's friends divorced because they were bored of being married to people who had lived identical lives since birth and needed a change of scene. This was very much true of both parties. Expats seem to stay together because they lives together are more adventurous and hence fulfilling.

LillianGish Sat 19-Sep-15 17:31:56

is that you Bonsoir? Have you changed your name?

MerdeAlor Sat 19-Sep-15 17:38:46

In our ex pat community, one partner usually is unable to work (most often the woman). There are sometimes feeling of restlessness, boredom and having made a large sacrifice for one persons career. Not good for a relationship.
The other situation which I see regularly in one person off working long hours and the other being isolated and lonely at home, without their family around.
Lots and lots of divorces in our community, both need to be committed to it and enjoy the lifestyle.

Laptopwieldingharpy Sat 19-Sep-15 18:02:36

In Asia, it is mostly European ( and predominantly french) men that have fallen prey to the call of sirens. Poor things. A lifetime of misery at the hands of the ruthless local girls.

Laptopwieldingharpy Sat 19-Sep-15 18:05:57

Mmmmm yes....where is Bonsoir?

Ancienchateau Sat 19-Sep-15 18:08:33

I agree with LillianGish, that your relationship has to be strong to survive the expat life. I don't like to tempt fate but I consider my marriage pretty sound and it feels harder here. A lot of it comes down to having to juggle more things without that support network back home and so having to rely on each other a lot more. In my case it's the language: DH is fluent and I'm not so I am reliant on him for things I never was in UK. It makes me feel a bit crap. And although he never complains, I'm sure he could do without it!

I have also observed that where I live (France) all but one of my expat friends are happily married still but I come across so many divorced French families. So maybe the saying if it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger really does apply to expat marriages.

Ancienchateau Sat 19-Sep-15 18:10:14

I used to be castlesintheair if anyone is interested. I was one of the 3000 who got hacked a few months ago.

LillianGish Sat 19-Sep-15 22:02:08

I am interested ancienchateau. I like a familiar name.

PosterEh Sat 19-Sep-15 22:06:14

I agree with bobo about the adventure. I worry more about what will happened when we decide to settle permanently somewhere (which is the plan when the DC reach secondary age) and don't have the excitement of a new country every few years.

ChipsandGuac Sat 19-Sep-15 22:22:10

I only know one expat couple who have divorced, out of probably around 40 families. Actually, 2. One separated about a year after returning home.

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