We know most overseas assignments are opportunities of a lifetime. Homes provided, school fees paid and a cross-cultural experience most can only dream of.
However the no.1 reason assignments fail is because the family or partner does not settle. With all the opportunities that present themselves, it just doesn’t feel right. This is work-life stress as discussed in a previous article.
The 5 key factors that cause partners to struggle are:
- Not spending enough time with my partner
- Not having close friends to confide in
- Uncertainty about our future after the assignment finishes
- Feeling isolated and cut-off
- Coping with too many demands and expectations
These factors are understandable, predictable, and directly related to the ‘practicalities of the relocation’. They are not a measure of the health of the familial relationships. Being aware of this, knowing that others experience the same things is essential for families to get the best of times out of their assignment. This awareness is also significant for the strength and health of the couple relationship.
I encourage all clients to recognise that each partner has different triggers, different vulnerabilities and these are often caused by factors external to the relationship. It reduces the blame that partners lay at each other’s feet and gives the couple a focus for making choices and taking action to improve things. Rarely do both relocating partners in a couple have identical experiences.
One arrives and walks straight into a clear job role, the other is at home, or searching for work in an alien environment.
One arrives with clear targets to measure their immediate impact, the other is still trying to work out what the best experience from this adventure is.
One has much to learn for the new role and essential networks to build, the other has a blank sheet of paper on where they should spend their time.
So here is some advice so obvious we can forget to share it:
- Ask for all the practical support you can get from your company, the Relocation Management Company (eg Going-there Global Destination Services, Beswick or HCR ) and the Destination Services Company (eg Momentus or Saunders )
- Keep a sense of humour
- Assume the positive intent in your partners’ behaviour
- Be clear about the stressors which are likely to bug you and your partner
- Avoid laying blame on predictable events, plan a coping strategy for all involved
- Plan regular times to review “how is this working?” Be honest –you will grow stronger as a couple as you focus on what is brilliant and take action where things are not
Consciously celebrate and be thankful for all the opportunities that are presenting themselves