Rediscover Your Power and Joy Abroad: 3 Tips for Expat Partners
Expat partners who decide not to work and to rather take care of the family’s needs, or can’t work due to visa restrictions, can begin to feel lost or restless. Life and career coach Margot Stroeken shares three very simple but practical pointers to reignite your spark and feel empowered in yourself, and in your life.
Hey there, you wonderful, skillful, competent, amazing human being!
How long has it been since you last thought of yourself in this way? Tell me honestly: have you been telling yourself instead that you should be finding a job or making money or feeling happier, or that you shouldn’t be complaining?
What am I doing here?
Have you been wondering how it can be that everyone in your family has settled in abroad, school has begun again, and you feel left behind? Maybe you’re even doubting being in your new location. You wonder how you’ll ever make friends here, real friends, and do something other than playing taxi driver for your kids and making sure your family’s needs are taken care of.
You’re not alone.
Isolation, loneliness and worries about career are the main challenges faced by expat partners. Despite the perks, expat life is not a fairy tale. Sickness of relatives, relationship troubles, stress as well as not having a job can shake us to our core. The latter is true particularly if you gave up your career for the relocation abroad – after all, our jobs are often a key part of our identity and give us structure, appreciation, results and often. sense of power. That is not easy to replace, especially as it takes time to build up a new life and new friendships abroad.
It is totally normal to feel unlike yourself abroad, while you are adapting to your surroundings. You’re out of your comfort zone! It is a process of rediscovering and recognizing the power you have inside, when the familiar signposts of life back home fall away. However, sometimes we fall into the trap of starting to think we are “useless”, or we become anxious or bored, or we compare everything to home.
Reconnecting with that powerful side of yourself is possible, and here are three ways to begin…
3 Tips to Start Rediscovering Your Power and Joy Abroad
Give yourself permission to have fun
Sometimes when we don’t make money from a job, we might feel we don’t deserve to do nice things for ourselves. You might even feel guilty that your partner is working hard while you do “nothing” (which couldn’t be further from the truth, of course!). Give yourself permission to enjoy life and to feel valuable regardless of whether you have a job and make money or not.
Applaud yourself for the challenging steps you have taken and are still taking. It is no mean feat to move halfway across the world, to rebuild your life and that of your family, to navigate unknown territory, to learn a new language… Most people live their entire life within a 20-kilometre radius from the place they were born; you went much further. Being an expat partner/spouse is also hard work, and you have to shape your own life every day.Acknowledge yourself, not by feeling sorry for yourself, but by recognising how far you’ve come and by trusting yourself to have the skills and power to make this work.
Do things you love
This one may take time to figure out. Maybe you never consciously thought about what gives you joy, about the moments and activities you truly love. Make a list – and include anything from buying a bunch of fresh flowers to brainstorming a new idea. Aim for a minimum of 50 things. Every day, do at least one thing from your “love list”.Go out and experiment with activities offered in your new location. When you do things you love, there’s also a good chance you’ll meet friends who share your interest and passions, and are aligned with who you are.
When you feel uncomfortable because you don’t earn an income, it is easy to forget that you are multi-talented and deserving of happiness. As you grow in confidence and remember that you are valuable, no matter what, you will also begin to see – and enjoy – new possibilities and opportunities within your life abroad.
How have you dealt with being an expat partner? The Expat Nest community would love to hear from you! Do share this article with a friend who’s feeling disempowered and would love some support and inspiration!
About the author: Margot Stroeken, LLM, CPCC, is a life and career coach with Expat Energy. She supports expats in navigating the hurdles of living and (not) working abroad. She’s originally from the Netherlands and has been living in Asia with her family for nearly eight years.