It’s not uncommon for one half of an expat couple or lovepats to reach out to me, looking for guidance on how to navigate a rather common expat relationship problem.
This problem typically manifests as
😟 One partner wanting to leave the country/repatriate while the other one wants to stay
😟 One partner needing certainty about where they’re going to be living in a few years’ time, while the other doesn’t need that kind of certainty
😟 Both partners feeling like it’s time to go but they can’t agree on where, when or how
The end result is that you’ve got two people who may very much love each other, but they can’t see eye to eye about their life together.
In such a situation it’s super easy to get stuck on the things you can’t agree on, which is why it’s important to first identify what it is that you want in common before tackling your differences.
Easier said than done, you say? You’re not wrong. But it IS doable.
Try these steps:
💛 Identify your individual needs and vision for the future *independently*
💛 Then come together and share your needs and future vision with each other, listening to each other with curiosity
💛 Once you have both shared what you need and want, look for commonalities and use those elements to sketch out a shared vision for your future life together. Which option – staying or leaving – would best help you achieve that vision?
💛 Now tackle the differences – could you play around with timelines, look for creative solutions, put out feelers, seek outside support to make your shared vision a reality?
When there’s a will, there’s always a way.
It’s just that sometimes the solution may come in an unexpected shape or form.
Don’t get discouraged by the process. Doing the hard work of making sure you’re working together as a team is so worth it in the end.
In some cases, no amount of tools or advice is going to the change the fact that you are just not compatible with each other, even if everything else seems right.
I’ve sadly seen it a few times how my expat clients have decided to end their relationship some time after having worked with me to find clarity for themselves.
Hell, I’ve been there myself where more talking, trying to meet in the middle and playing around with timelines was just a distraction from the inevitable fact that – we wanted different things.
So here’s the thing…
💔 You can still love each other, but when you don’t want the same things and you’re not willing to compromise, you’re not compatible
💔 You can still both want a future together, but when you can’t agree on what it should look like, you’re not compatible
💔 You can still both want to work it out, but when more talking only leads to more emotional pain, you’re not compatible
If this is the painful reality you find yourself in right now, I see you and you don’t have to let go when you’re not ready to yet.
But please know that as long as you’re holding on to something that doesn’t have a future, the person that will fit you better than your favorite sweater won’t have space to enter your life.
PS: I don’t do couple’s sessions, but if you need a helping hand in sorting through *your* thoughts and finding clarity for yourself, check out my coaching services to see how I could help you move past this common expat relationship problem.
PPS: Did you know that I have guiding discussion questions specifically for couples in my “Should I Stay or Go?” workbook? If you want to introduce structure into your joint discussions by following my step-by-step path to clarity, grab your copy here.
Katherine is a retired world traveller and former serial expat of 15 years. Based on her professional and personal experience as well as PhD research, she now helps expats, travellers and location independents decide whether to stay or go, whether to move back home or where to settle down.