expat, family

A Move for Two


Moving with your partner sounds like a good deal: you have someone to share the load, handle all the arrangements and manage the logistics with you; and you also have someone who can feel your excitement on the good days and appreciate your frustrations and disappointments on the bad ones.

All that is true, but in fact moving à deux also makes life so much more complicated.

First, not only do you have to deal with your own adjustment issues; you have to worry about your partner as well. How well (or how badly) they are doing affects how you are doing. If they are not happy in the new place, it is unlikely that you will be happy there, hard as you try. Worse, if they are struggling while you are having a much smoother ride, they will be difficult and jealous, if not resentful of you.
Then, especially if things are tough and at least one of you has a hard time adjusting, there may be an issue with who initiated the move. If you were not as eager to move as they were, but decided to follow anyway, you will blame them for everything that goes wrong. You may refuse to adapt and settle. According to surveys, the top reason why international assignments fail – basically people pack up and head back to where they came from – is what they call “partner resistance.” Having been both initiator and follower in different moves, I can tell you that the only way to make it work and avoid resentment building up is if even the follower has a serious incentive to move, like being closer to a family member or a potential future career option. As soon as there is compromise or sacrifice involved, but not some kind of reward, we have a hard time letting go. We are human (at least most of us are!).
In addition to all that, when you move to a new place, at least in the beginning, you will be spending a lot of time together. There will be no distractions, no family or friends to act as a buffer, no outlets for when you have enough of each other; it will be just the two of you (ok, maybe you have kids, but I’m talking relationship-wise). Not everyone can handle that under normal circumstances. Add the stress of moving and settling, uncertainty about how your life will be in the new place, job pressures and culture shock – and that’s a lot of pressure. How you go into the move as a couple determines how you come out of it. If you have solid foundations, you will come out stronger; if your relationship was dysfunctional already, you can be sure that any underlying tensions will come to the surface.
So when you least expect it, your relationship is being put to the test. Why am I writing this? Because I think that most of us do not anticipate having to go through such complications when we move. The practical aspects are so overwhelming that we overlook the potential strains on our relationship. We are not prepared to deal with them when they come up. There has to be a better way.
Has moving affected your relationship?



  1. It made us stronger, but it did take a toll at first.

  2. What a fabulous post! I completely agree with this phrase "How you go into the move as a couple determines how you come out of it."

    Thankfully my husband and I haven't exprienced any problems during our moves: we have settled into a good understanding of each other, and I think the main reason for this is my motto – never take each other for granted.

  3. Moving absolutely took a toll on our relationship. I had adjustment issues (although never regretting moving) and my husband felt it was all his fault, even though the decision to move was absolutely a joint decision. We managed to right the ship but it was a very, very tough time.

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