While there are many benefits to expat life, it certainly does not come without its own significant challenges. Changes in work-life balance and feelings of increased loneliness can lead to marital problems that may seem difficult to overcome.
In the eyes of many people, supporting your partner by moving with them to a vibrant modern city like Singapore might not seem like a difficult decision. Clearly relocating to a new country for a few months or years is something to be excited about. Even more so if you’re moving to one of the most livable cities in the world, surrounded by white-sand beaches and world heritage sites.
However, the reality can often be somewhat different. As a trailing spouse in Singapore, you might have already realized that as the excitement of moving to a new country dissipates, it’s often replaced by more painful thoughts of losing your identity and missing your support network. You may have to give up a promising career and the comfort of having your friends nearby when moving abroad.
Expats across the world can experience similar issues of loneliness and depression that also affect relationships. According to several of our providers these are key factors in many expat marriage breakdowns. Matters can be made more complicated when children are in the picture, as postnatal and postpartum depression can each lead to substantial suffering.
It can be a difficult time because not only is your family encountering problems fitting into an entirely new culture but you may be going through these problems without the usual support you expect from your partner - who is getting used to longer working hours, a more stressful work environment, more overseas travel, and a work-based social life outside of the home. Expat marriages in Singapore are not easy to manage.
Singapore has some of the longest working hours in the world and this can definitely take a toll on any relationship.
If you think you or your partner could benefit from tips on improving work-life balance see this article.
Your feelings are normal. Don't worry: you'll get through it!
Moving to a different part of the world is something that you and your partner can never entirely prepare for, no matter how great your relationship was before arriving. If you haven’t already, it might be time to acknowledge, to yourself and with your partner, that expat family life is not always easy and the problems that come with it are quite common - including many problems you may encounter in your marriage.
As an expat couple, working on your communication skills can help with the transition.
It’s never too late to start working better as a team. There are many simple approaches you can take. Two of them are highlighted below: refocusing your priorities and being mindful of the way you communicate.
One thing you can start doing is placing more of a priority on your marriage.
Taking care of your relationship should always be a priority whether or not you are facing a problem. It's common to wholeheartedly believe that you do not have time to do so – make time. Join a community or activity that will reunite both of you with your interests and help you grow together as a couple. When you have an argument, always make the effort to reconcile with each other before the problem gets bigger. Settle things before you go to bed. If you can’t solve everything in one discussion, promise each other to talk about it another time.
Another effort you can undertake as a couple is being mindful of your respective communication styles.
Make sure you're both trying to be respectful of the little things that make each of you unique. If your partner has had a bad day, are you giving too much advice when you should be listening more? When you argue - always try to argue the right way. Never call your partner names or insult them personally. Focus on the issue and what can be done instead of blaming each other all the time.
"But I've tried all of these techniques... It’s still not going very well."
If you are having these, or similar issues, you can consider seeking professional help. You don’t have to wait until one of you is considering divorce. The earlier you seek the right help, the earlier you can strengthen your marriage and your family. Here are some of the most common situations you may find yourself in, which are also good reasons to approach an expert.
- You’re afraid to bring up issues that you know you need to talk about
- When one or both of you is considering having an affair
- You have repetitive arguments about the most trivial things
- You seem to be living separate lives
- You don’t know how to resolve your issues
What to expect with marriage counseling
Marriage counseling brings a couple together to recognize the source of conflicts, resolve conflicts, and rebuild the relationship with the help of a professionally trained mediator. The great thing about a couple's dynamic with a marriage counselor is that it should create an environment that allows both people to speak freely.
Don’t worry if your partner refuses to see a marriage counselor with you. You can still work with a counselor to make progress towards improving your marriage individually. Seeing the counselor will allow you to gain a better self-awareness and become a better partner. Your partner may eventually open up to the idea of seeking a counselor's guidance, or at least be more receptive to hearing your more informed thinking.
With a marriage counselor you and/or your partner can be taught how to communicate more openly, discuss differences rationally and cope with emotions that may be revealed during the sessions. Marriage counseling can be a short term or long term endeavor. Your therapist will work closely with you to develop a specialized treatment plan that deals directly with your situation.
If you’re ready to take a step toward improving your marriage, and are thinking "I need a therapist near me" but don't know where to start, try the RingMD therapist directory. We will help you find the right therapist for YOU!