You are on the phone with a friend you’ve known since you were small. Or maybe you’re out for dinner with your partner. You two are close and you’ve been carrying a heavy load on your shoulders for a while. You decide to say something. You reluctantly concede that, while you are okay, you’ve been feeling off track. You explain that most of the time you’re fine with living abroad but deep down you’re sensing a growing hunger for more from your life. Finally, you admit that you are having more moments when you feel unsatisfied but you can’t put your finger on exactly what’s missing.
There is a small moment of silence.
Then the person responds, “You should take advantage of your situation.”
Your immediate thought is, “Thanks, I hadn’t thought of that”, (with extreme sarcasm).
If you are an accompanying partner, you’re probably – as they say in U.S. English – a smart cookie. You’re someone who is really good at finding a solution to difficult challenges. You can bring your children to the doctor with only limited knowledge of the local language and come out with answers to your most important questions. You can orchestrate an international move in your sleep. Expat spouses change continents like other families change tables at a restaurant. (tweet that!)
If an unhappy expat spouse could muster up the energy and clear sense of direction to “take advantage” of his or her situation they’d be doing it already.
But sometimes, they’re just a bit stuck.
Asking an unhappy expat spouse to get “unstuck” is like telling a clinically depressed person to “cheer up”. (tweet that!)
It is hard to do on your own. And it is hard to explain the problem to others.
I’ve worked with expat spouses from around the world to get unstuck and start living the life abroad they imagined. Although a huge variety of factors affect how satisfied we are with our life abroad, broadly speaking, in order to “take advantage” of your situation, you have to do three things.
Check out my recent guest-post with International School Parents Magazine The Worst Advice You Can Give to an Unhappy Expat Spouse to learn exactly how you can start making the best of your life abroad.
Here are to big changes in 2016!