Imagine this movie ending: the credits fade as you sail off into the romantic sunset with your French lover and the Eiffel Tower in the background. It sounds incredibly romantic, but as I see in my work as a therapist, there is the sequel to the movie where the woman cuts ties with her own family and culture, while also adjusting to the new language, marriage, in-laws, culture etc. It is an enormous task, and one that requires a great deal of emotional and psychological adjustment.
Of course, there are pluses and minuses of moving overseas for love ….
On the plus side, you don’t want to live with regret about the one that got away, so you pack up your life and decide to embark on an adventure for love, and that’s not a bad thing to do, even if it feels a little irrational. You get to experience a new country, you no longer have to do the long-distance thing, and you learn more about yourself. And of course, you have a chance to build a life with the person you love.
On the darker side, expat spouses can suffer from anxiety, depression and feelings of crisis as they face a lack of identity and independence, and zero friends other than their spouse, who they come to rely on too heavily. She finds she is locked out of work as she doesn’t have the right paperwork yet or her ability to speak French isn’t good enough, and whatever she contributes to the marriage and shared life is often not as high profile as his work. Research suggests that trailing spouses, or those who move for love and the priority of the other person’s career, are the least happy of all expats, often because they have given up careers for the move and lack financial independence, and maybe it is tough for them to find work at a level they are used to. Some of the women I have worked with can also feel trapped once they have children, especially if the marriage isn’t going so well and the options for leaving become limited.
Even if the move goes well, there will undoubtedly be days when you ask yourself why you did this, and it can put a strain on the relationship. So, if you are considering moving for love, or are trying to find ways to cope with a move you already made, here are some tips from expats that might help:
At the end of the day, if you are really struggling and realize you can never be a Francophile, then don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about your worries and maybe seek the help of a therapist to help you cope and make some decisions. There are plenty of expats in the same position as you, and you can network with them through social sites such as Facebook which hosts groups like ‘Married to a French Man’. It certainly might help to hear that other people are struggling with the same issues as you. Bonne chance!
If the subject matter in this article resonates with you, then counselling might be a good option to help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.