Partner support built for the 21st century
May 3, 2018
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As explored in our “How Relocation made one relationship stronger” piece, changes in family structure are reshaping partner support. In the past, partner support generally meant support for a “trailing wife” accompanying her husband; now the range of partners and circumstances are more diverse.
Historically when partner support professionals spoke of an “accompanying partner,” they were generally female and both were married.
Over the last three decades however, changes in workforce participation among women, family formation and many other factors have seen these assumptions shift radically.
These major changes include the emergence of dual-income families, with both husband and wife developing their careers. Alongside the increasing tendency of couples not to marry at all, or at least to delay both marriage and children until their 30s.
Despite these changing lifestyles, partner support remains critical to the success of a relocation. Surveys of expatriates and international movers of all kinds repeatedly shows that a partner’s inability to adjust to a new environment is the primary reason international living experiences fail.
Whether you are a 20-something wanting a “global adventure;” or a retiree who wants to move for quality of life reasons, the principle remains the same. Having a supportive and supported partner makes the process smoother.
Practical questions about a move
Having helped with tens of thousands of couples move to new homes over the past 50 years, we’re well placed to offer practical advice. There are some difficult, occasionally personal questions you and your partner need to ask yourselves – and each other – before even considering a move.
Will my partner be legally recognized as such in our planned destination country?
Civil partnerships are not recognized in every country. As a result, this has an impact on your ability to procure spousal visas, or follow family reunification policies. This legality is something you need to identify from the outset of planning a move. If you are planning a relocation to a country where LGBT relationships are outside of cultural norms, this could severely impact your ability to enjoy a good quality of life for example.
Will my partner be able to legally work overseas?
Establishing if your partner can legally accompany you is one consideration you need to tick off. Another consideration relates to the labor laws of your future home. Spousal visas do not always entail a right to work, and even if they do, you may need to wait for a fixed period of a year or more to obtain this right.
If not, can we financially support our family on a single income?
If one of you doesn’t have the right to work in your new home, you need to establish whether you can be supported on a single income. This means asking questions about the marketability of your skillsets, experience and the job opportunities both give you. A quick glance at the most in-demand jobs in developed countries underscores financial services, IT and software professionals as the highly sought after.
The relative difference in cost of living is compared to your home country is also a key question. More generally you will need to ask what income threshold you need to meet to maintain your current standard of living.
Remember that even if your estimated salary will be lower than it is now, your purchasing power could well be higher.
How developed is the host country?
If you are accustomed to certain amenities, moving to a developing country may involve changes to your lifestyle. Alyssa Bantle, who manages Crown’s global curriculum advises couples and families to consider a host country’s infrastructure when mulling a move:
“Culture-shock isn’t exclusively about differences in behaviors and beliefs. It can also relate to infrastructure. Yes, you may be moving to a lovely gated community but what transportation is available to the partner if they do not want to drive or have a car? I have worked with many couples where the partner suddenly feels a strong loss of independence due to a simple detail like transportation.”
If your partner won’t be working, can they have a fulfilling experience?
This question is applicable even if one of you isn’t currently working. A spouse moving from the U.K. to the Philippines will experience just as much culture-shock as the lead employee after all.
Important to consider is the lifestyle offered by the destination: is it a place your partner can enjoy themselves outside of work? One recurring difficulty in all relocations is being isolated from traditional social support circles, such as friends or family. Your partner being able to enjoy the sort of recreational activities they do today will help acclimatize them more quickly.
An active social life is another important consideration. Are you and your partner able to make new friends easily? Are there expatriate societies or communities present that you or they could potentially join?
These are personal questions which will quite naturally yield diverse answers. Ultimately, being able live an independently enriching life when you move will be what makes the relocation work for you and your partner.
What is your reason for moving?
Joanne Danehl, Crown’s Global Practice Leader for partner support, stresses that you shouldn’t be asking purely legal questions:
“Legal considerations are one thing – and these are fairly straightforward in a lot of cases – but another aspect of any move is the psychology behind it.
Let’s suppose your partner reflexively says they are happy to give up their career for an indeterminate period: is this something they are genuinely committed to? Do they understand the implications of such a decision in the long term? Perhaps more relevantly, have they ever not worked for a significant period? What would they consider ‘comfort’ and can they create an enriching life for themselves in the potential destination to satisfy these goals? And so on.”
Psychology ties into the most important consideration during your moving process, namely why you want to move. We’ve already briefly mentioned two of the most common reasons we encounter: a better lifestyle for older couples, and life experience or “adventure” for younger ones. There’s more nuance than just these two basic groups however. There are also younger employees who move overseas as “digital nomads” – not tied to any company, or older couples with one partner looking for a global opportunity in the final stages of their career. In some cases, the groups overlap, or may have multiple reasons for wanting to move. The older employees for example may be tempted to move not just for career reasons, but because they want to eventually retire in the destination country.
This diverse range of mindsets requires a range of creative solutions. Our partner support services stress the importance of solutions tailored for the couple in question. Some of these include helping a partner who may not be used to the local job market search for a job, offering intercultural training to help acclimatize to significantly different environments as well as finding volunteering opportunities for others.
What constitutes a family or a couple may have changed significantly, but broadly speaking, the contentions couples have when making decisions about their shared future remains very similar. Dealing with these issues ultimately requires a tailored approach and human touch.
Crown Relocations’ Partner Support program helps partners articulate goals and create a plan to get there support by the consultant who is familiar with the location, has access to networks and experience of coaching people through the process. If you’d like to learn more, get in contact with us directly.