As I have previously mentioned, marriage among the Expaterati is a notoriously tricky business.
My explanation for this phenomenonamo is that most expat men are a bit crap, but Cousin Clara the psychologist thinks it’s because, “for the nomadic couple, a tremendous strain is exerted upon the marital bond”. We were Skyping in the course of my research for this post, and she said that, “throughout the upheavals and transitions, the joys and the losses, the only other adult who remains a constant is the spouse. So it is that one person who is consistently present to mirror back aspects of the other’s self, while both individuals’ identities go through intense periods of flux… not dissimilar to the challenging transitional phases experienced during adolescence. As such, the relationship – or the third presence in the couple, as I like to look at it – has to hold the difficult process of two separate personalities simultaneously undergoing extreme environmental and emotional changes”.
Now I have no idea what she was on about, but I also read a bizarre story by a ditched expat wifey, and that basically supports my theory. That said, Clara is supposedly the one with all the professional qualifications and experience, so I am willing to humour her (although we all know that my more direct beingness in the Expaterati trenches, backed up by my six-month counselling training, is way more valuable). So it remains a matter of conjecture, why exactly it’s harder to stay married as an expat than as a not-expat, but the fact is that is just effing is. Trust me.
I am therefore going to impart my expert knowledge on how to achieve expat marital bliss, by addressing seven key issues.
1. The spouse travelling a lot
For many corporate roles, frequent travel and spousal absence is a given. The best way to deal with this, in pursuance of marital bliss, is to see it as a great gift from heaven. When your hub is away, ladies, this is an ideal opportunity to be that young woman you once were at university, but now you have tons of cash to really get out there (which I did at uni anyway, but not everyone did, I am told). Your life is your own once more, especially if you don’t work and you have full-time help. You can knit, if you so choose, or you can go out dancing all day and night with your crew. Whatever you want!
2. If you have a job too
Should you find the time to have a job, you fall into a special category, in that I’m afraid you will be required to work triple-hard at expat marital bliss. You will, of course, have two helpers (lucky you!! I want a second helper so badly!!), but you will also need an executive assistant to book date nights, buy gifts for your husband, order your new season lingerie from Agent Provocateur, and so on. Unfortunately not all EAs in the workplace are amenable to taking on personal chores. I would therefore suggest that you get yourself on oDesk – other online freelance platforms are available – and hire a remote assistant located in the Philippines or India. They’re an absolute steal!
Once you’ve got that covered, you will have more time to address the other, more important issues, such as items 5 and 7 below.
3. The spouse being at home
Far worse than the hus being away is when he comes home. During these trying times, the wife needs to adapt to having another child in the house. Some husbands expect to eat dinner with their wives and families when they’re in town, so it is best to find endurance strategies, rather than wallow in resentment. Wallowing will only cost you more in Botox, and will irreparably damage your chi. So my advice is that when he is home, exploit your daytime freedom as much as you can, and, should you be called upon for wifely duties, use the following mantra:
This is only for today. He will be gone again soon.
Additional chanting, meditation, yoga, and wine are also very helpful to counter the stresses of spousal presence.
4. Going on holiday
Holidays can be a highly anxiety-provoking time for the expat wife, and therefore constitute a major obstacle in achieving marital bliss. My counsel to you is, if at all possible, take the helper with you. Borrow someone else’s too. Take as many helpers as you can.
Unfortunately, Don believes that “family holidays are for the family”, so I’m a little screwed on that front. If you share my horrific predicament, I have three words for you: kids’ club, and babysitting. Go there, babeses. Find hotels with lots of kiddie services. Child-friendly cruises are also an excellent option. If you don’t, you will be overwhelmed with 24/7 irritant-duty, and thusly, the “third presence in the couple”, ie the relationship, will inevitably go down the scheister. Not only will you have an awful holiday, but you may well be metaphorically signing your Decree Absolute.
No helper and no kids’ club? Wave b’bye to your marriage right now, or don’t go on hol. Unless you have no kids, in which case, go you! Have a fantastic trip!!
5. Looking hot
To subsist – nay, thrive – as a member of the Expaterati, it is important to maintain a high standard of self-care (you can check out my complete guide to expat wife beauty and wellbeing here), and this has a dramatic impact on marital bliss. As a wifey, other expat husbands need to be looking at you and thinking, “DAMN, she’s hot!”. If nothing else, you owe that to your husband. You took the vows, baby! So you have to put your a** where your mouth was. Do everything in your power to look as hot as humanely permissible. If you can dream it, you can be it, Ladies!! (I know, I should be a life coach. I just don’t have time! There is way too much pressure these days on women to do it all!)
6. Intimacy and stuff like that
There is an abundance of threat to the sexual relationship of expat couples. Most men have not been vaccinated against yellow fever, and when they encounter – day in, day out – these predatory petite Asian girlies telling them how handsome they are, they really start to believe their own press. As a wifey, there is very little that we can do to change the behaviour of these women, but what we can do is keep our husbands grounded, and withhold sex when necessary. They’ll thank us in the long-run. So remind your hus that he is not all that and a bag of chips. Let him know that you’re there for him despite his rapid physical decline, except when you’re out having fun, or busy reading all the posts on the Real Singapore Expat Wives FB group.
7. Follow your own bliss
As men frequently tell each other, “Happy wife, happy life”. I have heard various interpretations of this phrase, but the one I choose to adopt is that, as wifeys, our main priority is to be happy. We have made the ultimate sacrifice in travelling a bajillion miles away from our friends, families, and often our careers (albeit to awesome places with awesome weather and cheap staff!!), so we thereby earn a free pass to focus on Number One.
So, Ladies, see this time as a beautiful lull between youth and the menopause (and beyond, if there is a beyond), when you can fully self-actualise. Have nail art mani-pedis whenever the urge takes you. Stay on top of the fashion news, and shop accordingly. Do some delightful charity work with the needy. Or get a job. Some of my Expaterati girlies have got themselves jobs recently, and I’m starting to wonder if I should get one myself. I could buy an awesome Hermés briefcase.
There you have it, dear readers: my ground-breaking study on how to achieve expat marital bliss. Follow this advice, and I guarantee that you too will remain a happy, fulfilled expat Mrs for many years to come.
No need to thank me, babeses, but be a love and click one of the share buttons below. All my share counts reset to zero when I upgraded my site, so I’m in need of some bliss myself on that front. I know, right?! Poor moi! First world problems are totes still problems.