How to survive your expat marriage in Indonesia

I find that being an expat couple introduces an entire range of complexities into our marriage. The lifestyle encourages certain issues that are quite unique to this situation and the positive aspects can quickly become detrimental…

Expat marriage crisis no.1: The honeymoon stage is over
My enjoyment and excitement for being a happy, unemployed expat housewife quickly died when I realised that managing all household duties for our family was extremely difficult and boring! Although back at home I was completely happy to cook and clean while working, doing it full time was entirely different. I found that becoming the ‘Trailing Spouse” placed an unspoken pressure on me to lift my game in order to compensate for all of my free time. Starting over in a new country in this new role, I had a difficult time dealing with my loss of independence and self-image. Slowly over time, I started to resent my husband for putting me in this situation and felt like he had the easier role of going to work each day. At the same time, my husband was dealing with his own challenges too. He felt the immense pressure of being the sole income earner for our family and felt alone in carrying the financial burden.

How to survive this?
My husband and I have come to realise that this is not a competition and we each have our own struggles to deal with. We have joined teams and are committed to our roles. We are in a partnership on this expat gig and neither of us could do what we do without the other’s support. This scenario has allowed me to stay at home with my children, which is what I have always wanted, while they are young. I am embracing this season with all of my passion and I am going to be the best expat housewife I can be!

Expat marriage crisis no.2: Household help issues
I was so naïve to think that all of my expat problems would go away once I got my own maid and nanny to help out with my daily life…ha! Introducing these critical members into our household has actually caused more fights in our marriage! Mainly, we disagree on how many staff members to have (live in or live out?), what I expect from them, versus my husband’s expectations. To issues of payment, time off and daily interactions.

How to survive this?
We have figured something out…the main reason for this tension was that men and women think and operate entirely differently to each other! I get very emotional and involved when it comes to issues with our household help. My husband on the other hand is more detached and pragmatic. To resolve this, I stopped managing our household help! I continued to engage with them on a daily basis, working with them on their tasks. All of the management responsibilities such as their contracts and payments were handed over to my husband. This drastically improved the situation. By removing myself from the financial side of things, I was able to focus on the output of work only. I stopped taking things so personally and stopped complaining about them to my husband. In the bigger scheme of things, these issues really weren’t that important and I am so blessed to have this additional help.

Expat marriage crisis no.3: Finding the right balance
Once in household help utopia, I found that having sufficient help can actually lead to further issues associated with the new sense of freedom! Since I had a nanny to help me take care of our children, my husband could focus more on his work, which meant that his working hours increased. Although I no longer required my husband’s presence operationally, I still needed him emotionally and physically. My children still needed a father to be a part of their
daily lives.

How to survive this?
This was a difficult one to resolve. I felt guilty in asking for help from my husband because after all, I had sufficient household help. Eventually I spoke up and asked. I asked him to stay with me and to simply be with us. With things running so well around the house, my husband also sometimes felt redundant and distant. We both know that we are not replaceable by staff and parental responsibilities cannot be outsourced. So we have cut down on household help and feel that we have reached the right balance for
our family.

The expat lifestyle sometimes feels like a constant vacation where each day is a new and exciting adventure. It’s important however that you both prioritise and make each other the most important person in your life. Communication and sticking together is the key in making this journey positive for your entire family. It’s been a long learning curve for me but with each challenge, I feel more connected with my husband and look forward to more exciting adventures together.

This article was originally published on Expat Indonesia magazine. Follow the link to visit the article online at Indonesia Expat

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