Reinventing Yourself while an Expat Spouse

Reinvent Yourself as an Expat Spouse


If you’re an expat who has moved to a foreign country to be with your employed partner, you have a wonderful opportunity for reinventing yourself while an expat spouse. . Many times, unemployed spouses can feel diminished, as they may have left behind a lucrative and rewarding career. They may face a loss of identity, and this coupled with being in a strange place without the support of friends, family and colleagues can indeed be challenging.

I’m not suggesting that this scenario is an easy one. As a therapist and until recently, an expat of many years, I know how unsettling this can feel. I am suggesting however, that you can reframe the situation into a positive one of reinventing yourself by doing something that you love.

Here are a few strategies to get you started.

Strategy # 1: Make a list of what ignites you passion.

What are some of the things that you most enjoy doing? Make a list and be creative. It need have nothing to do with a job or work. If you like baking or gardening or reading or playing with your dog, write it down. No editing out anything at this point. Like taking a long, hot bath? Write it down. You get the idea.

Strategy # 2: Reflect on how you would like people to think about you?

What would you like others to associate with your name? Now look over your list. Is there anything or several things on the list that you’d like the people you meet to associate with you? It can be totally unrealistic at this point.

One former client told me that when she did this, she thought she’d like to be known as a family portrait photographer. Only problem was that she didn’t own a camera other than her phone, and rarely even took pictures with that. When I asked her what kept her from taking photos with her phone, she said it seemed silly to do it unless she could take really good pictures and she didn’t know how, so for her not taking pictures at all was better than taking “bad” ones.

Strategy #3:  Throw judgment to the wind.

I suggested that she throw all her judgments out the window and just take as many photos on her phone as she could. She did and loved it.   Soon she wanted to know more and enrolled in 2 online courses, got a camera, and today she is known in the expat community where she lives as “the family photographer.”

Strategy #4: Take one small step forward in the direction of your passion.

You don’t even need a goal, you just need to find one thing you love doing and start doing it.  It’s really a matter of jumping in and doing what you love, no matter how silly it seems. If you like to bake, bake, and if it’s more than your family can eat, give the rest away.

Another client who had been a financial manager of a large company, loved organizing and playing with numbers. I suggested that he visit several NGO’s and find one that was a financial mess! He did and volunteered his services. Needless to say, in record time, the organization received a thorough financial overhaul and my client was thrilled.

The most important thing is to do something you love and  do it without judging yourself or the results. In time, you may notice that others are identifying you with what you do, and more importantly, that you are having a ball in the process.

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