Valentine's Day Abroad - 3 Tips to Enhance Intimacy for Expats


Valentine’s Day Abroad- 3 Tips to Enhance Intimacy 

For many of us, especially if we’re far from home, Valentine’s Day, now celebrated almost all over the world with it’s accompanying hype, can bring into question basic issues in our relationships. Does our spouse surprise us with a present, a special meal? Does he or she follow our Valentine’s Day rituals from home? If not, is it just being too busy, or can it signify deeper problems in the relationship?

If you suspect that your relationship can benefit from a boost in the intimacy department, here are some tips to help kick start your relationship and bring some joy back into both of your lives.

Tip #1 – Commitment:
A significant relationship of course benefits from commitment. This commitment should grow with the length of time you’ve been it the relationship. Briefly put, commitment means that you are willing to be in this relationship for the long haul and will do whatever it takes to preserve it. This brings a sense of safety into your relationship, which is essential for true intimacy to flourish.

This is relatively easy when things are going well, but what happens when a crisis occurs? Couples come to see me in all sorts of crises. I have see couples when one spouse has had an affair, been secretly addicted to internet porn, or has had an emotional affair, i.e., a good friend of the opposite sex where there hasn’t been sex, but there is a deep emotional connection, to couples who have just made a major move to another country, where the non-working spouse lacks friends and support, and the working spouse is busy with work 24/7.

A crisis like any of the above can be a real threat to your relationship and can bring up fear and a sense of loss or betrayal. This is when your commitment to staying in the relationship is truly tested. I would suggest that you and your partner talk about commitment and how you can renew it to fit your current life situation. You can get creative and look at some ways to deepen the commitment you already have. And if your commitment begins to wane, it is important to talk about this as well, difficult though it may seem.

Tip #2 – Authenticity:
How much are you and your partner willing to be vulnerable with each other? Work, adjusting to a new culture, or putting a child in a new school bogs down many expat relationships, and there is very little time left for the relationship and being “real” with each other.

I suggest that if this is happening in your significant relationship that you spend some quality time with your spouse, either at a “date night” or just being at home in the evening or on a weekend without kids and work to distract you. You might start by having a rule that says you will not talk about your children, or any “admin” issues during this time.

If it is difficult to talk about what is most on your mind at an emotional level, then pick a topic, like what is the REAL meaning of this life we’re living? Or, what is my purpose here, or anything else that will get you away from the superficialities of life, down to what is most important, even if both parties don’t realize it as such. The willingness to connect on an emotional level is crucial to keeping intimacy alive and fresh.

Tip # 3 – Communication :
This is perhaps the most overused word when talking about relationships. I use it here to mean speaking your truth, and truly listening to your partner without thinking about what you will say next or anything else. What most people want is to feel heard and understood. There is a wonderful exercise you can practice to facilitate this. One partner speaks for 5 minutes about something that really matters to them, and the other partner feeds back to partner #1 what he or she heard the person say. Then partner #1 can correct or add to anything the 2nd partner said. Then switch roles and repeat. If each partner is speaking his or her truth, and feeling truly heard and understood, this is good communication, even if you disagree with one another. And good communication is essential to intimacy with your significant other.

So this Valentine’s Day, look at these 3 areas of your relationship; commitment, authenticity and communication, and engage in a dialogue about them with your partner. It may turn out to be your best Valentine’s Day ever! And if you find that you are at an impasse, which the two of you can’t seem to break through on your own, try and find a good therapist in your host country, or I’ll be happy to meet with you for a complimentary 30 minute Skype session. You can contact me by going to the website below.

Dhyan Summers, MA, LMFT, has been an American Licensed psychotherapist by the states of California and Oregon for 38 years. She is the owner and lead therapist of Expat Counseling and Coaching Services which provides therapy, marriage counseling and coaching to expats worldwide using Skype. She can be reached at and will respond within 24 hours.

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