Monday, March 21, 2011

What about your partner?

One of the most difficult issues a potential expat is going to face is their partner. If your partner doesn't want to go, I can't help you there. That's an issue you're going to have to face for yourself. However, if your partner does want to accompany you, there are a variety of things to think about.

About a decade ago, I was offered a job in Europe and my girlfriend wanted to join me. She wasn't able to and we decided to try a "long distance relationship" rather than keep me from chasing my dreams. It was very hard on both of us and this was one of the reasons why I left Europe at that time (that and the fact that I found myself at the worst technical company I've ever worked at). This is a hard choice to make and many who go the "long distance" route fail. It's hard enough when you're in different cities in the same country. Different cities in different countries is much harder and "Skype dates" aren't the same thing.

café
Parisian cafés are still miserable
if your partner is unhappy.
Photo by Archibald Ballantine
If your partner wants to join you, research the laws in the country in question. Some countries allow unmarried partners to accompany you so long as you can prove an established relationship. This is also often allows a gay partner to join you (of course, more and more countries are allowing gay marriage). What's even nicer is that some countries (the UK being one such example) will allow the partner to take employment and this can make things much easier. You'll need to research your target country to find out if this is allowed and, if so, under what circumstances. In fact, while your work permit will often limit to you to one job or career field, your partner may find they can take any work they desire.

That being said, it's still a difficult decision. If you are both professionals, one of you may be forced to sacrifice career opportunities. Is moving abroad worth it? If your partner is unsure about the move, removing their career opportunities is going to put tremendous pressure on your relationship.

There are, of course, more options. Maybe your partner wants to continue his or her degree?  As I've previously noted, many countries offer free or inexpensive university education and if you're out of the workforce for a couple of years, why not get that Master's degree you've always wanted? As an added bonus, graduating from a particular country's universities sometimes give you legal rights to settle in that country.

Aside from education, there are volunteer opportunities, community activities or clubs one could investigate to enrich your partner's life if they cannot work.