To be clear from the start – this post is about me.
Oh, and thousands of other expat partners around the world, male and female.
Because let’s face it, the chance of both people getting a well-paying job is nigh impossible in many expat locations. Most countries have visa conditions that restrict employment and business opportunities for the accompanying partner, often for the very sound reason of protecting opportunities for their local workforce.
However, if you are used to financially contributing to the partnership, this can hurt.
I know. Moving my business a few years ago from in-person coaching in Australia, to online coaching worldwide, caused a considerable decline in my personal income.
I haven’t handled it well, despite my husband frequently assuring me the income he earns is family income.
When I’m asked ‘so what did you get up to today’, I often leap to my defence, feeling the need to prove my usefulness. If he says ‘we don’t need to buy that surely’, I assume he’s saying he’s earning the money, so he’s also in charge of how we spend it. If he quips ‘it must be nice having lunch with your girlfriends’, I may well get grumpy because firstly, he’s also eaten out that day with mates, and secondly, meeting with friends is essential for creating new social circles and gathering information, both of which the entire family will benefit from.
However, I’m slowly coming to the (quite obvious) realisation that earning an income is just one form of value exchange.
Just one way of contributing to the partnership.
There are many others, and, like me, you’ve quite likely mastered lots of them already!
12 Ways to Recognise Your Contributions as ‘The Expat Partner’
- For a week, list each thing you do to keep the household running smoothly, such as buy the groceries, prepare meals, keep in contact with family back ‘home’, search for that elusive but necessary item – like a door wedge so the front door doesn’t slam, pay the bills, help the kids with their homework, ….. There’s a full time job already – and a vital one at that. Could your partner really add these tasks to their workload and still be effective in their role?
- In this different environment have you chosen to get fit, or go to bed earlier, or eat more healthily, or up your water intake? Not only is this a great investment in your health now and into the future, the ripple effect of better looking after yourself will also benefit those around you.
- Is what you are doing in this location beneficial for others and fulfilling for you, even if not paid well, or at all? Gosh, even if you are employing a local house cleaner or gardener, you are adding value to their lives and your own.
- If you’re studying or training toward a new career that is more in line with your current interests, or expanding your current skills and knowledge, you’re also investing in your future – financially and mentally.
- By providing a listening ear for your partner, you are gifting them the opportunity to be even better at their role and more likely to receive further employment, promotion or pay rise.
- Now that you are in a different environment, might you be spending less on work clothes, transport, takeaway meals and stress relieving vacations? Financial contribution in reverse, really.
- By being less tied to a full working week, are you more flexible and able to enjoy unexpected opportunities for you and/or your partner when they come your way?
- By working as a team for your partner’s employment, are the next few years more predictable and certain?
- If you have children, are you saving on child care costs by being more available for them yourself – not to mention the immense value of being able to enjoy more time with them, whatever their age?
- Might your partner’s salary be higher, or enjoy tax advantages, compared to a similar role in your home country, offsetting the loss of your income?
- By being more available for your partner than if you were both working intense roles, your relationship may be stronger, more intimate and better able to cope with future challenges.
- By being removed from the rat race of adult life in the one location, you have the opportunity for new perspective as to how to prioritise your time as a family.
According to Tony Robbins, life and business strategist extraordinaire, there are six human needs, all of which must be given attention to feel fulfilled – certainty, variety, significance, connection/love, growth and – of course – contribution.
How interesting that by contributing in the various ways listed above, all your six human needs are satisfied, as well as for those around you!
It just takes a change of focus. Money is just one way of contributing. As an expat partner, you are offering many others.
You and your partner are a team, bringing different things ‘to the table’ in your expat location. Your contributions just as important as your partner’s.
There, I may just have convinced myself too!
What other ways of contributing have you become aware of? I’d love your insights, please comment below.