Before following your partner abroad…

There are many reasons why following our partner abroad, relocating to another country is beneficial, exciting and positive for us. But sometimes we hesitate for a reason and not only we should always ponder the pros and cons but we should also "trust our gut" when something doesn't feel right.

I have helped many internationals assessing their situation at any stage of their international journey and I have seen families thrive, but I have also seen assignments fail because one or more members of the family felt miserable.

Whenever something goes wrong, partners will blame each other, hold the other one responsible for their own misery or failure and this certainly hasn't a positive impact on their partnership and family!

I want every woman to take the time to ponder about the pros and cons of following their partner abroad.

No matter if it is the first assignment or the 10th: if you have any doubts, you need to fight for your right to say "no", "not now", "not there"...

If someone asks my help with taking the decision of either going or not, I ask many questions. 

If your partner gets a job offer in a country that doesn't feel right for you and your children, your first impulse would probably be "I don't want to go there".

  • What makes you say that it's not right for you? (is it not the right timing, the right mentality, culture, is it not safe?)
  • What makes your partner want to go there if it is not safe for you/ not the right timing for you (or your children) etc.?

These questions usually cause quite some discussions among the partners because they challenge the former agreement they had (hopefully) on starting this international journey. Many couples talk about their goals, expectations and needs before the first assignment, but forget to re-agree on many points later on. Many assume that their partner still agrees on all points raised and discussed years before, but this is not always the case.

We often agree on an international life and then just "go on" with what we decided years ago, but we all change. Our expectations and needs change, and so do our partners'.

When our partner applies for a job abroad, we rarely know in detail what moving there would entail.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • What will change in the new place for me?
  • How will our daily routine look like? Make sure you get insights from other accompanying partners who have lived there recently!
  • What are my rights in the country as a woman?
  • Am I allowed to work, do volunteer work?
  • How independent can I be in that country (cfr. do I need a body guard or are there restricted areas for expats)?
  • Will I be allowed to walk, drive, move freely or will I need to ask for (written) permission every time?
  • What am I allowed to wear in the country?
  • Are there places I am not allowed to visit or enter? Am I ok with possible restrictions concerning this?
  • How will our children go to daycare/school etc.?
  • Will our children be able to move around freely or only in safe areas, with supervision (and body-guards)?
  • How safe is the daycare/school etc.?
  • Do I know what I need to do in case of emergency?
  • Will I be allowed to leave the country with my children without the permission of my husband (in case he is out of country at the moment)?
  • If I am not allowed to leave the country without the permission of my husband: what can I do (now – before moving or when just arrived...) to obtain it anyways?
  • Does The Hague Convention* apply to the country?
  • Will I have direct access to my bank account or will I need my husbands' permission?
  • What about the coverage of my health insurance? Would I get the option to choose a treatment in another country if necessary?
  • Will I get a work permission? When? What do I need to do to get one?
  • If one of our children (or I) feels miserable at some point: would I consider moving back or to another country I lived before? Which one would it be and how easy would it be for me to get there?
  • What if the "worst case" happens: what will happen to me or our children?
  • What are the legal consequences for our children if anything happens to me or my partner in that country?

These are some questions and requests for your partner:

  • How much time would you spend in the country (hrs per week)? (especially for those whose job requires frequent travelling)
  • How will you make sure the children and I are safe/taken care of while you are out of the country?
  • Will my and our childrens' health insurance cover all the services I'm/we're used to or need right now (and maybe more)?
  • If I prefer medical treatments in another country, will you make this possible for me?
  • Can you make sure I get a work permission /permission to do voluntary work in the new country?
  • If I can't get a work permission in the country: what are my options to pursue my career, start a career, obtain a degree etc.?
  • If I or one of our children feels miserable or doesn't get the support I/he/she needs and we have to move to another country, would you agree that I move there with the children until you join us?
  • Would you move to that country if it would mean that I don't feel comfortable living there? 

I know that these questions sound very serious, but it is better to be safe than sorry and I always advise to have a plan B at hand if plan A doesn't work.

The reason why I would strongly advise every couple and family to discuss every aspect of a re–assignment is because I know that if we make assumptions and expect things from happening (or not happening) without having talked about them and made sure our partner knows about our feelings, we might be up to not only expat failure but also marriage or partnership failure. 

We never know what life might throw on our path, but we always have the option to get informed and know the consequences!

If at any stage you don't feel safe or fear for your childrens' safety, get help form your local embassy or a lawyer about what your legal rights and options are.

I recommend to do my Assessment for internationals regularly, especially before a new assignment and you can contact me any time for a 30 mins free consultation about this topic by mailing me at


I wish you and your family all the best! ~ Ute


* Please find more about The Hague Convention in my article "Before moving overseas with children, or when relocation fails"


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