Your Better Half Won’t Budge?

Here’s the second most common reason I’ve heard over the past two-and-a-half decades from people who want to make a move overseas…but who just can’t bring themselves to take the leap:

Reason #2 Not To Retire Overseas: Your significant other wants to stay put.

As I explained yesterday, having kids at home is no reason not to “retire” overseas. Bring them with you.

But a spouse who’s not in favor of the idea? That’s tougher. You can’t very well pack your better half’s suitcase for him (or her), then take him by the hand and lead him out the door (as we did with our then 8-year-old daughter when she made it clear, on the eve of our planned departure for Ireland, that she was fully opposed to the whole moving-to-a-new-country thing).

Years ago, walking down the street in Paris, a colleague remarked, out of the blue, “You and Lief sure are lucky. You both seem to have the same ideas about how you want to live and where you want to spend your time.

“My wife and I are struggling with this,” my friend continued. “I’ve been trying for years to persuade her to move here to Paris. This is where I’d like to spend our retirement. I’ve dreamed of it for decades. But she’ll have no part of it. She doesn’t want to leave the grandchildren. I can’t even get her to agree to spend part of the year here. Do you have any suggestions?” he asked.

We have two Personal Consulting clients who are facing this issue currently. In one case, the wife is 100% committed to being resident in a new country by the end of this calendar year. She has traveled and lived overseas in the past and embraces the opportunity for adventure and discovery. Her husband, on the other hand, doesn’t have a passport and doesn’t seem overly interested in acquiring one.

Our client’s position? I’m going with or without him.

Another client, in this case the husband, wants nothing more than to retire to the beach. He dreams of a view of the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea from his bedroom window and of being able to step directly onto the sand from his back porch. So clear in his mind is the picture of the life he wants that he’s growing more frustrated with the life he’s currently living with every passing day. His wife, though, is still working…and not ready to quit.

His solution? He’s going to identify the seaside paradise of his fantasies, buy the beachfront home he’s longing for, and then visit it as often as possible, dividing his time between his new place and his current one in the States until he and his wife are able to make a permanent move together.

Making a success of a new life overseas requires energy, commitment, and a positive attitude. You don’t want to force someone into it. Neither do you, though, I understand, want to write off your own dreams because your significant other doesn’t share them. And you shouldn’t have to.

Practically speaking, you have two options. You can leave your spouse. (I’m not recommending this, simply stating the obvious.)

Or you can engineer a compromise. Start by trying to understand your partner’s reluctance. What is it based on? Not wanting to have to learn a new language? Not wanting to be a 12-hour plane ride away from the grandkids? A general fear of the unknown?

Break the proposition down into steps and give your better half a chance to raise and voice any concerns along the way. If language is an issue, as it is for many, consider places where you wouldn’t have to learn a new one (Ireland, Belize, or the Bay Islands of Honduras, for example). If not wanting to be too far removed from family is the primary objection, consider destinations an easy plane ride away (for example, Panama, Mexico, or Belize)…or, maybe better, where the children and grandchildren will want to come visit. How cool to have grandparents with a beach house in the tropics?

It’s easier than ever these days to stay in touch with whomever and whatever you don’t want to leave behind. Friends from North Carolina have recently joined us here in Panama. This is their first experience living overseas, and it has meant moving away from grandkids and other family with whom they were very close “back home.”

Their solution? To make sure that doesn’t change. They’re communicating with their small ones back in the States live and daily via Skype…and their son has begun considering the idea of moving down here to join them!

If your spouse’s objection to moving to a new country is based on a general, vague fear of the new and the foreign, again, break things down into steps. Small ones.

This doesn’t have to be all or nothing, certainly not at first. Start by taking a trip. Treat it as a vacation. Let your spouse choose the destination. Stay as long as he (or she) is comfortable.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? You enjoy a holiday and return home with a few weeks worth of happy memories.

More likely, this first small step will lead to a second, bigger one…maybe a three-month rental in another destination your significant other finds interesting.

The key is to address and then to work to reconcile your spouse’s priorities and concerns. And to remember that “retiring overseas” can take lots of forms. While the thought of selling everything you own and taking off for a foreign country where they speak a different language and you know not a soul is intimidating…what about the idea of a month at a time in a safe, sunny place where the folks speak English?

What’s so scary about that?

Good luck.

Kathleen Peddicord

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