Expat couples may not foresee all of the relocation pressures that can affect their relationship. Often the partner who stays at home has the worst culture shock. While the professional’s business network provides some insulation from the full cultural impact, the one staying at home often gets the brunt. Challenges may include learning to get around, acquiring a new language and customs, dealing with contractors or repair personnel, and making school arrangements. And when there is no support group, the resulting lack of structure can seem overwhelming and despairing.
The working partner also has stresses because of culturally based differences in job expectations, the need to engage with local supervisors and staff having a different work ethic, or the need to explain the situation to the home office. He or she may find themselves trying to meet demands from their employer and peers while simultaneously coping with spouses who look to them for support.
When the trailing spouse needs their partner’s support the most, the working partner may not be in a position to provide it. This can lead to discord when unity is needed most. Couples counseling can give a foundation while a support system outside the home is being established.