Why your husband will never be your girlfriend

Frank Arndt, Managing Partner at Paradigm Family Law discusses the strains put on relationships when families move abroad – and how you should deal with any potential splits

When was the last time you wanted to talk to your husband about the culture shock you felt when you arrived abroad?

I have had clients telling me that they felt lonely and had no one to talk to. Their husband had to work long hours and had to get up speed in his new job. Some told me that they felt that the biggest challenge was the quiet moments, when their husband was away, the kids were in bed, the house was clean and all the bills were paid. That was the time when they felt that their minds could wander into places it should not. Sometimes thinking of all the things which needed to be done in the ‘new world’ was more exhausting than actually doing them.

At the end of a working day, your partner comes home and he wants to relax and not think about the office, and you want to hear every last detail; or you just asked him to fix the wifi connection or help you to set up the Skype account, so that you can talk to your friends and family at home.

You noticed that you became needier than you were at home. You asked yourself: Why is that? Why is it that you sometimes feel invisible in a new place where you don’t know anyone, no one knows you and you are completely dependent on your husband; financially and emotionally. It feels like you are joining the ranks of thousands of other women who have been in similar circumstances and have had their husbands tell them that they were acting irrationally.

He on the other hand has his new challenge in the job, has new colleagues and a new job title. His identity has not disappeared and his career is taking off.

Most of these women tell me how their husbands suggest they go out in the new community and join networks to help. But this struggle to make themselves visible means that having to build some history in the new location. It doesn’t happen overnight and you’ve just mastered the challenge to find the way to the children’s new school without getting lost.

Most of the women feel lousy for the first year after they move. They constantly question if the move has been worth it and you have asked yourself the same question over and over again.

A study shows that in the first year of moving abroad, the majority of expat wives feel that they do not receive the proper recognition and acknowledgement for the part they are playing in the relocation. The man on the other hand feels exactly the opposite – over 80% of the husbands say that their self-esteem increased in the first year of the move.

These two extreme positions can cause significant friction in a relationship and it is the time when financial arguments often start. They are usually over how money will be spent and who’s controlling it. Talking about these subjects creates tension, but also avoiding them altogether creates more tension.

I find that establishing a way to communicate is the only thing that will help you and your partner sail through these stormy and difficult waters. The US based Institute for Equality in Marriage suggests some ways as to how women can become more knowledgeable about the finances.  Sharing the responsibility can be rewarding and make your partnership more balanced and fulfilled. This is why I advise my clients that they should be involved in all financial planning before and during the relocation.

If the spouse does not insist on this, then there is a huge risk. There are cases where the spouse might even be stranded abroad with no financial support at all and the dream of the life abroad becomes a nightmare. As Eleanor Roosevelt says “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.

But what should you do when all goes wrong?

Finance issues are not always the number one reason. The increasing number of clients who tell me that their husband committed adultery is extremely high. Sometimes I hear that their husbands became ‘just plain stupid’ when they become promoted, they start to accept short term assignments away from home or start to travel constantly.

I find that this is especially the case where an employee works and travels with an attractive colleague who isn’t whining all day about the loss of her career, friends or family or. This is the time when you need advice, how to separate without the stress.

Frank says – if you are a woman abroad and want to come home, please consider this first:

  • First and foremost it is essential to be and remain child focused. Your child has a right to have a relationship with both of you; this includes your spouse. It is easy to forget the emotional impact family separation can have on a child. If you have young children then you will be co-parenting with your ex–husband for years to come.
  • Your initial reaction is often to return to your home country to the safety of your family. It is important to note that taking a child from their country of residence without your husband’s consent can constitute child abduction. Many countries, including potentially your own home country, may return abducted children to the place where they have been resident, even just as an expat. Speak to an experience international family lawyer about child abduction issues, safeguards and other arrangements that can be put in place.
  • Divorce can be an incredible tough time in your life and for everybody involved. Surround yourself with friends and family who can help you and support you in this traumatic time. Don’t assume you are alone.

For husbands, if you are separated abroad and your wife wants to relocate home, Frank’s advice is to consider the following:

  • Agree at a very early stage with your spouse that your children’s emotional health is your mutual priority. No matter the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, you will always be the father and your spouse will always be the mother. Keep reaffirming this to yourself and to her and always put your children’s interests first.
  • At the first sign of conflict, there is an increased risk that mothers will simply flee the country rather than risk being subject to local law. This will have a traumatic effect on the whole family and particular the children. It is your responsibility as a father to reduce this trauma. One way is to seek international mediation and resolve the issues through constructive approach and a fair Memorandum of Understanding.
  • The choice of jurisdiction on divorce can lead to dramatic differences in outcome in terms of division of assets and income and pension. Jurisdiction will largely depend on the nationality, domicile and habitual residence of both parties. Take at a very early stage advice from a specialist international family lawyer, with a network of international, experienced lawyers.

Fixed Fees at Paradigm Family Law

At Paradigm Family Law we believe that separating abroad does not need to be stressful. Frank Arndt our International Family Lawyer has experience in all arears of international family law. We have established an international network including international mediators, who can help you.

Frank’s experience can help you to maintain control at all stages until you are safely home with your children or until you reach a resolution with your spouse, and which puts your children first.

Paradigm Family Law also gives you control over what you spend on your legal fees. Having control is about knowing what your fees will be from the outset.

Will you take control over the most important step in your life – do you want to be visible again?

Please contact:

Frank Arndt, Managing Partner at Paradigm Family Law on +44 845 6020422 or

e-mail [email protected]   or visit us on: