Expat life is teamwork

Moving abroad is a true test for any couple. Expat partner Emma Cook and her long term partner Martin passed with flying colours: they got married on the expat trail.


“I definitely consider ours to be a success story but not one without its ups and downs!” says British-born Emma, who moved with her family to Slovenia in 2015, and currently lives in Portugal. “I think that when you go into expat life, everyone has their own unique set of challenges. The expat worker faces the pressures of having a new job, and providing for the family, while the expat partner is confronted with completely different issues. For me, they included the fact that I had walked out of a career I enjoyed, had to set up a new home, and find new friends.

Core unit

We soon realised it was critical to tackle these challenges as a team, instead of each dealing with our own issues. It taught us to really listen and respect each other’s situations, and our relationship became deeper and more intense as a result of it. Back home, I might have gone out for a glass of wine with my best friend to work things through, but that’s impossible when you haven’t got a support network yet. So as an expat couple, you have to be partners, best friends, each other’s sounding board – everything; a little core unit.

Deep understanding

Our relationship evolved in a really positive way. We’d never really planned to get married, but Martin proposed to me during a weekend away in Amsterdam – where we’d first met – with a Slovenian engagement ring, and our wedding took place in Portugal. Each element symbolising part of the journey that we’ve been on as expats. This journey has undoubtedly strengthened our relationship.

Mutual choice

I think that even if you live in the most amazing place in the world, the most important things are love and respect. Otherwise an expatriation won’t work. On top of that, I believe that the decision to go abroad has to be mutual. Because on the days that are really awful – and you’re thinking: What am I doing here, I don’t know anybody, I don’t speak the language – it’s really important to remember that you made that decision for yourself and as a team, and that you can’t blame your partner.”

Photo: Emma and Martin

Related article: Success against the odds – how Emma has maintained a career path while abroad

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