You’ve accepted an international assignment: 4 tips from our Focal Point in Switzerland, Sandrine van den Oudenhoven, on how you can help your spouse or partner feel good with the situation
This is an exciting time in your professional life: new job, new country, maybe even new company.
There are millions of things to think about.
Closing files in your current job, organizing with the moving company,
setting practical details with the new one, planning visits for a new
apartment, booking with the relocation manager, visiting the schools for the
kids, resigning the contract for electricity, phone, insurance, for things you
even had forgotten you had subscribed to, maybe even selling the house or
finding a tenant, meeting new colleagues, new business partners, learning a new
way of working, sometime traveling a lot…
This is without telling about the hundreds of other things you constantly have in mind.
In this overwhelming process, difficult to keep in mind that your partner is experiencing all the same but, and that’s where there’s big difference, without the excitement of making something he or she wanted deeply come to life.
Of course, this has been a joint decision, you have not forced anybody to move to this new place, this was really a family decision: you have discussed it in long and large, together you have made lists, allocated scores to the set criteria, you might even have weight the options according to their importance for the family. The decision was a family decision based on a robust decision process.
You are all extremely happy about the relocation.
Bear with me for one moment, I have a few questions for you:
- In these circumstances, how do you think is it easy for your wife or your husband to share with you this bitter feeling deep down hidden inside?
- Your partner is taking on him/her big part of the tasks related to the relocation. Does the fact he or she is fully supportive necessarily means that it’s not a big thing to grieve for him or her?
- You are a bit stressed because of the new job, this is not the most agreeable feeling but how much do you think that the lack of professional stress is compensating for the loss of the professional identity of your partner?
Of course, you realize all this, you are even extremely grateful to your partner and you do what to help him or her as much as you can, this is exactly why you are reading this article.
Here are my tips:
I meet coachees who tell me that they feel their partners are having a hard time in the new job but do not open up to them, afraid as they are that it will be interpreted as “I regret I took the job and made us come here”. The partners I meet are often sad about this.
Be open about what you experience at work, about your difficulties, your challenges, your successes and your joy: You made the decision to come together, your partner is expecting it to be couple adventure, something he or she can share with you.
Just phrase things are they are: “You know, it feels strange: there’re all these things at work I would like to share with you and I witness myself, not daring to. Maybe I am afraid it will make you feel bad. How do you see that yourself?”
For your partner, it’s important that you acknowledge the difficulty of his/her situation. Simply the fact to acknowledge allow a release of tension. By telling these simple words “You know I realize it is not easy for you and I am extremely grateful you decided we would come despite of the challenge and the hard time we would have to face, especially you. It’s not easy every day at work but I am still glad I am taking this career opportunity and I am really aware that you participated for a large part in having made it possible”.
When coming back home after work, acknowledge again: it’s really simple, just say: “I thought about you today and I was wondering how much you were missing you job/your former life”
These are really easy words to say and they make a huge difference.
Don’t come with solutions…
Not that offering solutions is bad by nature, but in this specific state of mind your partner is now, solutions tend to be perceived as a form of reprobation.
“He/she comes with solutions, as if it should be easy and that’s me making it difficult. He/she doesn’t realize that I feel down and lack the courage to take action…every day he/she’s sending me job offers, this makes me feel even worse”
These are words I hear in my office.
When asking “have you told him/her how it makes you feel?”, the answer is always “I can’t because he/she will take it personally and will feel bad of having pushed for moving here, I do not want that.”.
…but be subtle
You can help, you can be a supportive shoulder but it’s something one does differently than coming with solutions.
Instead of saying “you should network”, say: “Tomorrow I take you out, we go for a drink with the Internations group, I take care of finding a solution for the kids.
Instead of forwarding job ads with the mention “FYI”, print it and take it back home and say:
“I’ve been forwarded that job ad. There’re a few words that made me think about you like -experienced biologist- and -strong interpersonal skills- and then, I was wondering if that’s a role in which you could imagine yourself. Have you ever heard about this group?
Instead of saying “you should investigate career coaching”, say: “The spouse of one of my new colleague has contacted a career coaching company, they are specialized in dual career support. My colleague said that her husband was positively surprised. I wonder what this is about. Have you heard about such thing?”
Keeping these 4 tips in mind will help you help your partner, however do not feel bad if you do not manage to ease his/her mind as much as you would like to. When facing a change, we all go through a roller coaster of emotions and there’s no way to stop the process, the only things you can do is:
1- take good care of yourself and manage your own roller coaster.
2- smoothen the roller coaster of your partner by remaining open and not running away from his/her reality.
The roller coasters will soon or latter slow down and offer new perspectives to both of you.
Sandrine van den Oudenhoven helps dual career couples to make their relocation in Switzerland a project for both. With the job4U2 programs, she is supporting the accompanying partners’ professional integration by sharing her knowledge of the Swiss economic network, of the recruiters’ expectations and custom, but also by deploying her ability to nurture individuals’ motivation and positive energy during this period of major changes.