Why An Expat Women Can Have A Lot More To Lose

I made a video series last year called “What did I have to lose?” The focus was on expat women and what they’d given up in their travels. The idea was that it could be both positive or negative. While some women talked about losing a career or having to leave family, other women talked about losing a few of their fears. The fear of speaking English, the fear of walking into a room full of strangers, the fear of leaving familiarity and family – expat life had given them the confidence they’d otherwise lacked. Even though this was the case a few readers thought the name wasn’t appropriate, that an expat life was all about gaining not losing. After thinking about it for awhile I changed the name, it become Here and There, a play on the fact that expats tend to live both here and there; while we’re living here we’re often thinking of there and visa versa.

As much as I’m happy with Here and There as a title I don’t think we should forget to be honest with ourselves about loss. There is much to gain in this expat life, we get to fill our lives with new friends, new food, new cultures and generally new experiences – but what about when it goes a little pear shaped. What happens when things don’t run as smoothly as you hoped. What happens when you’re living far from home struggling with a new language and a sick child in hospital. How do you deal with depression, a cancer diagnosis or a family member who needs you. What happens if one day you look at your partner and realise you have fallen out of love, that you’re two different people and that not only do you not love him but he doesn’t love you.

A girlfriend of mine has been through just that.

I feel at this point to prevent the sideways glances and possible knocks at the door that come after a post that I need to point out that this is not on my street, not at my children’s school, nor in this city. This is a story from my expat world. I received a note this morning from a friend who fell out of love. Her husband took the news badly, he was bitter, angry, and keen to meet someone else very quickly. Their split has been anything from amicable. She met someone else, he met someone else. They were both living and working in the Middle East so their divorce proceedings took place in the local court. The main point of contention their children. It has all gone terribly (for her), if there is anything to make you rethink every photo you’ve posted, every conversation you’ve had via text, and every time someone could see you as a bad parent – this is the time. Ever had a drink on Christmas Eve? Demolish all evidence now.

The note from my friend this morning:

Kirsty, you ask women what did they have to lose? Here’s mine. I have received my divorce. I have lost custody and sponsorship. I have been refused access to my savings, and alimony. I don’t know what my future holds here. I feel like the worst mum and person in the world, just for falling out of love. What kind of mother loses her children?

For those who are unaware losing sponsorship means losing the ability to work.

I asked her for advice for readers. Number one was if you felt you were in the same position try to go home. Get your children home. Get back on level grounds with your partner and if the marriage isn’t working you can leave knowing you’re in a country where you understand the law, speak the language, and I guess depending on where you come from stand on an equal footing with your partner.

I have a favour to ask. My girlfriend is looking for all the kind thoughts possible at this point. She will appeal but right now things are not looking good.

I know that for the majority of our expat time life can be fabulous. I speak about living the fat life, making the most of it and remembering it’s an adventure to be enjoyed not a journey to be endured. That’s the case most of the time, but we also need to acknowledge that sometimes things can turn pear shaped. None of us truly know what’s going on in someone else’s marriage unless we’re living it. We cannot judge, but we can support.

I’m asking today if you can show a sign of solidarity. Let my friend know that you’re thinking of her. You can leave her a little message in the comments.

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