Here are some samples of the complaints that I hear over and over again (and there are new ones coming out every day):
- “I am trying to convince her that this is the best place to be, but she is so negative!”
- “It is impossible to make it here with him whining about everything!”
- “She keeps saying that changing countries will not change our luck, and so she doesn’t even try!”
- “My husband says that he was happier back home, even with a lower standard of living!”
- “She cries because she misses her mother and sisters, but we have the best opportunities here… she just doesn’t understand!”
It is very rare to find that both members of an immigrant couple are equally excited and committed to this major transformation in their lives; hardly ever are they both enthusiastic about this life-changing experience. The very best case scenario I have witnessed personally has been a determined immigrant with a very supportive spouse.
Yes, I know; theoretically, the spouse is an immigrant, too, but sometimes only physically; the body has immigrated, but the mind and spirit have not come along yet. Moreover, struggle faced while immigration has severe effects on the spouse, who is not willing to migrate. In this context, we will refer to the one who is “into it”, the one that really made a decision, as the “inspired immigrant”; and we will use the term “spouse” to describe the accompanying half of the couple, motivated less by the desire for change than by love, fear or both…
I don’t like labels, but just to facilitate the process of understanding, let’s divide the immigrants’ spouses into four groups. You may find that one of these classifications is related to what you´re experiencing. Hopefully, identifying your situation will help you feel less lonely; you will know that you´re not the only one going through this kind of thing.
- The Antagonistic Spouse
This type of spouse shows no support at all, from day one; they do not believe that moving to another country is the way to a better life, and they will do anything to sabotage the success of the experience. Usually, these individuals are pressured by other members of their family who basically form an opposing team in this matter.
The antagonist might agree to move against their will because they fear losing their partner or even their entire family. I have seen spouses literally fight a psychological battle, not only with their mates but even with their kids. I believe so much in the power of the act of immigrating that I would suggest it to anyone, at any cost, especially if they feel the call to move coming from within them. However, starting this adventure with an antagonistic spouse will make everything much more difficult, so you inspired immigrants better listen up and turn this situation around to your advantage! 😉
PS: In this situation, immigrants are not only fighting the difficulties of adapting to their new cultures, but they are also struggling against the resistance of their spouses… But don’t despair, and stay tuned – we´ll be back with tips on how to deal with this complicated situation.
- The Passive Spouse
Within any couple, there is usually one member who is stronger than the other, who makes more decisions and exerts more control, the dominant member, while the other member accepts the leadership of the first to one degree or another and is more compliant. In relation to immigration, the role of the passive spouse may be taken by either the compliant member of the couple or by the dominant member, depending on the circumstances.
Obviously, the compliant member will agree to immigrate without significant resistance, just to support the other half.
When the passive spouse is the dominant personality in the couple, he/she may agree to move because, being under pressure from the circumstances, there was no alternative to it at that moment. Usually, this spouse is just waiting for the inspired immigrant to fold, to feel weak during some temporary failure, and may then say something like, “I knew it was not a good idea, but I did not want to interfere…” Their support will be there, but it will be minimal, it will be like a presence in the shadows, no matter if they are compliant or dominant in other aspects of the relationship! Don’t expect encouragement or excitement from them!
PS: There may not be any fight with the spouse, but they won´t be there to lift you up and fight on your side when needed (at least, not sincerely); they will be ready to dry your tears and convince you to go back to were you came from, happy to co-sign your failure. Be sure that when you start winning, they will be there beside you, making sure that you recognize the fact that they supported you… and you better recognize it! LOL!
- The Proactive Spouse
The proactive spouse is excited about their partner´s decision to immigrate; even if the inspiration for this idea wasn´t theirs originally, even if they are scared, they see the intention, the enthusiasm of their partner, they see hope in their partner’s eyes and they become the best supporters! They will be there to cheer, to encourage and to inspire their loved ones so much that eventually they will adopt the experience as their own, transforming themselves during the process, in some cases even before their inspired immigrant, and so becoming successful immigrants themselves!
PS: Don’t force your proactive spouse to move if you are not totally committed to transforming yourself and your circumstances; they are your best supporter, but they want to see changes, they feed their enthusiasm off yours! If you immigrate just to get a better job or better health care, but you lose your inspiration in the process, you will lose them as a supporter, and possibly as a companion, too.
- The Jackpot Spouse
This is the rare spouse that is inspired as much as their mate, the inspired immigrant, ready to experience all the challenges, ready to leverage the new environment, to start writing not a new chapter but a new book of life. They´re ready to build a new self-image together, helping, supporting and inspiring each other with the same enthusiasm. In some cases, this spouse shares the same goals and dreams as the inspired immigrant, and in others, they have parallel dreams that have little in common with the objectives of their spouse.
PS: the jackpot spouse is another inspired immigrant: at the same time, she/he will continue to experience immigration independently of what the other immigrant does. The jackpot spouse and the inspired immigrant may inspire each other, but they don’t depend on each other.
Please be aware that a spouse will not necessarily behave in only one specific way and so qualify to be part of one single group all the time! The spouse can move from one group to another according to circumstances, and mainly according to the inspired immigrant´s behavior.
Yes, you, my friend, made the decision, you are responsible for the choice and its results, including your spouse´s behavior as an immigrant, so before complaining about your spouse… well, we´ll get to that, so stay tuned.
If you are the spouse and not the inspired immigrant, then please stay tuned as well, because no matter how much into immigrating you are, the discomfort you are feeling is not your fault, and your actions are perfectly natural. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel guilty for feeling sad and gloomy, or for missing your native country; just understanding why this is happening and what you can do to make a healthy decision, no matter what that may be, will turn things around.