Convince Your Spouse to Move Abroad

I’ve gone abroad alone and I’ve gone abroad with my husband. In some ways, it’s great to go abroad with a significant other – but going abroad alone can also be simpler. Any sort of major life decision is more complicated when you have to consult someone else and take their needs into account, and in this post I’d like to talk about how to get your partner on board with your plans for relocation.

My husband and I met in Portland, where both of us grew up. I had just graduated from college, and I was planning on staying in town for no more than one year – after recharging at home for a year, I planned to move to Rwanda.

My now-husband knew about these plans before we started dating, but it was an elephant in the room for the first month or two. Than we started planning a month-long vacation to Spain. Once we came home from our month in Spain, we made the decision to move there, together, at the end of the summer.

Since spending two years in Spain, we’ve spent a year together in France and 5 months together in China. I’ve met other country-hopping couples, but I’ve also met global nomads who have left their significant others behind – a situation that often leads to a break-up. If you’re in a relationship that is important to you, how can you make sure you are in that first category?


There are some people who are completely uninterested in living abroad. I even have friends who couldn’t fathom why I would be so excited about going abroad. If your significant other is one of those people and you desperately want to live in a hut in rural Congo for the next five years, you’ll probably have to choose between the spouse and the hut.

But those are extremes. Most people I know could be convinced to move to Paris or Buenos Aires or Rome, but living abroad just isn’t their top priority. Maybe their career is really important, maybe they have financial concerns. Perhaps right now won’t work, because he or she needs to take care of a family member.

If your significant other seems hesitant about your master plan for living abroad, talk with him or her about how he or she could continue to work towards the things that are important to him or her, but from abroad. This might mean compromise on where you go, it might just mean better planning and research.

My husband is an artist, and he loves European art. He wouldn’t even consider spending time in Africa, but as long as he could be in a city with a major art museum, he could continue working on his art and feel like he was advancing his career. So I gave up on moving to Rwanda, and we went to Spain. Years later, when I was convincing him to go to China, we agreed that after China our next long trip would be to Italy, which interests him but not me.

My experience with a long-term relationship is that success is all about compromise, and that is certainly the case when it comes to moving abroad together.

What’s in it for me (and you)

How do you get to a compromise? Make sure there’s something in it for both of you. If one spouse gets a job offer abroad, you shouldn’t just blindly move. Make sure the other person has something to look forward to as well.

Sometimes people need a little help figuring out what is in it for them, and if your significant other is having trouble figuring out what that might be, you should help out. You don’t want to go somewhere if one person doesn’t see anything in it for him or her. That’s how people end up becoming resentful and ultimately ending their relationships.

Staying together, apart

You can always move abroad without your significant other and make it work as a long-distance relationship. My husband and I have never done this, but I’ve known people who have made it work. Usually, though, it only works if you’ll be abroad for a very specific amount of time (that isn’t too long) and it’s best if you’re able to visit each other. On the one hand, you can have some of the advantages of being single when you’re abroad – you can live with a roommate, you don’t have to worry about putting a spouse who doesn’t speak the language as well as you in an awkward situation. On the other hand, you can end up spending a lot of time on Skype and not really taking advantage of being abroad!

What are your thoughts on going abroad with your significant other?