So you've moved to Australia, you've set up a new life together and you've fallen in love all over again…or maybe not. Relocating can be incredibly hard on everyone, but women do seem to struggle more than men and most men just don't get why.
Things have hopefully improved since the 1860's when explorer Richard Burton famously sent a telegram to his wife Isabelle instructing her to “pay, pack and follow”. (Amazingly he sent several of these telegrams over the years, and she always did as she was told!) Now we have SNAGS (Sensitive New Age Guys), who probably try hard to be supportive, but perhaps just don't understand how the needs of women in this area differ to those of men.
Most women are, by nature, nurturing, supportive and communicative. They like to feel part of a tribe or a community, they like to support others as much as they like to be supported themselves and they like to talk about their problems and listen to other people's concerns. When you move to the other side of the world – or even just 50km away – you can't do any of these things for a while and women often feel quite bereft as a result.
Women Like to Talk
For most women a trouble shared is a trouble halved and talking really helps – but who can they talk to? Most women find it hard to ask favours of women they have just met. It takes time to find someone that they can pour their heart out to and they feel their partners already have enough to worry about.
Women don't just like to talk, they need to talk – but men often don't understand the need to just listen. Men are typically very solution-orientated and generally believe every problem needs an answer, but often all women need is a sympathetic hearing. If they can't talk about the problem without the man getting stressed about it, the woman will typically bottle things up and this will make things much worse in the long run.
Add to this the fact that women on average use about 8,000 words a day (excluding gestures) while men only use about 2,000 and it's not hard to see why problems arise. If a woman has been at home all day either alone or with only small children, she has a lot of words to use up before bedtime. Ironically of course her husband has probably already met his quota and is ready for some time behind the newspaper or in front of the television.
Women Like to Feel They ‘Belong'
When a woman moves house, especially to the other side of the world, she leaves behind her close friends, who are her emotional support group, as well as her network of practical supporters like the women she car pools with and who will pick up groceries for her if she is at home with a sick child. These are women who, in all senses, she knows she can rely on and who can rely on her.
It's reassuring and comforting to know that at the end of a hard week you have a relaxing evening with friends to look forward to, friends who you can have fun with and who like and accept you just as you are. Being new is much harder work, the pressure is on to be bright and cheery and upbeat and you often spend time with people you have little in common with, desperately kissing frogs in the hope of finding a new friend.
Women typically need to source new friends and a new support group quite quickly, but men have quite different social needs and unfortunately for their partners, these needs are often met simply by having a partner or a family to come home to and having a group of colleagues at work.
How Can Things Be Made Better?
Partners should recognise that relocating or migrating is often harder for a woman with a family than a woman on her own, as she has the added pressure of looking after everyone else as well as herself. While in her role as nurturer she is happy to do this, who does she lean on when everyone else is leaning on her? The answer is often that she can't lean – so she just falls over. An estimated 50% of international relations fail because the female partner is not happy and initiates a move back home again – even if home, when you left it, wasn't that great.
So what can be done to make things easier and make this (and the next) Valentines Day happier? Many men can learn to be better at just listening, without offering an opinion! Men can let their partner feel that she can lean on you and that you have room on your plate for her problems too. Both parties can help each other to develop new friendships and celebrate your new life here – together.
Patti McCarthy is an expatriate coach who helps take the pain out of relocating.