By Joe Johnson, AllAboutChile.com
If you’re reading this, on a site called “Escape From America”, then there are a host of possible reasons you might want to expatriate.
It’s no secret that privacy is failing in the US. Many are concerned that the US is a growing police state. The dollar is losing its dominance and value. FATCA, FEMA camps, Obamacare, ever-increasing taxes, onerous legislation, excessive licensing requirements, etc., are all reasons new record numbers of people are leaving the US every year.
Maybe you’re not worried about most of these, but it’s likely that you could tick at least a couple of them. Regardless of where your spouse is in regard to these, you have good reasons that you’d like to at least explore the potential of Escaping to another country.
You’re not alone – not by a long shot. Folks have been pursuing new opportunities and leaving what they sense as danger, or impositions on their freedoms, for thousands of years.
Regardless of your reasons, if your spouse isn’t on the same page, then it’s tough to do more than just dream. Most aspiring expats go through various levels of desperation in trying to get a reluctant spouse to see eye to eye with them on these things. We can also make all sorts of mistakes in trying to convince them, which can often lead to their own sense of desperation in NOT wanting to go.
It’s usually the men that first recognize that it’s time to go. Why? Not sure. A man naturally feels a need to protect his family. Maybe it’s just a desire to roam. Perhaps the wife needs a greater sense of security. Regardless of the reasons, in our own residency services and consulting services, we see that, with roughly 9 out of 10 couples, it’s the man who wants to go and the woman who’s reluctant. With a few of these they’re both on board. In rare situations, it’s actually the woman who wants to leave and the husband who’s resistant.
Perhaps this is where you find yourself. You’ve approached your spouse numerous times with a list of reasons you should do this. They might even be the best reasons and right on track. But you meet resistance. Perhaps you’ve heard some of the same reasons and excuses:
“My mother would drop dead if we left.”
“My dad would kill you.”
“What about our grandchildren?”
“I don’t want to lose all the work we’ve put into the house.”
“We finally have a good doctor.”
“What about our garden?”
“I don’t want to leave behind my friends.”
“If you really loved me you wouldn’t even ask.”
“But I love our furniture.”
“Do they have toilets there?”
“What will we do for income?”
“Why do we have to pursue your dreams instead of mine?”
Then, if you’re able to answer these, you might get struck with outright refusal:
“Maybe we should just get a divorce and you can go without me.”
“You’re a conspiracy nut.”
“You’re too controlling.”
“It’s always about you.”
If you have a reluctant spouse, then most likely you’ve heard at least one or two of these, or other reasons and excuses that sound very similar.
My wife and I have been here before. I just want to go and do. She, on the other hand, wants a list of 100 boxes ticked before even thinking about it.
I’ve tried dozens of angles. While striving to make a portable income writing, trading and providing other services, I’d shoot ideas at her.
“How about house sitting?”
“We should try a workaway.”
“So you want me to work to pursue your dreams?”
“I could be a groundskeeper.”
“You don’t even keep up with your own lawn.”
“We could teach English.”
“What’s it going to take?”
“I’m just not interested.”
To be fair, my wife and I are wired differently. She’d love to have the nice house, picket fence, two car garage, dog, etc., all nestled in a comfortable town somewhere in Americana.
Me? What’s over the next hill or around the next bend? I want to see it, experience it, taste what it has to offer, meet new people and learn about new cultures. All of these are in addition to the concerns I have regarding the direction the US is headed.
So … what do you do? Well, that’s a tough question, but there are certainly a few things NOT to do.
- Yes, it’s tough, but don’t nag. Nagging just increases resistance and drives a wedge in the relationship. Admittedly, there’s a fine line between informing or asking and nagging. You’ll have to judge that according to your relationship and how your spouse handles things.
- Don’t gang up. If your spouse has friends that might discuss expatriation with him/her in a way that isn’t threatening, that’s one thing. If your spouse feels like you’re getting others to gang up, you’ll find yourself getting further from your goal.
- Don’t manipulate. Again, there can be a fine line between manipulating and informing. It can be tough to discern. Perhaps the best advice is to make sure you have it straight in your own heart first. Are you sharing information for your benefit, or your spouse’s?
Okay, great. So, these are some rather obvious things not to do. But what positive things can we do? How do we persuade our spouse to give it a shot?
- First, identify the reasons your spouse isn’t on board. Are you able to disqualify their reasons in a peaceable and legitimate manner?
- Second, the reasons they give might not be the real reasons. Gently try to read between the lines. There might be underlying fears or areas of discomfort that your spouse isn’t sharing. Is being away from the children or grandchildren just too hard? Maybe it’s really a fear of the unknown?
- Offer insights without pressure. This can be tough. The idea is to openly put information within convenient reach without overwhelming your spouse. Share a detail here and there, without any pressure. Part of doing this is simply to let them know what you’re up to. Be open and honest about it.
- Give your spouse articles, small bits of information, videos and maybe links to shows or movies that might help educate and inform. Again, don’t try to be tricky. Just be transparent. Otherwise, you’ll come across as manipulative.
- Take a vacation with your spouse to the place you want to go. This can be tough too, since they will likely know that at least part of the reason you’re going is because you want to consider moving there. Resist making it a scouting trip though. Make the vacation about them. Another option would be to take a vacation to a similar area to where you want to go, so your spouse can get a taste of the possibilities.
- Lastly, and most importantly, make sure that they know that you love them. Help them to understand that you’re not against them in regard to your desire to expat. If part of your reasoning is to protect them, help them to understand that your goal isn’t to turn their world upside down, but to help them have a brighter and more fulfilling future.
It’s been a slow road for me to get my wife to consider expatriation. I suppose that if I had a lot of money to just throw at making her comfortable, then I could have pulled it off more easily. I’ve seen men do this successfully. We simply aren’t in that situation.
At first I tried to just make her see my reasons. The result? She shut down. Discussion was all but impossible. No matter what I tried, she resisted.
So, I backed off. I started listening and trying to understand her.
Then I’d bring her an idea. I’d try to share with her that I had considered all that she had to say and provide reasons why I thought this idea might work for her. I assured her that I was thinking about us and not just me. I provided a list of reasons I had dismissed certain locations, based on her needs and desires.
Once in a while she’d ask questions later; showing that she was thinking. I’m talking weeks to months, not hours or days. Sometimes I’d over-react and send her too much information, causing another shut-down. Other times I was more patient, and would just give her enough information to help her think it through.
Eventually, I was able to share with her how I had made a list of everything she was concerned about, and had done as much research as I could to make sure her needs were going to be met. Some things, such as proximity to children and grandchildren, can’t necessarily be overcome. Most of the concerns, however, can be taken care of through diligent research for the right circumstances.
Now? She’s open – but still cautious. Rather than saying no, she sees how I’ve done things to make sure she’s taken care of. I’ve investigated options in the country, pursued income there, set up health insurance and studied opportunities and costs.
With this information under her belt, she talks regularly about a possible future in Chile. Now, she’s on board with our extended stay next year in order to solidify our permanent residency.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to convincing a reluctant spouse to give expatriation a shot. There are, however, some universal truths that we need to be aware of. If they perceive that it’s you against them, then they see no security in the options you present. They need to know that the relationship comes first and is central to any other considerations. With this security, and the confidence it brings, solidified, you’re much more likely to see a growing change in perspective and more willingness to consider the possibilities.