I barked at my husband this morning.
More than once.
He didn’t do anything. He hadn’t said anything or implied anything. He was just reading his book.
Yet I was angry at him because he was there.
Sometimes as an expat spouse you find yourself in situations you have no control over. Most of the time your spouse has zero control either, but that just shores up the irrational part of my title. You find yourself in a state of confusion and delay and while there are lots of states that are nice to visit (might I suggest Rhode Island, oft overlooked), confusion and delay is not a nice state to spend any time in.
So you blame your spouse.
They get the blame for no other reason than it’s their fault you are here. Or there. Or waiting to decide whether you are here. Or there.
It’s their stupid job, their stupid company, their stupid rules and regulations. If it weren’t for their stupidness you’d be cooking up vast pots of Goya black beans you bought at Target complaining about that guy in your neighborhood who has a Trump sign on their lawn.
But you’re not, because you’re somewhere else. Because of their stupid job.
I don’t know if I ever told you this, but my husband works for the World Heath Organization. You’d think we’d have the best medical care and coverage and insurance ever, right? You think we’d be getting MRIs and biopsies with the vitamins. But nope. We have suck ass health insurance. I get infuriated about it even thought’s not my husband’s fault. But when I get into irrational angry expat wife mode, it’s his fault because…well, we’re here because of his stupid job.
(In irrational angry expat spouse mode, the benefits don’t get a look-see. Irrational, remember?)
A close friend confided that while she and her spouse were deciding between two job offers she was inclined to let her husband make the final decision, not because she didn’t care, but so that she could hold him responsible if it all went wrong.
She didn’t mean it of course, and the decision was made by both of them. But still…
I get it.
His stupid job. Hers. Yours. Whatever. It’s his/her/their fault you are here. Or there. Or somewhere in between.
As an expat spouse you get very little say in the way things work. You might have equal say at your own dinner table, in the ultimate decision that takes your family from country to country, but you get no say in things like what health insurance plan is offered or how the pension scheme is set up or how they deal with moving families.
And sometimes the lack of control over even the little things, let alone the big ones, makes you feel cornered. And since most of us can’t actively lash out at the companies our spouses work for, we lash out at the next best thing.
Expats spouses aren’t the only ones who feel cornered. But those feelings are amplified when your spouse’s regular old stupid job becomes a stupid job in another country.
I’ve talked to expats who were expected to pick up and move within weeks. Can I explain to you the stress of having to pack up a family and move them to another country, to find schools, a place to live, supermarkets, doctors, dentists, hairdressers, babysitters and a liquor store with a good wine selection in a place there’s a good chance you’ve never even been before? A place without cheese doodles, even?
People do it. That doesn’t mean it they don’t want to brain the head of recruitment at their spouse’s company while they’re doing it. (And since they can’t get close enough to the HR guy, their spouse makes a handy understudy)
I’ve talked to expats who have been forced to live in different countries because companies don’t take into account the difficulty or consequences of moving school children mid-year. Or in their last year of high school. Or the fact there may not be openings. Or housing. Why? Because they don’t care or they expect the employee to figure it out, or think throwing money at the problem will fix it. Or they just suck ass.
I haven’t met many (if any) expats who felt their spouse’s employer did anything to help them or their family adjust to the general trauma of moving. In fact, there is a whole cottage industry of companies who, for a fee, will help you settle into your new home, school, country, etc.
(p.s. HR guy, that nice fruit basket doesn’t really cover the trauma of packing up and moving three kids and a dog across continental borders, but thanks, I guess.)
You know what most companies who hire expats do? Suck. Ass.
Like our health insurance.
Come to think of it, most of these things are pretty rational things to get angry about. But not at my spouse.
Irrational angry expat spouse mode isn’t fair and it’s not even productive. But it’s real. And it happens.
Don’t worry too much about my husband. He went back to reading this book. And I still brought him coffee, so he knew it was ok. Only rational angry expat spouse would deny him coffee. And she’s a bitch.