Does having the ‘right’ mindset, whatever that is, really change things for us? Can our way of thinking or feeling (aka our mindset) make a tedious job more enjoyable, a mountain hike less sweaty, and an unaccompanied tour more thrilling or even just feasible? My mom moved countries when she was in her forties, she didn’t want to, but she had to because of the war raging in the country she was in. She learned a new language, raised us in a culture she didn’t know and made new friends. When she grumbled, I would tell her, as a not-so-nice teenager, that she needed to change her attitude. As a grown-up (or an aspiring one), I realise it’s not that easy to change how we think or feel when faced with circumstances we don’t like, that are not of our choosing, or that we can’t change.
When things don’t change:
I vividly remember as a teenager once saying to a group of people I was with “This too shall pass” and that hearing that said had encouraged me. One of the young guys looked down at his wheelchair and said “Some things don’t” It was an awkward moment but he was right.
Some things don’t change. I have a degenerative eye condition. That’s not going away. Loved ones have passed away. My husband has a job where it’s hard to draw the line between work and social. I would never ask him to change that. He loves what he does.
So what do we do with things that don’t change, things that push us to adapt, things we wish were different? There aren’t any answers that are easy to do. Change your attitude is often what people say. Total game changer sure but how to do it? We grieve our losses, get angry, accept, work through the process of living with what we can’t change, manage the situation, ask for help, think creatively on how to make it work, and work towards a life that incorporates the new way of being.
You may or may not have chosen to live with a partner who is away a lot from home. Even if you chose it, even if there were many good reasons to go ahead with an unaccompanied posting, you may be faced with challenges you feel are insurmountable.
“Long distance living in split locations can absolutely succeed. Although it may not feel like this at times. This challenge is a struggle but it could also be the cornerstone of a stronger relationship. What you believe about your relationship, can be a great indicator of how things will unfold in the future.” Vivian Chiona tip sheet and HTFA podcast #5
Here are a few resources that can help:
Mindset shifts for Holding the Fort Abroad Parents.
In her HTFA interview (Episode #24), Jennie Linton walks us through a series of common beliefs about the expat life and holding down the fort abroad, and how to process the thoughts and counter them with facts and encouraging truth. Get the cheatsheet! (link in shownotes) https://holding-the-fort-abroad.captivate.fm/episode/24-myths-that-threaten-split-location-marriages-with-jennie-linton
If you feel like reading something longer, learn all about a fixed vs a growth mindset here https://www.amazon.de/-/en/Carol-S-Dweck-ebook/dp/B01M036N60/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1686556787&sr=8-1
Beware the 3Ps
Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B, I transferred her insights on the 3 Ps of facing life hardships to specifically those of life as an expat with a travelling partner.
Have you ever thought…
• “It is my fault, my partner would rather be away, they don’t love me.” That’s Personalisation
• “My partner’s absence effects every area of my life and we can’t be a family.” That’s Pervasiveness
• “My partner will always travel. Nothing will change and things won’t get better.” That’s Permanence
These 3 Ps can creep up in our thinking and distinguishing between what is fact and what is a P can be helpful.
Learn to differentiate between the discomfort of effort and the pain of injury. When you practice listening, you increase competence in persevering through the former and responding with respect and compassion to the latter.” – GINA GREENLEE It’s not about hiding the challenges, it is not about thinking positively to will something into being that is impossible (I’m not going to the moon anytime soon, even if I have the best mindset). If you feel you are at breaking point, get
Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.