There is a wonderful quote from Esther Perel, a Belgian psychotherapist and author which is particularly pertinent to those of us living as expats.
Esther Perel said “Today we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?’”
In many ways, this quote sums up a lot of the couples work that I encounter – this turning to one person for all of our wants, our needs, our wishes, our hopes, our dreams and our life. This notion that one person could, can and ought to supply all our emotional needs is what so often leads to ‘good’ relationships crumbling. I often have the sense that many couples would flourish more smoothly if they were planted in or near their familiar roots – that is, surrounded by their extended families, friendship groups, and other familiar people who have known them over time.
This, of course, would bring accountability for connectedness, for personal boundaries and our own expectations for predictable behaviours. It is when we lose this familiar base of personal accountability that the test of our own unpredictable behaviour arrives. If nobody knows us, then we have no one watching to help us keep a check on our reactions and behaviours.
For many young expats, this journey of self-accountability can just be passed on to our new partner and by believing that they are responsible for all our wants, hopes and needs we can then blame them for our relationship failure.
It takes a village to raise a relationship too! I believe it’s really important to feed, nourish and nurture varieties of relationships, not just our couple relationship. There is great strength in diversity and different age groups and in the recognition of others watching our world with us.