Most of the couples I work with have an international background. Some came to Berlin as a couple or met here as ex-pats and experience “home away from home” with each other. Others come from all over the world and have chosen English as their common language, sometimes struggling with cultural and communication related misconceptions and misunderstandings. The international or ex-pat couples that I see face a set of specific challenges.
They suffer from feeling uprooted, and they miss their family of origin, their friends and their sense of belonging. In times of globalization these feelings seem uncool, and they might not be addressed, but they can undermine a relationship especially if one partner feels more “homesick” than the other.
Differences in willingness to adapt can polarize these couples: “You’re not making an effort!” gets countered with “You don’t feel my loneliness!” A lack of social contacts and missing career opportunities can overwhelm. One partner might feel the pressure to stand in for parents, siblings and old buddies and that’s usually too much weight to carry. Another “difficult” feeling is that of unfairness, when one partner has left his home country for love. The resentment (often not addressed) of having made a huge sacrifice for the relationship can lead to a sort of inner “score keeping” and partners fight hard to determine who’s investing the most in terms of their relationship.
Furthermore, international dual career couples have to try and accommodate the demands of two high powered jobs. When it comes to determine who is willing to compromise more, these couples are often faced with the question whose career matters more.
When international couples seek my advice with the intention to separate, they face huge anxiety with respect to their future relationship with their children. Both partners usually realize that they risk losing all contact with their children. The dynamic of their conflict is determined by the fact that the decision to end the marriage might lead to an end of regular physical contact with their children if one partner moves back home and if „back home“ is 3000 miles away.
My work with these couples is obviously not completely different from how I work with German couples. My professional competence consists in discerning how general pattern of conflicts interact with the specifics of the multi-culti relationship.