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Expat Marriage Characteristics

mars ship Dennis Tito, American multimillionnaire, holds the title of world's first space tourist. Where you and I might think twice about a $1,500 trip to Hawaii, he spent $20m to go up in a rocket ship. Call it eccentric, but the trip did produce an idea that's going to create lots of jobs and opportunities: he's now planning to send people on a privately-funded return-trip to Mars in 2018.

Not just any people, a married couple.

501 days in close quarters - with your spouse. Let's take a breath and imagine what that'd be like. Nowhere to go, no doors to slam, no idea how sex would work in zero gravity. Certainly not for everyone, right?

Of course, living in close quarters under strenuous situations with a limited group of people is nothing new. Submarine or oil-rig crews do it all the time, as well as soldiers on assignments. There were eight participants in a 2-year ecological experiment locked away in Arizona, and let's not forget monasteries or various the Big Brother houses.


Deborah Shapiro wrote an article on the subject. Her experience makes her an excellent source of reference: she and her husband spent 270 days alone in the Antarctic on a boat. Severe weather conditions, having to maintain and fix things all the time, lots of time for thoughts to swirl around your head, and only your husband to talk to. Well, and whoever's near enough for radio transmissions, I guess.

Here are her top tips for not killing your spouse, and who would make a good space couple (bolding is mine):

(...) because we relied on each other for survival, murder would be counter-productive.

We figure that a couple who ran a farm a few generations ago would be very likely to have a successful trip to Mars. Why? Because a couple on a farm lived in interdependence, with accepted roles. They lived frugally, entertaining themselves, producing what they needed and repairing their tools that broke. All those traits are necessary for a long space voyage.

Showing tangible signs of caring and of empathy ensures that cabin fever never takes hold.

(...) firstly, remaining sensitive to each other's moods and concerns, never belittling. (...) The second important rule, is that showing care benefits both.

I think all of those tips are valid for couples who go abroad on an expat assignment as well.

  • If it's not in actuality, it may feel like your survival is threatened, creating the same visceral responses in your nervous system.
  • If you're not clear about your changing roles, e.g. when one spouse loses a work permit, anger and resentment are sure to follow.
  • If you don't speak the language, trips to the cinema are out. Reading food labels going shopping are a challenge. Conversing with your kid's teacher or the plumber is frustrating.
  • If you're cooped up inside all day waiting for your spouse to return from work so you have someone to talk to while they just want to sit down and be quiet, it can spell disaster.

A marriage is hard work to maintain under any circumstances, and international assignments add various layers of new potential aggravation you wouldn't have experienced at home. If you don't have any couple-friends who've been abroad together, things like role expectations, daily routine, entertainment, and the sense of self-worth may not come up in the usual conversations.

In our normal daily lives, we have work, friends, family, and hobbies to attend to. When moving abroad, all of that gets disrupted and changed. We turn to the one person who's closest to us, and if we make them responsible for everything that's going wrong in our lives, it will break the relationship.

Here's where Shapiro sees a big difference between her own experience and that of the space couple:

In a space capsule, the couple will have to depend upon a vessel they have not built, and the people working at space control.

If you're not absolutely sure you want to go on the assignment, you'll feel out of control as well. Make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. Because once you're abroad, coming back early is going to be a hassle. I'm not just talking about the cost and expenses, but also the feelings of failure to complete the project, to make your company look good, to disrupt project deadlines and customer relationships.

There are plenty of conversations and tools at your disposal. Know before you go.


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Happy Valentine's Day! Extraverted Feeling Fe

Hello! Thanks for visiting and please enjoy the free info below! 

Just fyi, you can find me over at from now on, where I'm making custom lettering and calligraphy. 

This archive will be discontinued next month. 

Fe doodle
Fe doodle

You'reusing extraverted Feeling or Fe when you're tuning into the people around you. When you're picking up their vibe. When you're validating them, empathizing emotionally, knowing how they feel and what they're going through. When you're creating harmony where there is none.


People with a dominant Fe function cannot not engage, connect, and feel with other people. They are quick to praise and reassure, knowing what to say to make people feel better, and taking care of others.

Expats using Fe to decide on an assignment are likely to take family members feelings into account. Since international relocation is a complex process, it may be challenging to please everybody, which may cause stress. To reduce conflict, dominant Fe may tend to set their own needs lower on the list of priorities. It is helpful here to recognize that every opinion counts, and that taking care of others is easiest when it comes from a place of abundance.

If Fe is in a different positions in your type dynamics, below is an overview pieced together with only a few items taken from Understanding Yourself and Others, An Introduction to the Personality Type Code, by Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi. Let me say this again to be very clear: the description of how Fe can be expressed in the different positions is not exhaustive and only meant to give you an overview. I would love to have you comment below how it shows up for you.

Extraverted Feeling Fe
Extraverted Feeling Fe

If you'd like to practice your Fe skills, observe the people around you. Is anyone looking lost where you could offer to give directions? Can you find valid arguments in opposing points of view and help mediate between e.g. colleagues or friends? Who's been feeling down lately that you could cheer up with some personal attention, listening to their woes, and providing encouraging feedback?

PS: I swear I didn't plan it this way, but having Fe show up on Valentine's... come on! Talk about serendipity. :-) Here's to loving yourself, and the one you're with. xx

hearts and butterfly doodle
hearts and butterfly doodle

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Empathy vs. Experience

A week ago I had a poll online that one of you was kind enough to comment on. The question was, what does a Coach need most, empathy or experience? Turns out, the voter chose experience, and he explained it to me in an email.

In his opinion, empathy is something a Coach needs, but empathy alone is not enough. He didn't want someone to be able to cry with him and feel sorry for his situation, who wasn't able to help him out of it. That, he felt, would be better achieved by someone with experience. I could imagine many of you feel the same way, so here's what I'd like to add:

In order to explain my position, let's start by looking at what empathy and experience mean to me. Wikipedia starts off it's empathy article by saying: "Not to be confused with Pity, Sympathy, or Compassion." Empathy describes the ability to imagine and to feel how someone else feels in a particular situation. For example, in a Coaching situation the client may talk about the relationship to his parents in a matter-of-fact manner. An empathetic coach will listen to the words, possibly have an eye on body-language, and open a channel inside himself to let in all that is spoken in between the lines. He might become aware that his heart is beginning to race, his fists want to clench and his breathing turns shallow.

At this point, the coach is in a position to verify with the client and ask something like "How does this make you feel?" Depending on the client's reaction, he'll see whether he picked up the right vibe or not (in this case: anger). The coach would then ask many questions that the person may not have asked themselves about possibilities how to deal with the situation and improve it under their own steam. It is my belief (and indeed the premiss of the Coaching profession) that everybody has inside themselves all the resources they need to live their lives fully. Imagine a static windmill that needs a little breeze to get its rotators moving again - sometimes people just need a nudge in the direction of where to find their own strength and ability.

Now, just to be clear, while the coach may be experiencing feelings that the client may have been communicating on some level or another, the coach is well aware that those are not his own feelings. They are in a way because they happen inside of him, but the coach is aware of how they were triggered and that they have no real basis in his own life. Therefore, he may take a minute to get his heart-rate down again, but he shouldn't be affected in terms of feeling the anger all the way and letting it cloud his judgment or act out as a consequence of feeling angry. Let me put this in a picture: when you're sitting at the bottom of a well crying your heart out, your Coach will not jump down to be with you. He knows how it feels to be alone and sad down there, but he'll stay up top, because only from there can he point out a way back up to the surface. If he were down there with you, you'd both be stuck.

When I asked what I, a new coach in the field, would need to do to convince the voter to hire me and give me a chance, he answered: simple, tell me more about yourself. Which brings us to the experience part. Having experience and knowing what you're doing is undoubtedly as important in Coaching as it is in any other profession. What makes things more interesting though, is that in Coaching, life experience counts. So in my case, we're talking 32.5 years of relating to friends, colleagues and of course family members from different nations and generations, a couple of long-term relationships that have taught me quite a bit (as well as the marriage that just keeps getting better), a few jobs that were not only work- but interpersonal learning extravagances and of course the five different countries I've lived in and was successfully integrated into.

Besides all that, it is my belief that every person (read: client) is different. Whatever experience I may have made with or whatever lessons I may have learned from Client A, might not help me with Client B, because they're two different people with two different sets of issues and two different sets of resources. However, it is safe to say that the more people you deal with, the more you're able to gauge how they need to be treated - but that's going back to the above empathy.

In an attempt to shed some more light on my educational background and work experience, I've added a link to my profile on You can find the button on the left-hand side, between my blogger profile and the button to subscribe to this blog. If there's anything else you'd like to know, drop me a line.

Til next time!

PS - you won't find a more experienced guy than him... Gerald M. Weinberg, highly successful writer, tremendously experienced consultant and genuinely talented (and nice!) guy has recommended my blog to his readers. If you haven't already, do check out his at