The modern world is changing: will expat life adapt?

On this blog I have tried to cover as many different “types” of expat partners as possible – male trailing spouses, same-sex partners, partners who work, partners who don’t…but the other day, reading a post in an expat Facebook group, I came across a new one to me: someone with TWO partners.

Apparently called polyamory, this is a consensual relationship between more than two people (here’s is Wikipedia’s explanation if you want more detail). Not a casual threesome, I understand that polyamory is considered by those who practise it be an important part of their identity – similar to being heterosexual or homosexual. In other words, it isn’t something you chose, it is something you are.

The woman in the Facebook post was trying to work out where the best place she and her two partners could move to. The problem was going to be, of course, that they were going to need more than one partner visa. And I am sure that in many parts of the world this really would be a big problem.


I’m not sure what the outcome for this woman and her partners was but it struck me that with ever-changing attitudes towards things like relationships, careers, sexuality, gender and more, there was going to be a continual need for flexibility towards many types of  expats as they try and negotiate their way around the world. Sadly of course, attitudes to many of these newly recognised identities are not flexible at all in much of the world – making it very stressful for some expats who may be limited in their choices.

It’s not just about gender and sexuality though. Families are changing too – and the way families live. It is becoming more and more common for partners and their children not to accompany the worker when they are sent abroad, sometimes for reasons of security, sometimes schooling, sometimes career or sometimes just because it’s easier all round this way.

But are our posting organisations doing enough to keep up with these changes? Some decisions are of course are out of their hands – it’s not up to them whether they issue two partner visas or allow same-sex marriages to be recognised. But there is much they can be doing: welcoming everyone whatever their gender, identity or family situation; helping with things like supporting partners who stay at home; making sure people have the right information for their situation; setting up buddy systems; listening to what people’s needs actually are.

I have limited knowledge of the corporate world when it comes to expat life as have amost exclusively been overseas as part of a government organisation. From my point of view I think they could do a lot more in certain areas but realise they are constrained by lack of funds. However I would be really interested to hear what others think – what future challenges will expats be facing that perhaps we haven’t really acknowledged yet? Are current challenges being addressed? What more could be done?

Picture credit: Keoni Cabral

8 thoughts on “The modern world is changing: will expat life adapt?

  1. I’ve never considered what it must be like for people with this lifestyle. I imagine that the Middle East is out of the question (I’m moving there next)! I wonder where they will end up?

    I don’t think international schools do enough to support different family situations. For example, one of my international teacher friends is an only child and her mother is a widow; ideally she would love it if her mother could come with her. So far she has not found a school that would support this situation. 😦

    -Amanda at


  2. Interesting points. A same sex couple just moved to the a UK as part of our program, which means things are changing. But an unmarried heterosexual couple who had been together for 20 years weren’t sponsored by the company for a dependent visa which was disappointing. I think it depends on how much you ask of your employer, and hopefully they’re willing to move forward.


  3. I actually had a friend in Barcelona who was in a relationship with a man and a woman, all lived together. Never got to meet them, but heard a lot about them. And each was from a different country, so all expats as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am thinking of taking DD and moving back to Europe, working on contracts there. She is terrified I am going to get deported while she’s at school – I’ve got the right to PR but refuse to go through the 85 page rigmarole. Husband will stay in the UK and commute to us every few weeks. New Brexit reality.

    Liked by 1 person

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