Why is it so hard to ask for help?
It can feel like a breath of fresh air to say ‘I need help’ and get the support you need. I want to empower accompanying spouses to feel that sense of relief sooner and more often.
Often as accompanying spouses, we are busy looking after everyone else’s needs, that we neglect our own.
It is common that, after an international move, and while our partner works full-time, we are responsible for much of the relocation administrative burden; perhaps helping kids settle in; and generally being the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of our household.
Another common experience making it difficult to ask for help is that as accompanying spouses we can be so overwhelmed with adjusting to our new home that we are in survival mode, living with tunnel vision to just complete the next task on our To-Do List, and not able to step back, think critically, think about what we want, and realize that we need help.
As accompanying spouses, too often we suffer in silence after an international move, and don’t get the help we need because we don’t seek out the support we need. I want to reduce the barriers of getting support by reducing the barriers of asking for help.
Here are some reasons I’ve heard from my fellow accompanying spouses about why they initially hesitated before asking for help:
“I felt shame that I couldn’t just be like those other ‘normal’ accompanying spouses who seem to have it all figured out.”
“I was scared of being judged by people in my expat community.”
“I kept comparing myself to other accompanying spouses who seemed more successful at adjusting that me.”
“I felt guilty for struggling and I didn’t want to burden my partner with my problems.”
“If I ask for help it means I’m weak and a failure.”
“It would be selfish of me to ask for help and focus on my own needs when I need to support everyone else in my family and help them adjust to our new home.”
“I should just be grateful for the privileged position we are in!”
“It’s just easier to keep doing what I’m doing.”
“My family and friends back home will be so disappointed in me if I admit that my international adventure isn’t going as I expected it would.”
Does this sound familiar? These are all common, valid ways of feeling after a major life event like an international move. But these feelings aren’t going to go away if we ignore them (trust me, oh how I have tried!)
It might feel uncomfortable to ask for help, but do it anyway. It might feel awkward or scary or vulnerable to ask for help, but do it anyway. We put off asking for help until some mythical condition when we feel comfortable and ready to ask for help – well that’s a unicorn that may never appear. Asking for help may always feel a bit uncomfortable for you. But do it anyway because it may be exactly what you need.
What do you want to achieve as an accompanying spouse? What do you want your life to look like 1 year from now? You have power and potential in you that is waiting to bust out. You are worthy of support.
Suffering in silence isn’t going to help you reach that awesome future version of yourself that you know you can be.
Liz Parsons has been an accompanying spouse since 2017, through 2 international relocations. She is a certified coach with 10+ years experience, a Master of Education degree, and the Founder of Comfort Challenge Coaching. Liz helps accompanying spouses and partners feel like themselves again after an international move.