When Spouses Disagree About Retiring Overseas

What to do if you want to retire overseas but your spouse doesn’t.

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You’re dreaming of starting a new and adventure-filled life in an exotic and exciting retirement haven overseas. But your significant other will have no part of it. This is a tough, though not uncommon situation.

The trouble is, you can't very well pack your better half's suitcase for him or her. You also can’t take your spouse by the hand and lead him or her out the door (as we did with our then 8-year-old daughter when she made it clear, on the eve of our planned departure for Ireland 13 years ago, that she was fully opposed to the whole moving-to-a-new-country thing).

[See 7 Affordable Places to Retire Abroad.]

What can you do? Practically speaking, you have two options. You can leave your spouse. I’m not recommending this, of course. I'm simply stating the obvious. Or you can engineer a compromise.

Start by trying to understand your partner's reluctance. What is it based on? Find out if he or she is apprehensive about having to learn a new language, doesn’t want to be a 12-hour plane ride away from the grandkids, or simply has a general fear of the unknown. Break the proposition down into steps and give your better half a chance to raise and voice any concerns along the way.

If language is an issue, consider places where you wouldn't have to learn a new one, such as Ireland, Belize, or the Bay Islands of Honduras. If not wanting to be too far removed from family is the primary objection, consider destinations an easy plane ride away, such as Panama, Mexico, or Belize. Perhaps the children and grandchildren will want to come visit. It’s certainly cool to have grandparents with a beach house in the tropics.

[See 6 Reasons to Retire Overseas.]

It's easier than ever to stay in touch with whomever and whatever you don't want to leave behind. Friends from North Carolina have recently joined us in Panama. This is their first experience living overseas and it has meant moving away from grandkids and other family they were very close to back home. Their solution? Make sure that doesn't change. They're communicating with their loved ones in the U.S. daily via Skype. Their son has recently begun considering the idea of moving to Panama to join them.

If your spouse's objection to moving to a new country is based on a general, vague fear of the new and the foreign, break things down into small steps. A move doesn't have to be all or nothing and certainly not at first. Start by taking a trip. Treat it as a vacation. Let your spouse choose the destination. Stay as long as he or she is comfortable. The two of you will enjoy a holiday and return home with a few weeks worth of happy memories. More likely, this first small step will lead to a second, bigger one: Perhaps a three-month rental in another destination your significant other finds interesting.

[See The World’s Most Affordable Retirement Haven.]

The key is to address and then to work to reconcile your spouse’s priorities and concerns. Remember that retiring overseas can take a variety of forms. While the thought of selling everything you own and taking off for a foreign country where they speak a different language and you don’t know a soul is intimidating, what about the idea of a month at a time in a safe, sunny place where the folks speak English?

What's so scary about that?

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.