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Love on the Move 

Research project

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A study into how expatriate couples respond to the strains of relocation

Relocating to another country, for work or to accompany a loved one, is exciting but can be stressful at times. Love on the Move examined the coping strategies expatriate couples use as they adapt to a new way of life. For an international assignment to succeed both partners need to adjust well to their new country.  A functioning relationship and effective coping strategies are essential.

Do strong couples have better coping strategies?

Research suggests that couples living abroad are more likely to avoid conflict than other couples. So, which dynamics come into play in this situation? To find answers, Love on the Move included a survey based on the internationally validated “Systemic Transactional Model of Dyadic Coping” by Prof. Dr. G. Bodenmann from the University of Zurich.

The model examines the different ways people respond when their partners communicate, verbally or non-verbally, that they are feeling stressed.

Iceberg Model2

It identifies 4 dyadic coping strategies:

  • Delegated – one partner adopts additional tasks in order to relieve the burden of the other.
  • Supportive – one partner helps the other to manage the stressful event.
  • Negative – one partner responds reluctantly, or does not believe that their partner needs support.
  • Common – both partners work together to resolve the stressful situation.

The study also considered culturally different expectations in a relationship, for example, differences in communication styles – direct versus indirect communication – or the extent to which roles tend to be negotiated.

Aims of Love on the Move Through this study, we

  • gained insights into successful stress coping strategies,
  • supported the hypothesis that couples with negative coping strategies are less likely to adjust well to the host country,
  • used the findings of the study to develop appropriate services to support expatriate couples. This includes modules in pre-departure training, coaching, workshops or website articles.

All references to the “Systemic Transactional Model of Dyadic Coping” are based on: Bodenmann, G. et al. (2016). Couples Coping with Stress. New York and Oxfordshire: Routledge.


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