A spouse who's not in favor of discovering what life might be like somewhere else can be a deal-breaker for the idea altogether. You can't very well pack your better half's suitcase for him (or her), take him by the hand, and lead him 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 years ago, that she was not on board with the whole moving-to-a-new-country thing).
No, a significant other who insists he wants to stay put is a way bigger challenge than a child who's opposed to a move.
Years ago, walking down the street in Paris, a colleague remarked, out of the blue, "You and your husband sure are lucky. You both seem to have the same ideas about how you want to live and where you want to spend your time.
"My wife and I are struggling with this," my associate continued. "I've been trying for years to persuade her to move here, to Paris. This is where I'd like to spend our retirement. I've dreamed of it for decades. But she'll have no part of it. She doesn't want to leave the grandchildren. I can't even get her to agree to spend part of the year here. Do you have any suggestions?" he asked.
Over the years, many others have asked me the same question. In one case I remember, the wife was 100% committed to moving. She had traveled and lived overseas in the past and embraced the opportunity for adventure and discovery. Her husband, on the other hand, didn't have a passport and wasn't interested in acquiring one.
The wife's position? "I'm going with or without him," she told me.
I remember another reader, years ago, who wanted nothing more than to retire to the beach. He dreamed of a view of the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea from his bedroom window and of being able to step directly onto the sand from his back porch. So clear in his mind was the picture of the life he wanted that he grew more frustrated with the life he was living with every passing day. His wife, though, was still working... and not ready to quit.
His solution? He decided to identify the seaside paradise of his fantasies, buy the beachfront home he longed for, and then visit it as often as possible, dividing his time between his new place and his old one in the States, until he and his wife were able to make a permanent move together.
Making a success of a new life overseas requires energy, commitment, and a positive attitude. You don't want to force someone into it. Neither do you, though, I understand, want to write off your own dreams because your significant other doesn't share them. And you shouldn't have to.
Practically speaking, you have two options. You can leave your spouse. (I'm not making a recommendation, simply stating the obvious.)
Or you can engineer a compromise. Start by trying to understand your partner's reluctance. What is it based on? Not wanting to have to learn a new language? Not wanting to be a 12-hour plane ride away from the grandkids? Or maybe it's 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, as it is for many, consider places where you wouldn't have to learn a new one (Ireland, Belize, or the Bay Islands of Honduras, for example). If not wanting to be too far removed from family is the primary objection, consider destinations an easy plane ride away (Panama, Mexico, or Belize)... or, maybe better, where the children and grandchildren will want to come visit. How cool to have grandparents with a beach house in the tropics?
It's easier than ever these days to stay in touch with whomever and whatever you don't want to leave behind. Friends from North Carolina have recently joined us here in Panama. This is their first experience living overseas, and it has meant moving away from grandkids and other family with whom they were very close "back home."
Their solution? To make sure that doesn't change. They're communicating with their small ones back in the States live and daily via Skype...and their son has begun considering the idea of moving down here 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, again, break things down into small steps. This doesn't have to be all or nothing, 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.
What's the worst thing that could happen? You 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... maybe a three-month rental in another destination your significant other finds interesting.
The key is to address and then to work to reconcile your spouse's priorities and concerns. And to remember that "retiring overseas" can take lots 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 know not 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?