Jan 17, 2018

Making time for your spouse while living as an expat

Being an expat family can present some challenges when it comes to making time for your significant other. We're a double expat family (husband is American, I'm Australian) and so we're faced with some unique circumstances that our coupled up friends back home might not have to deal with. I've got friends at home for instance that live a five minute trip from their folks - which means that they've got willing babysitters lined up at the snap of their fingers. Many of us expats could only dream of being so lucky!

Relationships need nurturing at the best of times - a lot of people use the analogy that a relationship is like a plant, and you need to ensure you're not neglecting it or it's going to wither and die. Sounds dire, but it doesn't have to be! I'm not a relationship expert by any means, but here are some things that allow us to make time for each other when we're living here in Japan without us feeling like two ships passing in the night.

Making time for your spouse while living as an expat photo

1. Accept help!

I should preface this by saying I'm not a natural when it comes to accepting help. I always thought that if I was accepting help, it was akin to saying I couldn't handle a situation myself. But the truth is - people want to help you! We're fortunate enough to have my in laws living in Tokyo right now, so when they're in town and able to look after the kids (or when we make the trip to Tokyo) we try and take advantage of that help. They get one-on-one time with the grandkids, and the husband and I get to go out to dinner or away for a weekend unabated. If you've got kids and you have family not too far away, or they come out to visit you here in Japan, let them help! You'll all feel better for it.

Making time for your spouse while living as an expat photo

From a ryokan stay we took while my in laws watched our daughter (before baby 2 arrived!)

2. Be unconventional about your date nights

Date nights don't have to be expensive restaurants and being dressed to the nines. Really, it's about making time for the other person. A board game and some convenience store wine (or chu-hai!) once the kids are in bed can get you both laughing and connecting...and an added bonus is that it's cheap! Sometimes my husband and I will go and grab some lunch in the middle of the day if his schedule permits it - or even go out for a quick dessert somewhere. Moral of the story is you don't need to make dates something that requires a babysitter, a little black dress and heels. Often our date nights are at home when we're probably wearing clothing that's covered in baby drool.

Making time for your spouse while living as an expat photo

Dessert dates! The best!

3. Do things together that you may not have back home

Yes, grocery shopping hardly sounds like the most romantic way to spend time with your loved one, but it IS a way to spend time together. Plus, if you have young kids, having an extra set of hands to help you wrangle them while you grab all the items you need can literally be about the most loving gesture possible (thanks, honey!)

Making time for your spouse while living as an expat photo

What are your best tips for making time for your spouse/significant other while you're living as expats in Japan?



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!


  • Tomuu

    on Jan 17

    I like your point about accepting help. I don't have kids or anything but as far as I can see via my partner (Japanese) and her friends who do have kids, and just observations of Japanese society as a whole, it seems like, with Japanese parents, they seem reluctant to accept help. I mean, in England, where I'm from, it's common practice (and expected really) that mum and dad will call on family / friends every now and then to look after the kids so they can go out to dinner etc. Again, I'm mostly getting this from my partner, but it seems like this seldom happens with Japanese parents, making the responsibility that comes with having kids even heavier than it already is. Just wondering if you've had any sense of this in Japan?

  • genkidesu

    on Jan 17

    @Tomuu that’s an interesting observation! I feel like I’ve had friends from all over (Aus/US/Japan) where parents and in laws have either wanted to help with their kids or were indifferent to providing help — so I guess it depends maybe on the individuals more so than the culture. One thing I do wonder though about help and the difficulty in accepting it is whether it’s a generational thing. I think these days mothers in particular are seen as needing to have it all together - you’re meant to be the primary caregiver for your kids while still holding down some kind of career, keeping your house in order, cooking gourmet, nutritionally balanced meals and having a social life as well...and I think there’s a lot of pressure on people these days to maintain that “I’m fine! I don’t need help - I’ve got this!” mentality. Definitely makes me think about it a lot more!

  • helloalissa

    on Jan 22

    You two are super cute. We love board games too - we play Scrabble almost every weekend. It's all about the free dates, even just exploring around town.

  • genkidesu

    on Jan 23

    @helloalissa yes! I totally agree - we love finding things to do in our local area too and if they're free/cheap that makes it even better!