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Spouse Reluctant to Move Overseas for Wife's Mission Work

answered 05:37 PM EST, Thu December 08, 2011
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My wife is a nurse and she has an opportunity to do mission work in Cambodia for a three year run. I am an electrician and general contractor and not sure what I’d do but she says that spouses of primary applicants can generally find meaningful volunteer work once in the mission country. We have two children, ages 8 and 11 who would also be coming, but I guess there is an international school they could attend over there, so it would probably be a good experience.

My wife has always wanted to do something like this and she really believes she is being called to do it. I could probably leave for a few years and pick up OK once we came back, so there is nothing really stopping me from going. But I really don’t want to do it. I feel so selfish and I haven’t really even told my wife this, but I just don’t want to go. I don’t really like foreign food and hot weather and I am hopeless at learning languages and I also feel like I won’t know what to do with myself over there. I am used to being the family bread winner, so it’s also hard for me to take a second fiddle role, I guess.

I know that the organization needs the spouse to be supportive and on board before they’ll sponsor.

I know the right thing to do is to just go for it. Maybe I’ll like it and my wife seems to need to do this and it is truly God’s work. But the other hand is telling me it’s going to be a disaster and that because of the way I feel it’s going to really hurt us as a family. What should I do here?

Stephanie Adams Says...

First, let me say to some degree I can sympathize. I moved my practice from a busy physical office location in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex to completely online practice in order to support my husband's relocation to enroll in medical school. Now, I didn't have to go overseas, so there's a vast difference there, but I tell you that to say I get how hard it is to uproot your life for no other reason than to support your spouse. You will have your selfish moments, and I don't blame you. It's isn't an easy thing to do. I can't tell you what to do (I know, the annoying counselor answer) but I want to tell you some ideas to consider.

First, there's the question of what's driving your lack of desire to move? It could be something like fear of the unknown. They call it "culture shock" for a reason! I've been overseas, and it's an amazing experience but completely reorients your life. That is something you could overcome, if the desire to do it was greater than the fear of the unknown.

But I wonder if that is it. It could also be a quality in the relationship that is lacking right now. It sounds like you care that your wife do something she feels called to do....but if that's it, it's not enough. You have to also believe in her calling and feel the love for her enough that you're ready to lay anything and everything down in your life to make her dreams come true. I'm not blaming you if that's not there right now, but if isn't, there's a reason for that. Your marriage may not be solid enough right now to put it through this kind of strain.

Another aspect to consider is that for 3 years in Cambodia it can't be just her calling. It has to be your calling, too. Even if you're not actively participating in the missions work, in order to do this you would need to feel called to be a part of her calling. I don't sense that from what you're saying. Would you agree? And I do also recognize your statement that it's hard to play "second fiddle." That's not to say, well, you shouldn't support her, but it is to acknowledge that again, both spouses need to feel like they're experiencing their calling, or one will resent the other.

I would suggest taking what I have written here and bringing it to your spouse, (literally or figuratively!) preferably with the support of a licensed counselor or minister. I think it will be dangerous for your relationship and the health of your entire family if you go without feeling more confident about your calling to do so. But I also think it will stir up resentment if your wife feels like you are dismissing her dreams. You two need to sit down and "talk it out" seriously. Most missions boards have experience in this area and may be able to refer you to someone helpful, and as always, if you are Texas residents I will be happy to provide you with online counseling myself. Whatever you do, I think it's good that you're acknowledging these feelings and this situation can be worked out.

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