What’s Love Got to Do With It? Moving abroad as a Dual Career Couple

This title of a song by Tina Turner, who recently passed away, reminded us of a question we get often asked. It comes up when we are consulting couples about how to stay happily together AND have two careers AND be internationally mobile.

The question about the importance of the emotional relationship between partners in the success of an International Career Couple is relevant. An emotional bond glues partners together. At the same time, love is not enough to ensure the long term success of such a highly complex partnership as a dual career couple that moves to another country. Yet, if the partners manage this complexity consciously, love can be more than a glue that prevents the couple splitting up. It can actually make the couple happier by leveraging the opportunities that an international career couple offers.

Our research identifies three key success factors for International Career Couples:

  • A shared vision that articulates long-term career and mobility goals, and the fulfillment of a life purpose, which may combine career and familial aims.

Take for example John from Australia and Martin from Europe, married with two children. Their vision is that their children should have the same solid family upbringing that both enjoyed in their youth. This implies limited outsourcing of child care and always a parent at home. At the same time, they agreed that neither career should be disadvantaged. Hence, their vision has been to pursue alternating careers, while moving between Australia and Europe.

  • A secure space in the form of a ritual or process for making strategic decisions and calibrating thoughts and feelings on a regular basis.

Take for example Kashaf and Zaroon from South Asia. Married with two children they are now on their second assignment abroad. This couple plans a lot. They have these important discussions while enjoying a cup of chai together at night, when the kids are sleeping.

  • Mutual career development where the partners support each other in developing and coordinating their individual careers and help each other be successful in their respective jobs.

Take for example Antonella and Sergio, a young European couple. Antonella found a job in Denmark. Thanks to Antonella’s help with his job applications, Sergio found employment there as well, when he followed her. Meanwhile, Sergio has become so good at it that Antonella goes to him for support in professional networking.

Now what’s love got to do with it? Having these success factors work for a couple depends on powerful conversations and constructive interaction between the partners. Here is how love boosts these key success factors.

Shared Vision: Partners who have a deep connection based on shared aspirations are more likely to support and understand each other's career and life ambitions. By sharing common values, such as a commitment to personal growth, work-life balance, and mutual support, dual career couples can create a harmonious environment that nurtures their individual and joint endeavours.

Secure Space: Love promotes open and honest communication, mutual respect and tolerance, allowing partners to express their needs, desires, and concerns regarding their individual careers. Honest and compassionate conversations about values, ambitions as well as practical matters put the couple on the road to success. When love is present, partners approach disagreements with empathy and strive to find common ground, strengthening their bond and fostering an environment of cooperation.

Mutual Career Support: Love acts as a powerful source of emotional support. In the face of challenges and setbacks, loving partners provide a stable and nurturing environment. Emotional support involves being there for each other, actively listening, and empathizing with one another's professional struggles and achievements. The understanding and encouragement derived from love enable dual career couples to bounce back from setbacks, maintain motivation, and foster resilience in the face of adversity. When partners genuinely care for each other's professional growth and well-being, they become each other's biggest cheerleaders and allies. They actively seek opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge, and provide guidance. This supportive environment allows each partner to thrive individually while also benefiting from the collective strength of their combined efforts.

So, no, love is not enough. At the same time, it’s fundamental to success, when it is used to fuel the systematic process that an International Career Couple needs to apply for long term success. The successful International Career Couples we have interviewed, all empowered themselves to build a life where personal and professional success go hand in hand. Such empowerment depends on partners who love each other and share the leadership of their couple.

About the Authors:

Dr Paul Vanderbroeck

(Dutch / Swiss)

has a background of managing talent in multinational organisations.

He is an Executive Coach, an accomplished researcher and sought-after speaker on gender balance and leadership development.

Jannie Aasted Skov-Hansen


is a seasoned Human Resource professional, specialized in global people mobility and leadership development.

She is Founder of a community and start-up consultancy, aimed at supporting ICCs in their global careers.

Both authors are themselves each a partner in an ICC as well as parents. Therefore they have first-hand experience of the challenges and opportunities that mark the life of an ICC. They met through a network connection, which underscores one of the book’s main messages: Opportunities arise when you commit to pursuing a long-term vision and short-term goals on a global development path – while remaining open for unexpected turns. They firmly believe that a growth mindset and a supportive network are key for ICC success.

Interested to learn from the success stories of other dual career couples? Get yourself a copy of HERE WE ARE: The International Career Couple Handbook. This practical, no-nonsense book offers powerful ways to guide internationally mobile talent. With in-depth research and substantial HR experience this book argues that the future of global careers requires a holistic strategic perspective on professionals living and working in international trajectories. Applying organisational methods, such as strategic planning, and facilitating meaningful conversations are ways for ICCs to succeed and for organisations to retain them. This handbook is filled with practical tools for each ICC to construct their own map of the future for a long-term successful and loving partnership.

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