With My Spouse

Posted on: April 01, 2014 Written by
With My Spouse
Photography by: martinbalo from iStock          

Being a cross-cultural worker overseas is hard. Crazy hard.

Being a cross-cultural worker overseas with your spouse is even harder. Crazy harder.

Just this past week these words were exchanged: “I can’t wait until I don’t have to work with you any more!”

That is hard stuff.

Working with your spouse 24/7, being vulnerable enough to allow them to see you at your worst (which often comes out while serving overseas), learning to balance your work relationship with your marriage relationship, struggling with cross-cultural issues together, and being loving and gracious in the midst of it all, can be quite a challenge. A challenge, I will confess, that my husband and I have yet to master—as if it is a skill that can be perfected, in the first place.

Last night he and I went out on a date, our first one in months. It was taco night at a local restaurant, so what better timing? When we came home we put the kids to bed and then sat on our front porch and spent some much-needed time in prayer together. We prayed for our ministry, for our future, for finances, for our kids, and especially for our marriage.

We talked to God about our marriage prior to coming to Haiti (we thought then that we had it down to perfection). We talked about our struggles here in Haiti with one another. Knowing full well it is the devil’s desire for us not to be united, we prayed to God for protection from the evil temptations to fight, pick at each other’s weaknesses, and pull away from one another. We prayed for God to protect and strengthen our marriage, because we know that the two of us united are stronger than both of us divided.

I share this with you all not to freak you out. Truth be told, our love for each other is growing every day. There are days, however, when life here can be so complex that living in the midst of that with each other sometimes means we do not like each other. My tendency to micromanage everything I touch and my husband’s carefree personality clash pretty much on a daily basis here in Haiti. Nevertheless, that is the hard truth of being a cross-cultural worker with your spouse.

Let me just confess—being a cross-cultural worker is not all rainbows and beautiful adventures. We thought it was when we moved here, but we quickly realized otherwise. Is it life-changing and completely worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears? If you are in the will of God, ABSOLUTELY! However, let this cross-cultural worker be honest for a moment: being a cross-cultural worker is not for the weak marriage. Sometimes it can even rock the strong ones too. Being a cross-cultural worker is for the marriage that is flexible, understanding, and willing to grow at paces and in ways that one could never imagine. Being a cross-cultural worker with your spouse, I have come to learn, could be the best or worst thing you ever do in your marriage. The choice is ultimately up to you.

My husband and I? We are choosing to make our experiences here in Haiti be the best thing that has ever happened to us. This choice, I might add, is something of which we have to wake up and remind ourselves every day. It is a choice that can be easily forgotten or lost in the midst of constant stress. Nevertheless, it is one of the best choices we have ever made.

To those of you who know a cross-cultural worker couple: encourage them. Trust me, they need it.

To those of you who are considering becoming a cross-cultural worker couple: prepare to get to know the best and worst of your spouse. It is not going to be easy. Also, remember that God is over your marriage, so ask Him now to strengthen you as needed.

To those of you who are already serving somewhere together in this big old world we live in: KUDOS. May God grow you and your spouse into a powerful force for His Kingdom.

Being a cross-cultural worker with my husband is hard stuff, but I love it all at the same time. I would not want any other partner here in Haiti. Together, God is making us into better people. We are not perfect and we mess up quite often, but at the end of the day, our love is always stronger.


©2014 Thrive.


Question to consider:  To those of you who are serving abroad with your hubby: how has being a cross-cultural worker made your marriage stronger?

About the author

Jillian is a wife and mama of three living in Cap Haitien, Haiti. She spends her days homeschooling, avoiding the laundry and dirty dishes, and hanging out with a bunch of teenagers at Emmaus House- a transition home for youth aging out of orphanages. Jillian enjoys writing about motherhood, missions, youth in Haiti, and adoption over at her blog. Follow the link below to check out more of Jillian’s stories.

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  • Susan W

    Jillian, Thank you for your transparency and encouragement. I too have experienced this same phenomenon working in the cross-cultural setting with my husband. Unfortunately I wasn’t expecting it and didn’t realize right away what was occurring. We’d worked cross-culturally before and hadn’t had quite the same reactions. Seven years ago we moved overseas just after being thoroughly involved as a couple working closely together helping plant a church. It had been a roller coaster ride as some describe church planting, but we’d weathered the ride together and grown closer through our ministry work. I expected we would do the same in this new cross cultural setting. But it didn’t work that way. Instead it was all those things you mention. I sometimes struggled with the desire to give up or with wondering if I could possibly handle the stress and tension between us even one more day. As I pleaded with our Heavenly Father for wisdom, for help, He began to show me that we were on the front lines of a spiritual battle and we needed to pull together, not apart. In essence, I knew that but hadn’t put those ideas into conscious thought. Once I realized that ‘the accuser of the brethren’ was the one pulling us apart (not my husband trying to make life difficult), with God’s help my attitude began to change. It was reminding myself daily of the choice I needed to make to have a positive attitude, to trust in God for help with the daily stresses, to make a concerted effort to encourage and bless my husband through his challenges instead of becoming frustrated or angry with him, to pray for and with him more, that made the difference. Our particular work is tough. The stress and challenges are huge daily. But God’s grace and love covers it all when we allow Him to draw us together through it all. Thanks again for honestly sharing your heart.

    • Jillian

      “I needed to make to have a positive attitude, to trust in God for help with the daily stresses, to make a concerted effort to encourage and bless my husband through his challenges instead of becoming frustrated or angry with him, to pray for and with him more, that made the difference.” LOVE LOVE LOVE that. Encouraging, blessing, and praying for our spouse is vital! Just the other day my husband and I had a conversation about how we needed to affirm each other more. I believe asking the Lord to give us the time, the words, and the wisdom to know how to affirm each other on the mission field is so important.

  • Tece

    Having worked together with my spouse for 26 years together in Latin America and Europe, i understand completely your article. For me, it was important to understand each others strengths and allow each one to work in them and respect and appreciate the strengths and the person. Definitely takes time and practice!

    • Jillian

      Tece- Yes, learning to work with your spouse takes work AND time AND respecting strengths. Things, I believe, I need to devote myself to more.

  • Ruth

    I am writing to ask for prayers as I am in the pit of it. 25 years of cross-cultural mission work pioneering in remote tribal region. My husband has Ausperger’s syndrome and our child has ADHD – extremely draining for me over the years as I compensate in social relations. Now I am running empty, negative emotions reign. This marriage, family, ministry all take more than what they give me back. Home church does not understand, or care much. My struggles go unnoticed by any. Desperate to get away from it all – do not know where to go. Hanging by a thread – which is God’s Word alone. But for how long….? (If you reply, do not quote me, or be explicit, because my husband reads my mails as we have the same mailbox). Thanks for the prayers!