Belize is Hard on Marriages: An Expat’s Point-of-View
Belize is hard on marriages. It is. You might be plotting your move to a new country, partly to rekindle your romance in your “happy place” but let me tell you…that can have pitfalls.
But before I get into it, let me expand this statement and clarify. I am talking about my theory that Belize can be very tough on relationships for those who relocate here. And this seems to be particularly true for expats. (See this post for a definition of what I consider an expat and why I’m even using that outdated term: How to Be A Good Expat in Belize)
And, also, let’s be very clear about one thing before I get started. THIS IS NOT BELIZE’S FAULT! I am not writing this to scare anyone off – moving to Belize can be the best thing in the world. But it’s just something to consider…things to know about before you make your big decision.
My Qualifications to Make this Assessment:
I have lived on Ambergris Caye, Belize for over 15 years now – and I’ve watched countless couples relocate to Belize – from their birth homes of America or Canada and a handful of other countries. They move to Belize because they fell in love with the country and the food and the people and how Belize made them feel. Some move here without visiting ever (shocking but true) – some move here after visiting regularly for 5…10…20 years.
And I’ve seen (Countless – about 15) relationships disintegrate.
And you might be asking yourself: Wait…this writer is not even married…what does she know? Well, dear reader, we have both been tricked. I found out yesterday – during my physical required for my Belize citizenship application – that. surprise, I AM married.
According to Belizean law (and based on the UK’s legal system): Common law unions are: “relationships that are established when a man and a woman who are not legally married to each other and to any other person cohabit together continuously as husband and wife for a period of at least five years.”
I am officially married. The kind where you don’t have a big party and there is no gold ring. 15 years on the island AND married in the eyes of the country of Belize. How much more qualified can I be?
And if you are wondering: Common-law marriages only exist in a handful of US states – in general, marriages require a ceremony in America.
Here are the three reasons I think that Relocating to Belize can be Difficult for Relationships:
Belize Can Magnify Your Potential Issues/Expose the Chinks in Your Armor
This is not a Belize-specific issue. Moving to a town focused on tourism can be fraught with issues. Especially when you are making the transition from Belize-as-vacation to Belize-as-real-life. A transition that, in my experience, takes at least a year – if not 5.
Want to drink a beer or 3 with breakfast? No problem! Want to go out every night of the week for fun cocktails and live music? It’s very doable – in fact, encouraged. You might meet lots of fun, new, young friends when you are out and about. Some might be very interested in pursuing a relationship with you – at 40, 50, 60+.
This, obviously, can be very hard on marriages. Especially when you take into account my next issue.
You Might Not Love Your New Home the Same
Moving to a new country is not for everyone. Some miss their old friends, their old hobbies, their children, grandchildren, and family. Some people miss the ease of shopping or movie theaters or their car or live NFL or big concerts…the list can be long. And there is no shame in being honest with yourself.
It’s just not what you expected.
Yes, many of those things ease over time…sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly but sometimes, never at all.
Many people move to Belize for the “simple life” but as you’ll hear many expats say: Belize may be simple but it’s rarely easy.
And after a year or two year, you might find that you LOVE your new life and your husband is daydreaming about returning to Canada.
It happens. And then some tough decisions need to be made.
You Might be Spending LOTS more Time Together in Your New Home
I’ll keep this one brief because many people learned some of these lessons during COVID. But many expats move to Belize to retire or work at home or start (or buy) a business together.
You might go from spending evenings together and weekends to 24 hours a day. You might have one golf cart instead of 2-cars.
And then add in that you are dealing with learning all sorts of new things – and encountering new problems every day. You no longer have everything available for delivery at a moment’s notice – or an easy-to-find list of available plumbers who can come to your home immediately. No more take-out menus. Or a long list of friends you can call for advice. You might find that it takes 5 trips, many hours of waiting and lots of frustration to open a bank account. It’s a HUGE adjustment.
Your robust support system – the people who get you and share common experiences – suddenly shrinks to ONE. Your partner.
Or you might find, working together for the first time, that you have totally different ideas about management.
As we all know, stressors can turn you inward or get you a bit snippy with your significant other, or both! And add that to spending all day, every day together? Well…you know what can happen.
So there you have it. My point of view on the subject. Not something that should stop you from doing anything, just potential pitfalls and things to watch out for. Just remember some wise person’s advice: Where ever you go, there you are. It’s a quote that often makes people roll their eyes but man is it true. And it always seems like you need that lesson the hard way!
For more info about when I moved, how to move and other Expat information and advice, check out these posts.
Shout out to my friend Rob and Dawn who helped with ideas and really got me thinking about this the other day – before I even learned that I was married!