Trailing spouse

Trailing Spouse Resources

Deciding to move abroad with your partner is an exciting venture. Experiencing a new culture and fresh faces is invigorating and even blissful for the wanderlusts out there. When moving becomes a necessity due to your partner’s job, however, it can add an extra layer of difficulty to the process. If you happen to be the trailing spouse, or are looking for what to expect with your partner as the trailing spouse, we hope to shed some light on the challenges you might face and the options you have available to you.

What is a trailing spouse?

A trailing spouse is someone who follows his or her partner to another city or country due to a work assignment. Trailing spouses are often associated with people involved in expatriate assignments, but it can refer to other work arrangements as well. There is some negativity surrounding the term “trailing spouse”, and due to this, other variations of the term have surfaced, such as: accompanying spouse, STUDS (Spouses Trailing Under Duress Successfully), STARS (Spouses Traveling and Relocating Successfully), etc.

What is it like being a trailing spouse?

Following your significant other to another city or country may excite you, or it may stress you out, depending on where you’re going and where you’re traveling from. A common term when looking up information about trailing spouses is “Trailing Spouse Syndrome”, that describes a partner experiencing stress about the move and possibly becoming depressed due to feeling unfulfilled. Many of the common challenges of being a trailing spouse come down to feeling a lack of direction, which can lead to depression.

Being aware of these challenges before the big move is key to your transition. Let’s go through some of the most common challenges first, and then tackle what you’ll need to do to prepare.

  • Culture shock – This may or may not be a concern for you, depending on how far the move is. If you’re relocating to a new country, it’s important to do your homework and try to familiarize yourself with the customs and the language of the area, if applicable. A best case scenario would be for your working partner to be able to take some time off upon arrival to give the two of you time to acclimate together.
  • Career withdrawal – It isn’t uncommon for a trailing spouse to have to give up their job in order to relocate and support their partner’s career. How you or your partner handles this will depend on where you’re at in your lives. For example, if you were already considering staying home with the kids full time, this might be a non-issue. If you’re a very driven and ambitious person, this might be a harder pill to swallow.
  • Loneliness – How much time do you spend with your spouse in a normal work week? Will this change after the relocation? If your visa requires you to become a dependent and no longer work, you might find yourself with a lot more free time than you’re used to. Consider how this might affect you to make sure you’re prepared for the adjustment.
  • Children – For the families that have children, there will be a few additional things to consider before the move. If your children are younger, they might not fully comprehend why they need to move. It might be difficult for them to leave their friends and the environment they have been used to. Involve the kids in the process of researching their new home town to help get them excited about what’s to come.

Are there any resources for trailing spouses?

Yes! There are plenty of resources and information on the web for you and your family to use to understand how you can plan ahead for your relocation.

  • Aportableidentity.com – This site has a wealth of links, from websites catering to expats and trailing spouses moving to a specific location to authors and speakers with published material on what their experiences as a trailing spouse were.
  • Expatpartnersurvival.com – Clara Wiggins is a writer and a mother who has lived in 11 countries and has a blog about her experiences with her family. She also wrote the book “The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide”.
  • Internationalcitizens.com – Expat resources that include information about living and working abroad.
  • Expatinfodesk.com – Lots of information on moving with a family and/or pets, coming back home, passport information, and more.
  • Transitionsabroad.com – A collection of links to expat networks and resources.

We wish you all the luck as you plan for your move with your family. With some persistent research and preparation, you can look forward to experiencing a new life and exploring new opportunities in this next chapter of your life. If you need any assistance in obtaining vital records before traveling, VitalChek is here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions!

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