Blazing a Trail-How to Survive Trailing Spouse-dom

Kristi Remick
  • By Kristi Remick
  • April 5th, 2010

My husband likes to use our chalk board to express his appreciation for our experience.

My husband likes to use our chalkboard to express his appreciation of our experience.

Gah, I really hate the term “Trailing Spouse”.  I am not a card carrier for the “I am Woman Hear me Roar” club but this particular term implies so much, while describing so little about who I am and why I chose to become an Expat.  Yes, I chose this lifestyle so there is no use in complaining about it, but in reality there are pretty strong emotions that come with choosing not to work.  In American culture your career is one barometer gauging your success as a person so when that one measurement is taken away it feels sorta weird, almost like you are living in some strange alternate reality or universe.  There are a whole slew of emotions that a Trailing Spouse must reconcile and I have a few tips I would like to share so hopefully you make it through the transition unscathed:

1. Throw Your Guilt into a Frying Pan- Guilt is Mental Ebola which seeps into all of your thoughts and comes out of all of your pores.  Even though my husband and I decided together that I would trail while he worked, I couldn’t help but feel there was an inequity stemming from who contributed what and how.  Imagine your partner is a frying pan, talking to your partner about your guilt is the heat source and your guilt is some really tasty bacon.  I found great comfort in talking to my frying pan which made my guilt sizzle, subsequently allowing us to eat the hell out of it, leaving no trace of the its existence.  When you talk to your working partner, you may find out what I did: You gave up a lot to be here, you do all the other things that contribute to the success of your partnership, your partner appreciates what you have sacrificed and without you, there is no Expat experience.  You add value and even though it can’t be deposited into your UBS account, it is deposited somewhere- in the bank of Expat Success.

2. Get Connected- I found what I missed most about working wasn’t the paycheck, rather the feeling that I was part of something.  Originally I had planned to take a couple months to get acquainted with my new city, get the apartment in order and enjoy my free time.  I quickly learned solitary living wasn’t for me as I found that my very white apartment walls started to feel like a giant straight jacket, I began to speak in tongues and cried hysterically during German narrated nature shows…those animals are so damned cute.  As a result, I started intensive German class a month early. Find a club, a class, volunteer work, something that will enable you to connect with others on a consistent basis and you too will feel like a part of society again.

3. Do That Hobby or Thing you Never had Time for- I realized the other day that somehow I feel busier without a job.  How did I manage this?  I got off my butt and started doing things I have always wanted to do but never had time for.  I love to cook so now I experiment a lot more, I spend tons of time with my doggies, I BLOG, I read other people’s blogs, I meet people for lunch, I just do stuff.  Once you get past the guilt of not earning an income, it frees you up to explore other valuable things life has to offer.

4. Embrace your Inner Expat- I mean, really hug the living poo out of it…every single day.  You and your partner worked hard to get here, but with any opportunity, you can forget how special it is and take it for granted.  Inevitably, your host country doesn’t have that new car smell anymore and life is life again.  It is up to you to remember why you are here and to appreciate what an amazing opportunity it is.  Just look at the picture above for some inspiration.

I was going to list a #5- Get a Job- but I figured this post was about surviving as a Trailing Spouse.  At the end of the day, you are experiencing what people can only dream of, so get used to it and try to love every minute of it.  I assure you that if you try any of the tips mentioned above, you will not only survive but flourish during this experience.

Happy Trails!

When Zurich based Hausfrau Kristi isn’t busy stuffing her face with chocolate, she enjoys writing her own blog From A to Z.

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Great post. You’re so right that the working half of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our support. Nicely said.

Chantal Panozzo
April 8, 2010    Rate Comment

Thanks Chantal. I find comfort in knowing that I have and do contribute to the success of our Expat-dom. It doesn’t always come easy and hopefully it comforts other “trailers”. Someone needs to keep the trail clear so you can get to the endpoint, right?

Comment #2 by Kristi
April 8, 2010    Rate Comment

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