What is a Trailing spouse? And Marriage
This topic has been covered abundantly by expats far and wide. If you Google “trailing spouse”, the amount of information, articles, and resources available is overwhelming. But it’s time to explore what it means to me. Just what is a trailing spouse and how do I fit into the traditional definition?
What is a trailing spouse?
According to Wikipedia:
The term trailing spouse is used to describe a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment. The term is often associated with people involved in an expatriate assignment but is also used by academia on domestic assignments.
Quite official, wouldn’t you say? I’d actually never heard this term in my life until we moved to Singapore. Then I started hearing it thrown around like it was a disease you caught when you became an expat! It isn’t always used with a negative connotation, but there’s often just a hint. I mean the term itself is slightly negative. “I’m a trailing spouse.” Like you’re just hanging onto your partner’s coattails for dear life, and your own desires and ambitions be damned!
Letting Go of Your Things
That’s what it really comes down to, isn’t it? Letting go of your own things… your job, your home, your family and friends, etc. to follow the partner wherever he or she needs to go. But then isn’t that the definition of every partner to some degree?
There are few married couples who haven’t had to lay down some things for the sake of their partner. And yes, if one of the partner’s ends up being a stay-at-home parent, it’s usually that one that has to give up a bit more. Sort of.
I’ve definitely had YEARS of bitterness towards Jay being able to do what he “wanted to do” with his life. And I’ve always felt like a trailing spouse no matter where we were. The anger I felt that he was able to work and travel for work was kind of ridiculous.
Ha! What a laugh! How naive to think he wasn’t at the mercy of anyone else and was completely free. La di da. Not hardly! He has had to work to support me and the kids and our lifestyle. He’s worked hard to make many of MY dreams come true… such as staying home with the kids and owning and renovating old houses. Not that he didn’t enjoy it, but that wouldn’t necessarily have been his choice if he’d been on his own.
Partnership = Compromise
We rarely get to make the choices we would make if we were “on our own” when we’re in a partnership and even less so when the kids start rolling in! (Put a dog in the mix and all hell breaks loose!) SHARING your life with other people (and animals) demands a lot of give and take, push and shove, COMPROMISE! Otherwise it just doesn’t work. At all!
It always amazes me how when I start writing, what I think I’m going to write about rarely comes out and instead it turns into something else altogether. 🙂 That’s OK. Apparently this is what I needed to say. But I also do want to point out that the trailing spouse is a real thing that can have an affect on the mood and psyche of the trailing spouse.
I have plenty of friends here in Singapore who gave up pretty major careers to move here for their spouse’s career. So I’m not trying to make light of that particular scenario. Also, now that we’re here and I’ve realized it’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE to work here if you’re on a Dependant’s Pass (which I am, and yes, that is spelled correctly), I understand this term much more. I can’t even do freelance contract work for companies here. :/
Always the Trailing Spouse
So I get it. It is a real thing, but for me personally, I’ve always been a trailing spouse. I just didn’t realize it. And I’m OK with it. That’s the choice I made when I married this guy twenty years ago today. (Yep, it’s our anniversary!) His career would come first for the most part, and again, that was a choice. Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything I wanted to do. Far from it, but if we’re talking specifically about careers, then yes, I’ve had to compromise in that arena, for Jay and for the kids. As has he.
Before I start beating this horse deader than dead, I shall close! It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of thinking you’re the only one giving up something in life. It’s easy to look over at your spouse and only see the really big, broad screen of his/her life. He gets to work, I don’t. He gets to travel, I don’t. She gets to stay home with the kids, I don’t. Etc. Etc. Etc. Until we can become so bitter and petty and make life miserable for ourselves and everyone around us. Each person makes sacrifices. Take the time to look and see what sacrifices those around you are making for you. And then take the time to appreciate those sacrifices because that’s what makes relationships work.