How to cope when you're a trailing spouse

June 22, 2016

 

 

 

92% of all trailing spouses are currently in a relationship
72% say they gave up their previous careers
65% agree that they don’t like being financially dependent on their partners
51% are often expected to organize and execute all aspects of moving and living abroad

 

This, according to a recent survey by InterNations.org indicates how many women expats, across the globe, are challenged by their lives abroad.

 

Feelings of loneliness, loss of freedom, loss of career reputations, the inability to accomplish even the most simple daily tasks, the shift of having more time on your hands (and the expectations that are imposed), the absence of support, and these are just to name a few!

 

Trailing spouses are often left to wonder what is in it for them, and how can they make the changes necessary to shift the dynamic. From experience, I know how difficult this can be and it’s not easy moving through the struggles we often feel as we try and assimilate in our new roles abroad. However, over the years, there have been new revelations in my experience as a trailing spouse and I would love to share them with you in hopes that it will help you find the balance you crave.

 

One of the first steps I acquired was simply stepping into awareness. By this I mean being aware ‘within’, having the self awareness to check in and explore the real meaning as to what you’re feeling and why. You can do this in various ways like journaling, yoga, being in nature, or sitting in stillness. I indulge in most of these practices but I find that mindfulness has been exceptionally empowering to my state of mind and wellbeing. Meditation has made a huge difference in my life, in the way I view the world and the things around me and how I react to life in general. The act of just ‘taking the time’ to see more clearly, no matter what you choose to do to find clarity will impact your life greatly. Make the time for what works for you.

 

Another step I took was reaching out for support. If there is one piece of advice that I had to give to women expats and/or trailing spouses, it would be not to go it alone! You are never alone and isolating yourself can only add to your inner struggles and heartache. For me, I aimed for the guidance of a life coach. The work I did with her brought me to a whole new awareness. The main reason I chose to seek an outside source of support as opposed to reaching out to my best friend, mom or sister, was that I needed an unbiased and gentle understanding of what I was going through. I’m sure that you have certain friends that you can trust certain things with,right? We all have the ‘go to’ people in our lives. This was no different for me, in that I needed to connect with someone who has lived the expat life, someone who could offer genuine empathy and guide me to taking the actions I needed to make my life more purposeful and happier abroad. I am extremely happy with my life coach, who is now my mentor and great friend. She is the founder of my own personal and mindful journey to freedom and for that I am so grateful :)

 

I LOVE giving back to my community! I have taken on various volunteer roles since I was very young and I have always found it to be rewarding on so many levels. It has also helped me find some purpose abroad while having some fun as well.  I have always enjoyed helping others in the healthcare setting so most of my roles have been working with cancer patients, stroke/brain injuries and mentoring young women struggling with depression. I encourage you to think about what makes you happy. Where do you get the most joy in your life? Work those brain cells and be creative in finding that space out there that is waiting for you! Contact your local volunteer center and get involved. Giving back is an awesome way to stay centered, make new friends and grow your love and compassion for humanity.

 

One of the primary struggles for most women expats is the fact they have become financially dependent on their partners. Having to leave their careers behind and re-invent themselves abroad, it’s not as easy as one might think. When issues like visas, permits and licenses may cause long and excruciating breaks to the bank and lengthen the process, finding work may be of great challenge. Therefore leaving the trailing spouse to depend on their partner for personal income, and this is extremely difficult to endure. It's not so much about the discussion of money with your partner (although that could add to the stressor) or even the concern of fairness, it’s about the FEELINGS behind it. I know first hand on what this can do to a woman’s soul especially having come from an independent lifestyle back home. It can feel crushing, embarrassing, shameful, needy, wrong, and so on. What has worked for me, aside from sharing these feelings with my life coach, is to share them with my partner. Let your partner know what you’re feeling and why, give them the opportunity to understand where the frustrations lie so that he/she can approach the situation more gently and with genuine truth. Keeping the communication lines open with a mindful approach is critical in being able to ask for what you want and need. Most importantly, when feeling inadequate, give yourself the permission to feel these emotions and then the permission to release them. Learn from them and trust that you are exactly where you need to be, under the circumstances that you’re in and that you are in this place for a reason. And remember…you always have a choice!

 

You have everything you need to succeed, wherever you are, it’s just about tapping into the resources whether that’s within or in the outside world.

 

Embrace it and enjoy your expat experience!

 

 

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