Although male and female spouses have been following their respective partners across borders for Millennia, it wasn’t until the July 15, 1981 issue of The Wall Street Journal when Mary Bralove quoted the term “Trailing Spouse.” It is one of the most difficult elements of an International Career, to find meaning and work for the partners of dual-career couples that did not initiate the move.
They say that renovating a house is the largest challenge to any marriage. If that is true, then the trailing spouse phenomena must run a very close second. Challenges may include, but are not limited to, dual-career challenges where the partner is forced to relinquish their career to join their partner on assignment. Obviously, with all of the new changes and culture shock, the stress on families can be immense. Uprooting children and especially teenagers can have lasting positive and negative effects, depending on how they approach the move. Sponsoring employers may not offer much support for the relocation of the Trailing Spouse and many countries do not have the resources to be of much help . They may have difficulty finding new or meaningful employment. They may suffer from a loss of identity, as every facet of their lives is reshaped and structured. If they are women or girls, they may face restrictions that are tantamount to house arrest, their wardrobe might be inadequate and their credentials may be become moot. Even something as simple as having blonde hair or blue eyes can become a challenge.
In most cases the Trailing Spouse phenomena is experienced in military, diplomatic and government groups. With the world changing as quickly as it does, it has also become a factor in the private sector. But, because it is recognized as a phenomenon, it means that it has happened to enough people that common recurring issues have surfaced, and solutions have been tried and tested. The key thing is to understand, is that you are not alone, and Spouses Without Borders is there to offer help, resources and support.