“Trailing spouses” are simply those that have followed their spouse to another country, be it because of military assignment, because each partner comes from a different country or because of diplomatic or international work. Negotiating finances, visa requirements, tax, work, education and immigration issues can be extremely draining - for both partners.
But alongside these challenges are all the other questions: how will you start a new life? Where will you fit in? How will your relationship cope with the pressures? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate the challenges of setting into your new home.
Give in to your “nesting” instinct
It’ll be easier to think of the new country as home as soon as you start unpacking, decorating and making things comfortable. Indulge in the little creature comforts that will get you in a relaxed and settled headspace, be it painting the living room or exploring the local markets to find new knick knacks.
Focus on your finances
The reality is that big international moves can often be very costly. Take control of the situation by whipping up a detailed budget with some savings goals to keep you grounded. You’ll also benefit by becoming comfortable with the new currency, and nurture your own sense of autonomy.
You might not feel like it, but getting out there and exploring your new environment will keep you busy, engaged and adapting. Find maps, become familiar with the public transportation and pick your new favorite restaurants. This is an easy way to reduce any feelings of isolation.
Focus on the positive and be grateful
There will be days when all you can think about are the things you left behind. Try to adjust your perspective and become alert to the positive things in your new life. Become receptive and accepting - there are likely plenty of things to be grateful for when you think about it.
Local friends, especially those that aren’t connected to your spouse, are a great way to start building your own life and roots in your new home - not to mention help you with any language and culture barriers! Other expats are great, but try to vary the people you expose yourself to.
Protect your sense of confidence
Tagging along with your spouse can sometimes feel disempowering, no matter how well-supported you are. Pour your energies into seeking out work, volunteering or hobbies, start your own small business or begin your own project that you can take pride in. The more extensive and fulfilling your own life, the less dependent you’ll feel on your spouse and the less pressure on the relationship.
To be sure, being a trailing spouse is no picnic. You will encounter stalls, bad days and negative feelings. Be patient with yourself and give everyone, yourself included, time to adjust. When you have realistic expectations, you can be a bit more gentle with the process of becoming naturalized in your new home. There’s no need to rush - in time, you will feel more at home.