Saturday, May 3, 2014

Trailing Spouse facts

Lately I have been reading many articles about what is called the trailing spouse syndrome. Personally, I find this term sounds overdrammatic but who am I to judge?

There is one research I would like to share with you by the entitled "Being dumped in to sink or swim: an empirical study of organizational support for the trailing spouse".

Mrs Yvonne McNulty found that spouse adjustment is a multi-faceted construct that is inflfenced by a range of factors and corresponding support. Trailing spouses identified a number of activities that they perceived would help with their adjustment during an International assignment:

- using internet and email (91%)
- socializing with expatriates (90%)
- spending time with their spouse and children(81%)

were the top three adjustment coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, spending enough time with their (employed) spouse proved to be a tremendous challenge and was cited as a major source of marital tension and frustration. The least important adjustment activity was voluntary or unpaid work (41%), which was resented by some spouses as "supporting the local citizens for free", without being "good enough to be employed, pay my taxes and be given my independence".

They found that 84% of trailing spouses had a tertiary qualification or a college education and 79% had a career prior to relocating. Yet, only 36% were able to continue their career once relocated due mainly to visa and work permit restrictions.

Social and professional support were found to be important facilitators of spouses’ identity reconstruction as a way "to belong" and "to be able to create a life of my own". Being "dumped in to either sink or swim" and "being treated by the company as totally invisible" were frequent complaints. Language training was found to be important for building self-esteem and coping with everyday practicalities, where fluency in the host-country language was perceived to provide "power and independence".

The study concludes that International assignments rarely impact just one aspect of life for a trailing spouse, but instead feeds into and influences other areas of life such as feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, identity, and marriage and family relationships.

Attitude can also play an important role. Despite some rather negative findings, spouses recognized that certain stages of a move are more stressful than others. In recognizing that the development of a portable identity is both an outer as well as an inner journey, spouses were clear that "it comes down to the individual" where "being the trailing spouse can be viewed as an encumbrance or an opportunity".

...which I have been preaching all along the way. Check out my post onmy personal blog at:

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