Lonely? Lost your sense of identity? Feel bad for spending ‘his money’? Here’s how to swing the balance back your way.
The decision to move abroad is a big one – months in the making, as you weigh everything from job opportunities and career advancement, to standards of living and quality of life. Ideally, your decision to relocate will benefit the entire family equally and no one will have to compromise.
The reality though is that, often, someone has to make a sacrifice to make the move work. And usually, that person is the “trailing spouse”. While many spouses are eager and willing to accompany their husbands on this new “adventure”, they end up feeling unfulfilled and discontented. Registered psychologist Ho Shee Wai, director of The Counselling Place, says, “Trailing spouse syndrome is common among women who feel they’ve lost their professional identity, financial independence and support network.”
Maria*, age 30, from Argentina, moved to Singapore in 2014. She was apprehensive about the move but the idea of travelling around Asia drew her in. With a boyfriend who works long hours, she has been unable to find a job, and found making friends and the distance from home difficult. It is a story echoed again and again.
Sally*, 38, from Scotland, says she feels the distance “when I just want to send a quick text to complain about my husband!” She misses the immediate feedback she could share with a good friend back home.
Laura*, 33, is new to Singapore and finding the transition difficult. She is on sabbatical from her job and feels lucky she will have something to go back to. However, she, too, is finding it difficult to form new relationships here. She shares, “I want to make new friends but I’m worried I’ll appear desperate!”
Seize the Opportunity
Instead of getting frustrated, sad, and heading for an overpriced bottle of wine, Shee Wai shares some advice:
- Accept your current situation. See the opportunity to grow individually, as a couple or family. Be more vulnerable and, in turn, you’ll become more intimate with each other.
- Explore your vision for your new life. Set up projects that are fulfilling and in alignment with your future goals. Develop interests you’ve always wanted to pursue.
- Be Creative. For example, develop a skill to become an entrepreneur. Take control and create your own opportunities. You can look for work abroad and work remotely.
- Connect with anyone and everyone. Embrace social groups, charities, religious groups, nationality groups and groups with similar interests.
Besides the social aspects, the financial transition can also be straining. Sally left a great marketing career, and salary, behind. She now feels like she needs to ask permission for money even though her husband encourages her to spend as she needs. “I know it’s our money, but he is the one earning it right now,” she shares. Shee Wai suggests sitting down together to align your financial thinking. She adds, “It’s important for both to start thinking of the “earned” money as ‘household money.’ Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined, and you should learn to find balance between the family’s needs and your own.”
The Trailing Husband
While the majority of trailing spouses are women, Shee Wai says research shows 10 to 30 percent are husbands. The transition for men can be particularly difficult due to the nontraditional nature of a male trailing spouse. Many support groups are geared toward women, leaving men even more isolated.
Finding a personal or life coach may be a good option. Recognising and voicing these feelings as soon as possible will help set you on the right path. There are others, many others, who have felt or are feeling just the same as you.
Need a starting point? Seek out some of these today: Social, sports, religious and professional organizational support groups; online forums; neighbours; and counsellors.
Start feeling more at home with these dos and don’t for newcomers.
By Kathleen Siddell, The Finder, June 2015