Expatpartner (aka. Trailing Spouse)

There are many ways the life of a woman gets impacted by relocating around the world – some love it, some surf the waves of it, others fake it until they make it, and the rest pull the trigger for an early return home; sometimes realizing that “home” isn’t what home used to be anymore.

Women need to have straightforward expectations to what’s ahead of them and know the many hats they’ll wear from day one. Especially for those who relocate with young families. Moving is a big deal! and it takes incredible courage and audacity to launch a new life from scratch, often with limited resources and no supportive network.  It’s time the extraordinary efforts of these women who spend important years of their life creating magic around the world, raising their families abroad and making multicultural impacts in arts, cuisine, business, motherhood, healthcare, etc… are well rewarded and recognized.

Expatpartners are left at the bottom of the chain to figure life out by themselves in a compressed period of time, and many times mocked if she (ever dares) to opt out. While a lot of focus is placed on programs to support partners with employment opportunities, and although it potentially could improve their sense of fulfillment, not only isn’t the only answer, but it isn’t the alternative for a lot of who will confront the decision whether that will be best for their family or not, alongside with many other complex realities in their new life. Thriving abroad founder and author Louise Wiles (www.thrivingabroad.com), shares her findings on the subject in her “Career Choice and the Accompanying partner” report from 2012.  In it, Louise found that “Lack of work permit was not the only factor that prevented accompanying partners from working

Out of 391 people who participated in the survey, 93% were women, and those not working agreed or strongly disagree to a list of challenges, where the highest voted were:

Real challenge: “I want to be there personally for my children, 61%

Real challenge: Lack of local network and contacts, 60%

Real challenge: My partner’s working and travel hours are too erratic, 50%

Real challenge: Lack of appropriate language skills, 47%”

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to guarantee the success of expatriate assignments. Some companies are paying more attention to include thorough evaluations to narrow those best fits, others continue to extend programs that include language and multicultural training, relocation expert, real estate agent, some coaching services, etc. However, whether some are lucky to receive a few or a lot of those benefits, a big percentage doesn’t.  And online communities while a supportive option, fall short in providing the depth and connection she’ll need.  Too many are the real-life challenges she’ll faced during her assignment that are impossible to predict, simply because they will impact her as an individual going through whatever specific circumstances at the time.

The most important aspect to me, based on my personal experience as an expat and from the stories of many of these women around the world is, her well-being and that she finds a path to nurture fulfillment and purpose. Time goes by so fast she doesn’t want to waste it and missed opportunities. Moves and relocations can slow down our lives considerably, and carry long periods of uncertainty, loneliness, single parenting and not having a loving network around you.

Data will change as the world changes, we’ll see the percentage of male expatpartners increase, we’ll see more online resources available and the explosion of knowledge will continue without a doubt. But our essence, needs and feelings will remain together with all of what makes us humans. Women need to feel recognized, valued, understood and be heard. We need to cultivate our inner-strength and build a well of resources as we march through different life’s stages and embrace life’s altering events the magnitude of relocating. The best resources are the ones that come from within ourselves.

In my book Exmatriate, I share a multidisciplinary well-being and personal development program, specifically crafted for the expatpartner, and with seven strategies, I include tools and techniques that can help her take full charge of her new life abroad and make the best out of it, protect her families’ well-being, without falling behind. It’s an optimal alternative to help her enrich her inner resources and be more assertive in using the ones outsourced.

You can connect with me at http://www.enroute.life and on Facebook @enroute.life.

Gabriela S. O’Malley

Well-being Consultant & Transitions Savvy



2 thoughts on “Expatpartner (aka. Trailing Spouse)

  1. I do agree as I am whatsocalled “trailing spouse” leaving my career and life for the sake of family being together.


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