The “Trailing Spouse”

The Trailing Spouse  is a phrase that has been coined by many FSOs (Foreign Service Officer) and EFMs (Eligible Family Member) that refers to spouses that follow their husbands/wifes around the world in pursuit of their spouse’s dream job.  Even with the name I chose for this blog I’m not sure I like the phrase.

It seems some people have clung to the concept of being a Trailing Spouse.  They thrive off of the idea of following their loved one around the world doing whatever it is he or she wants to do. I have not found many blogs (I haven’t really been reading a ton about this though) that are written by people who don’t embrace being a Trailing Spouse. I do not like the phrase at all. The word trailing means, to follow a trail but it also means to walk or proceed draggingly, heavily, or wearily.  This is the way that I look at the phrase. That I’m walking behind Patrick, following him dragging my feet the whole way, with a heavy heart and tired from following him while he pursues his dreams.

I would never want this phrase to describe me. I did not give up my life, my career and my family to blindly follow a man around the world. I knew, before marrying Patrick, what he wanted to do with his life.  I have always just (a word I hesitate using) wanted to be a mom. I chose a teaching career knowing that it would make me a better mom and would give me a job once the kids were in school.  Patrick’s desire to travel the world and work as a FSO was one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place. I chose to live my life with Patrick. Next to him, not behind him, not in front of him.  Next to him.  This is why I don’t ever want to be referred to as the trailing spouse.  I am willingly, lovingly, supportingly joining, Patrick on our life adventure.

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12 responses to “The “Trailing Spouse”

  1. Kim, your thoughts on being the “trailing spouse” are really good. I’m so glad you are able not only to accept Patrick’s choice of career but also embrace it and be excited about where it will lead. You two (I mean three . . . I mean more . . .) are going to have a wonderful life on this globe together!
    Love, Connie

  2. I know quite a few “trailing spouses,” and in fact, was one for my wife’s first tour before I joined the service too. And I follow a lot of blogs by both officers, specialists and their families. I know lots of people who embrace the life, but I can’t think of a person who really likes the term “trailing spouse.” Most, like you, see this as a family adventure, a family career. And I think that most officers see spouses not as trailing but, like military spouses, a vital part of serving the country.

    • That’s great to hear. Like I said I hadn’t read many blogs but the ones I did had women who were embracing this concept. Glad to know that’s not a general feeling within the FS.

  3. Here, here!!!

    I wholeheartedly agree and prefer the term “accompanying spouse,” which I’m seeing used more and more. “Trailing spouse” makes me feel like my husband just clubbed me over the head and dragged me to London by my hair, as my passive carcass leaves a trail in the dirt 🙂

    Accompanying my husband here was my gesture of support for his aspirations, just as he supports mine; yes, it may have meant uprooting from my job at the time, but it’s opened new opportunities that have helped me flourish as well. And because I do want to wait to start our family until we return to the States and our original family/friend network, he will likewise make that gesture for me–and that will also be as much his choice as it is mine as we make joint decisions about the life we want to have together. Making a success of a relocation really requires a couple to be a team working in EQUAL partnership, so I share your sentiments exactly.

  4. I’m with you on your dislike of the term in fact I wrote a blog post about it a few months ago. http://thesmartexpat.com/2010/03/14/trailer-trash/

    I personally believe that it is in large part responsible for the perpetuated negative portrayal of accompanying partners in the media and contributes to the lack of acknowledgement by HR professionals etc. of the key role that accompanying partners play in the success of expat assignments

    Others share our view too. In their recent interview with the Shanghai Daily, the authors of Thrive made their disdain for the term clear too.
    http://www.shanghaidaily.com/sp/article/2010/201006/20100623/article_440714.htm

    That’s why I’ve started Facebook and LinkedIN groups called Definitely Not Trailing for those accompanying partners who are key to their partner’s expat assignment success and who don’t want to be referred to as “trailing spouses”

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=141953165830101&v=info

    http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=3240674

    Look forward to reading your future blog posts. Evellyn

    • Wow. Thanks for all the info! I’m really starting to embrace this blog culture. I didn’t know how much was out there and probably wouldn’t have had people not responded to this post. I’ll check out all those links and add you on Facebook as well. Thanks again.

  5. Yes! You are Patricks partner in all of this! I feel sad that some women would classify themselves as a “trailing spouse”. It is your adventure together. The awesome thing about being a mom/wife for a career is that you can move anywhere and you still feel fullfilled.

  6. Pingback: A Diplomat’s Wife on The “Trailing Spouse” « mrs. diplomat·

  7. This is inspiring. As a young, female, student, hoping to become a Canadian diplomat-I hope my partner would find his niche within OUR life. Doesn’t everyone want that? No matter WHAT profession you choose? How lucky for a spouse to get this kind of opportunity for a lifestyle that allows your whole family to see the world!

  8. So I’m not married, or engaged, but the lad I’ve been with for over 3 years (and we already at like an old couple) wants to be in the Foreign Service. This blog has shown me what I needed to see. Now the reason that I comment on this post is because, like you, I really just want to be a mom, but it seems in this day + age women have to want a career and not just family.
    I guess what I’m really trying to say is that it’s so so comforting to know that there is someone out there that has the same views that I do and is happy in the lifestyle I want and may be in one day! 🙂

  9. Pingback: Relocating to London with Your Spouse: Are You “Trailing” or “Accompanying”? | London Relocation Blog·

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