You Could’ve Fooled Me: Common Myths About Trailing Spouses

Welcome to April 2015’s #TrailingSpouseStories!  This month, we played with April Fools and asked each other “What got you “fooled” into being a trailing spouse?  What myths did you start out with and what did you discover in the process?”  Here is my take on the matter.

There are many myths surrounding the glamorous and mysterious lives of trailing spouses (there are two right there for you). This is my attempt to set the record straight. So, in no particular order, here are five myths dispelled for you:

1) Being a trailing spouse is glamorous.

There are some people who manage to still look glamorous in thirty-two degrees of heat with high humidity. I am not one of them, and nor are most of the trailing spouses I know. There is nothing very glamorous about the lifestyle either: a night out (before I had a baby) was usually a night around someone’s house where you would have a high chance of being dunked in the pool; if you try to wear make up it slides off your face; and really there’s nowhere to go that necessitates getting dressed up. Most days pre-baby involved doing some volunteering, aerobics, supermarket shopping and teaching English. Nowadays my activities are mostly baby-related. Going for a morning coffee, which I know will be far inferior to what I can make at home, is as glamorous as it gets.

I defy anyone to pull off this look in Borneo!
I defy anyone to pull off this look in Borneo!

2) Trailing spouses sit around drinking coffee/getting their nails done/playing golf.

Some of this does go on, but anyone who did this as a full time job would surely go out of their mind with boredom? Not to mention the fact that the trailing spouse often has to do all of the other jobs while their partner is at work. Sometimes it’s very hard work.  Those who say otherwise probably have a full-time amah.

3) Trailing spouses are just house wives/husbands.

Most women nowadays have a career of some kind. Many trailing spouses gave this career up, or at least set themselves back in it, to follow their partner. I am amazed at the skills that many spouses have, and often they are resourceful enough to find a way to use these skills in their new community by teaching classes or volunteering. Besides, I have discovered that there is no such thing as ‘just’ a housewife.

4) Trailing spouses are female.

In many ways, I think it would be a lot more difficult to be a male trailing spouse. In Brunei, the male trailing spouse is not recognised legally and so they are unable to hold voluntary positions. Also, many of the activities set up for and by the expats cater for women – would you want to be the only male in an exercise class? The male trailing spouse is definitely in the minority in Brunei, and they have my admiration.

5) Anyone can be a trailing spouse.

Although this is true in a sense, this lifestyle is not for everyone. It is quite tough to give up work and not know when you might get a chance to work again. It’s scary moving across the world to a country you have barely heard of and with virtually no idea of what it is like or what you will do. I’ve seen trailing spouses who couldn’t stand living in such a small place with barely any of the amenities that they were used to, and others who really struggled with giving up their job. I’ve also seen others, myself included, who thought it was one of the best things they had ever done.

As with many things, the reality doesn’t always live up to the image you might have but in this case I am happy that it doesn’t!

(Image from fanpop)

Why not read what the other trailing spouses have to say?

Clara of Expat Partner Survival thought she knew what it would be like – she didn’t – she wrote a book to help others not to get fooled too.  Read more in Trailing Fools?

Didi of D for Delicious says that the trailing spouse life is attractively shiny, yet it is better to know that behind the glitter is a lot of grit.  Read more in #TrailingSpouseStories: Falling for Fool’s Gold? 

Elizabeth Smith of Secrets of A Trailing Spouse says that the reality of life as a trailing spouse does not live up to its image, but is so much better.  Read more in You Could’ve Fooled Me: Common Myths About Trailing Spouses.

Jenny Reyes of MyMommyology asks Are we foolish enough to think that the trailing spouse life gets easier over time?  Read her answer in #TrailingSpouseStories: The Irony of It All.

Shakira Sison chats with Didi of D for Deliciious We chat with Palanca winning essayist and Rappler columnist Shakira Sison to share stories of her foolhardy decision to leave for NYC.  Read more in A Conversation on the LGBT Trailing Spouse Life in NYC with Shakira Sison.

Tala wonders if being a Trailing Spouse was her escapist dream come true, or not?  Read the verdict in Ambition: Expat’s Wife.

Yuliya Khilko of TinyExpats says that quite often it’s not about being ‘fooled’, but about ‘fooling’ yourself.  Read more in Assumptions and speculations – beginning of the trailing spouse journey.

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11 thoughts on “You Could’ve Fooled Me: Common Myths About Trailing Spouses

  1. Haha! When I read the first point, that people think it’s glamorous, I snorted out my coffee! (How’s that for glamorous). And oh my, how I wish I could sit around and watch tv, or get my hair and nails done… those are some of the things I do miss about Manila. But you are right… “trailing spouse life” can you call it that? isn’t for everyone. And there are hard sacrifices that many of us have to make (careers, comfort, etc). So thank you for putting that into perspective! I think #5 is my favorite. 😉

  2. I would have to agree with #4 – it is probably more of a challenge being a trailing husband. Seems like all activities are aimed at females. Here in town there is the ‘woman club’ which my husband is not to interested joining:) One advantage for us is that Canada is not very different from Norway – and they speak english. So it is not to big of a problem getting to know ‘the locals’ 🙂

  3. All very true! I had a hard time during the few months I had between my job at home and the job I started after moving abroad with my partner, I don’t know if I could have carried on being the stay at home partner indefinitely, so I definitely give all expat partners a lot of credit. We are having wonderful experiences in the UK though, so the hassle has definitely been worth it for us!

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