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Life as an expat, trailing spouse in Singapore isn’t what you expected?
Many of us have heard the terms expat wife and trailing spouse. But what are the unique challenges faced these people. And when difficulties arise, what can you do about it?
Trailing spouse is a term coined to describe the spouse or partner of someone who relocates for work away from their home base. Sometimes a couple or a whole family move overseas. The trailing spouse can be a wife or female partner, or even a man.
Relocation brings with it a change of culture, distance from friends and family, and new beginnings. New friends, new food, new opportunities, but often also new stresses and challenges.
Many have been through this process, and many have had an amazing successful journey. But, many have found it challenging. How people deal with the challenges faced can define whether the posting overseas is a successful or negative one.
A new expat life full of hope
When starting the relocation journey, there is usually hope and optimism. There may be reservations, but the exotic location, career benefits, high salary etc. win over. Moving tends to go well at first as employers cater for our every need. First or Business class flights for the family, hotels and service apartments all help to keep us distracted whilst settling. The luxury of the new surroundings and exploring the new location, it can seem idyllic at first. New places to eat and drink, or even the distraction of helping the kids settle in their new home and school. Reality can take a while to sink in.
Dealing with the change associated with expat life
For some, the move may take place without any real consideration as to how the change will affect their own and children’s lives. For a while, you might not even notice or understand how it is affecting you. Expats can be surprised when things settle down and the excitement of the move is replaced by normality. Normality that may be accompanied by disappointment and emotions that weren’t expected.
Spouses may at times just follow their partner, taking a passive role and becoming increasingly dependent in the process. For others, the new surroundings can be intimidating, leading to them cutting themselves off, preferring instead to hide away and stay at home. There can also be challenges establishing one’s own identity in the new place. In too many cases, infidelity can rear its head, leading to disappointment, distance and even separation. When infidelity occurs, trailing spouses can be left debating the pros and cons of putting up with it, or returning home. Never an easy choice. Worse still if children are part of the expat scenario.
And for many, there comes a sense of grief. Even if one enjoys the new life, there can be a very real sense of loss associated with the move. Leaving behind family, friends, familiar situations etc. can be difficult.
Learning how to manage the changes in your life
Despite the challenges of life as a trailing or expat spouse, it is very possible to have a fulfilling and successful life. Achieving your goals and dreams should not be put on hold whilst you live overseas.
Self-care, keeping occupied in a fulfiling way, finding work, making friends, exercising regularly, eating well, moderating alcohol intake, learning the local language(s), study etc. These are all techniques that can help with finding identity and fulfilment in the new home.
Sometimes the difference between success and failure will come down to how you manage the change. It can also depend upon how you maintain your own identity. You may find that this is something you can’t do alone. You should not be afraid to discuss this and ask for help when necessary. You’ll find that you are not alone, and many have, or have had similar feelings and learnt how to manage them.
You are not alone – finding help
If you recognise yourself, then you may benefit from talking to someone who is professionally trained and experienced at handling such scenarios.
With professional support for you and/or your partner achieving your goals is a real possibility. Professional support can also help you find your own identity. It can help you decide for yourself what decisions you should make and discover what changes in your life will help you get what you need. Professional support can also teach you techniques to help you cope and manage how you feel.
If you are in need of help as an individual, couple or family, and wish to discuss this further then you may wish to book an appointment with Maria Luedeke at Aspire Counselling.
Maria Luedeke is a highly qualified counsellor who has lived and worked in America, Europe and Asia. Maria has extensive experience providing counselling to trailing spouses and expats in Singapore, as well as working with relationship and marital issues.
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