Today finds me feeling a little more at peace with the trees . I’m still not happy about it, but I can accept it. Evidently, my husband and I are the only ones who find it to be a big deal, reinforcing the fact that this is a typical occurance in London. Fine.
Speaking of my husband, I know I’ve mentioned before that our London relocation was the result of his new employment. I happened to read a blog post today on the A Diplomat’s Wife site about the term “trailing spouse” applied to those spouses who move on the other’s behalf. I agree with the author’s sentiment that the term bears a negative connotation that makes me think ick. As I just commented on her post:
“‘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.”
Personally, I prefer the term “accompanying spouse,” which I’ve started seeing in equal frequency. Maybe it’s still not ideal, but it captures more of the essence that a spouse has made the move as a willing participant in support of the person he or she loves. As A Diplomat’s Wife says:
“I did not give up my life, my career and my family to blindly follow a man around the world. [...] I chose to live my life with [my husband].”
I believe that it’s not only important for others to perceive that this is the reality of an accompanying spouse (i.e., not that you’re just a passive puppy following someone all around the world—unless, of course, you are…to each his/her own, ay?), but even more vital that you yourself wrap your mind around it. Otherwise, it can lead to feelings of insecurity that spiral into resentment toward—guess who—your spouse. That’s when the partnership breaks down, and for relocations, it is critical to sustain that team effort. You’re in it together, so you need to work through it together and make sure both spouses’ best interests are taken into account.
I’m sure you’re thinking that this is just a basic lesson in marriage—yes, quite true. But a relocation amplifies all that is already challenging in a marriage (see my referral to Robin Pascoe’s books on this topic in “5 Recommendations for Families Moving to London“). The main reasons why this is so (at least from my perspective) are: 1) the “It’s the principle of the matter” mindset (in which one might resent that his/her priorities came secondary to the spouse’s reason for moving), and, 2) transitioning into what role one will assume in the new location.
Tackling the first issue is primarily psychological—mind over matter, as they say. It’s not to say that your concerns aren’t legitimate and you shouldn’t assert your viewpoints to ensure your side is understood and that your spouse will similarly make concessions to maintain the balance of power in the relationship. However, it’s also imperative to recognize when maybe your side is understood and your spouse will and does make concessions, in which case the problem may rest largely in your mind, so requires a shift in outlook.
As for the second issue, well, if you have left a job behind and have the ability to be a lady of leisure/man of means, that’s not too shabby a circumstance to embrace, at least for a little while—enjoy yourself, for goodness’ sake! If you’re moving to London, no one will dispute the limitless options of things to do to stimulate your intellect and fuel your soul. And if you’re raising a family, it goes without saying that that’s plenty enough. I myself seized the chance to channel my inner Domestic Goddess and finally learned how to cook! I went from zero to hero . On the other hand, if you need/want to work, I can’t promise that it will be simple to reenter what occupation/salary you left behind in this market, yet there are many resources to tap to establish the network you need to get your “in”—see my previous posts, “London Job Opportunities for Women” and “AmProWoLo…Huh? Wha?” as examples of resources for women (unfortunately, similar resources for men are fewer and further between as they represent probably less than 20% of accompanying spouses; however, their increasing number commands these support systems to be put in place. I’ll keep researching and share them with you!).
Whatever the terminology, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” so just remain confident in your decision to support your spouse, remembering that it was your choice, too, to make this awesome journey together.