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An American out of water... Trailing Spouse Syndrome and Culture Shock

How many times did you hear “Oh, how exciting!” when you told someone that you and your family are moving abroad for your partner’s new job?

Initially, the thought of moving overseas and starting a new life in a new country with your family is exciting. All your friends back home think you are on an exotic adventure. It’s a new chapter for you and your family.

The term trailing spouse is typically used to described as the spouse that follows their life partner to a new country for a new job, typically a prestigious and high-power position. The earliest citation of the term trailing spouse is attributed to Mary Bralove in a Wall Street Journal article titled "Problems of Two-Career Families Start Forcing Businesses to Adapt."

This phenomenon is also often seen in military households where there are frequent moves and transfers, not just in the private sector. However, there tends to be a bit more of a support network amongst military spouses.

As the trailing spouse, you may be giving up your own career, as well as social support networks, and lifestyles? There is new pressures on you to help your children adjust to new schools and routines. Friend and family support are no longer as easy due to rely on due to distance and time zone differences.

If you were accustomed to making more of a contribution to the family, this change in role can lead to regret, inferiority and a loss of your own identity.

This loss of identity may then lead you to begin to question your own sense of worth, as well as feel wasteful and unproductive. Do you begin to feel selfish or unhappy because of this? Then does that lead to feelings of guilt?

Language barriers may also present challenges. All of a sudden you begin to feel a tsunami of culture shock rush over you. Stay-at-home spouses are especially vulnerable to this issue, as they receive even fewer opportunities to create new social circles.

In many parts of the World, the stigma of mental health also may make it difficult to find a local therapist to speak with about your feelings. With advancements in technology, you are now able to find a counsellor/therapist who speaks your language and has the experience and empathy to support you whist living abroad.

Ask about experience living abroad, as well as comfortability with online therapy.

I have worked with American expats all over the World, who live in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Japan. In addition, I have over fifteen years experience working online with clients and I am very comfortable working this way. If you are interested please contact me. I offer a free 15 minute consultation to introduce myself and hear a bit of your story.

As I am based in the United Kingdom, I am guided by and adhere to the ethical framework established by the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. It is your responsibility to be familiar with any rules and regulations in the country you are residing in.

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