Being a Woman and a Trailing Spouse: In Honour of the Male Expat Partners.

This month, the month of International Women’s Day, the theme for the #TrailingSpouseStories is how has the trailing spouse experience affected my views of being a woman.

This is a very interesting question, and one I have been pondering since I first received the information about the theme. But it is also one I find very hard to answer. Because in all honesty, I don’t think the trailing spouse experience as such does change how I feel about being a woman. This despite the fact that the vast majority of the accompanying partners are female, the ones that are giving up careers and the financial security that goes with it. That we have a reputation for living the sort of life that our male partners can only dream of – sitting around all day drinking coffee and having our nails done. That some days, it feels like we’ve been shot back in time to the 1950’s. No, it affects my views on a lot of things but not necessarily my views on being a woman. Now let me try and explain why.

While I was writing the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, I realised that I couldn’t ignore one rapidly growing sector of the accompanying partner genre: the male trailing spouse. They may not be who we think of when we imagine the non-working half of a couple moving overseas, but as equality in the work place grows and more and more women have the sort of career it’s not worth financially giving up, they are becoming more common. You might not even know they are there – as birds of a feather like sticking together, so do men and women. Or if you do see them, you might wonder who they are – why is that man bringing his child to school? Is his wife sick?

father_with_daughter

If this is the case, I urge you to make the effort and talk to them. While being a trailing spouse is hard for all of us, I personally think it is in many ways harder for the men. Okay, I’m not asking you to get the violins out here – there aren’t many things in life that are harder for men than for women. But finding your way in what is basically a very female world is probably one of them.

In the course of writing the Survival Guide I corresponded with a number of male spouses, and I think most, if not all, of them had managed to integrate in one way or another. They met other men at sporting events or they joined groups of like-minded STUDS (Spouses Travelling Under Duress Successfully – the tongue-in-cheek name of the males TS group set up in Belgium). They threw themselves into more usually female activities like visiting the spa and they gamely attended pre-school groups as the sole man in the room. But it can’t have been easy. Along with the problems all accompanying partners face in their new home – loneliness, culture shock, finding their way around, fears for their own and their family’s security, trying to work out where to buy food for tonight’s meal – they also had to try and adjust to being men in a women’s world.

So when I was asked how being a trailing spouse has affected my views on being a woman, I couldn’t help but think of these men, and think that, in the name of equality (and isn’t this what International Women’s Day is about?), we shouldn’t forget about them. We’re not all women – there are fewer, a lot fewer, men giving up their careers and their financial independence to follow their partners to another country. But they are out there.  And the fact that their numbers are growing is testament to the fact that more women are getting better paid jobs. Plus life is as hard (possibly harder – I know, I know, I am sure some will disagree…) for them as it is for all of us.

In the month of International Women’s Day, this post is dedicated to the Male Trailing Spouses.

Read and explore other stories of fellow trailing spouses in the links below:
  • Didi of D for Delicious shares how the trailing spouse journey has unearthed a lot of questions of what it is to be a modern Filipino woman
  • Elizabeth’s story on how she came to terms on what it means to be a woman as a trailing spouse on The Secrets of a Trailing Spouse
  • On her blog, Tala Ocampo shares how she became a woman in her 1st leg as a trailing spouse in Sri Lanka
  • Yuliya of Tiny Expats on how being strong was easier by having someone else to be strong with

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10 thoughts on “Being a Woman and a Trailing Spouse: In Honour of the Male Expat Partners.

  1. Clara, I really like this alternative view you have have taken. I was only talking to my husband over the weekend about how I believe that my son will find life harder than my daughter when he gets to adolescence and adulthood. Roles are changing and women have come so far in the last 50 years but we must not let our progress be to the detriment of the male role. I hope that we women, do not lose our empathy, our ability to put ourselves in others places, to remember what it’s like to be the underdog, just as men are developing theirs in order to achieve true equality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – this was the message I was hoping to get across. There aren’t many areas of life still where men are in the minority, but this is one of them. I read some really interesting stuff when I was researching my book about how men socialise differently from women, about how the like to meet people in a different way. Mostly apparently through bonding at things like sporting events, rather than in the way we women tend to meet others (eg through gossiping at the school gates or at playgroups) – hence why some of these male trailing spouse groups have been set up to cater for their needs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, I was wondering when you were going to write about that, Clara. Thanks for mentioning us! I don’t know if I really count, being retired, but I followed my working wife, so guess I’m a trailing spouse, and delighted to learn I’m in fact a STUD!.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! Men deserve being talked about as well on trailing spouse series! 🙂 I met a male trailing spouse in Shanghai, where their family moved to support the wife’s career. He was a stay at home dad to a two year old – not the easiest of choices 🙂 The plan for him was to make sure the little one gets settled down and goes to a nursery and then he could look for a job as well. I love the fact that men would consider following their wives as well – this is, indeed, true equality.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this perspective! If the Trailing Spouse experience is hard for me (a woman) how could the experience be like for the males? And if I got a more lucrative post, would my husband follow with the risk of not being able to work? How will that impact him? How will that impact our marriage? I know my husband will be totally in duress if and when that happens! Haha! So kudos to the Trailing Male Spouses out there. You are totally empowering your wives and partners and because of that you are a real STUD! Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree, in Brunei most of the activities for trailing spouses are aimed at women and it would take a brave man to turn up alone in a room full of women. Recently the law made it impossible for men to volunteer here anymore, and I really felt for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Making a new home abroad – my journey back to trailing spouse-land. |

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