A trailing spouse story…

Posted by Carole

Have you ever made a life changing decision meaning you had to start all over again and change your habits from A to Z? That’s what happened to me when I decided to leave my flat, my job and my sweet Parisian routine to follow my boyfriend in Switzerland, where he got a job.

It was very sudden and all went so fast I have to admit I didn’t think too much about it. I just followed my heart and six months in I truly don’t regret my decision… despite the ups and downs! Because yes, let’s face it, it’s not all pinky and easy to follow a partner abroad and become what some refer to as a “trailing spouse”. Many obstacles await on the road to settling down and despite being one very thrilling and exciting adventure, it’s also a time of great challenges, doubts and uncertainty… as I’m learning every day since I started my new life in Switzerland.

So today I wanted to share a few thoughts and tips on this unsettling yet very rewarding experience in the hope that it might help some other trailing spouses out there!

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  1. Own your life and stay confident

If you’ve made the decision to leave it all behind and start afresh, there is a good reason for it! Whether it’s to follow a loved-one, because you needed a change or both, your decision was justified by what you felt was best for you so never feel like you have to justify yourself or apologize to those around you, who might be questioning your choices.

I mean it’s normal that your family or friends worry about you, especially if your big change will leave you unemployed for a while and that is exactly what happened to me. I remember my mother being pretty upset about my decision at first but after I took the time to explain to her why I made this decision, she instantly understood and became incredibly supportive.

No one better than you knows what makes you happy so stand your ground and face raised-eyebrows with confidence but do take the time to explain your projects to your loved ones, those who truly care about you will understand and accept your decision. And simply ignore those who don’t!

  1. Stay positive and persevere

Starting afresh means there is lots of challenges you will have to face and one of those might be looking for a job! I always found that finding a new position was a relatively easy task in London, probably because I work in advertising and the market is flourishing there but things are different in Switzerland for multiple reasons I won’t bore you with, but let’s say I was told to expect an eight months hunting period to get a job! Believe me it was a shock and one that first left me distraught but then I digested the news and admitted that I had to deal with things the way they were and instead of pulling my hear and worrying sick, I decided to keep a clear mind and persevere.

Easier said than done but here are a few tips that help:

  • Don’t spend your entire day job hunting! If you’ve spent a few hours looking for offers and are not making any progress anymore, leave it there for the day as there is no point desperately scrolling through job boards apart from making you distressed and miserable (been there, done that!) If you’re registered to key job boards and recruitment agencies, you will be aware when a potential match comes through so relax and use the free time you have to do something you love or, this brings me to my next point, learn something new.
  • Being off work means you have time to learn new things and this can be a huge advantage for your career. For instance, throughout my researches I’ve noticed most employers are requiring knowledge of online monitoring and analytic tools so I decided to take advantage of the free time I have on my hands to broaden my skills and take the Google Analytics course and exam. It keeps me busy, in the game, it’s a great investment in my career and most importantly it gives me a sense of achievement, which is crucially needed when one is unemployed!
  • Don’t doubt or question yourself too much when you receive a negative answer from HR departments or are being ignored altogether. While making sure you apply to the right positions and your CV is flawless, there are many reasons why your candidature could have been rejected and it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem with you or your experience. Plus, there is not much you can do about a company’s decision not to hire you so just move on and persevere.
  • Mobilise your professional network as they might introduce you to potential employers. Also keep in touch with former bosses, colleagues and clients. Most employers will request references and recommendations at some point and it will be a lot easier to ask someone you’re still talking to than asking for the favour out of the blue!
  1. Embrace the opportunity

Embrace the free time you have to do things that you felt you didn’t have enough time for when you were working including learning or trying out new things but also indulgent activities such as reading, going for a walk or simply sunbathing.

Also use this free time and mind space to acknowledge this special moment in your life as a turning point giving you the opportunity to think about what makes you really happy and adjust your life accordingly. Not many people have the time or mental availability to do it so embrace it as a once-in-a-lifetime gift!

  1. Stick to a daily-routine

Moving to a city where you don’t know anyone can be a bit lonely especially if you don’t have a job to keep you socially active during the day so until you’ve found a new position and make new friends, try to stick to a healthy daily routine to keep your mind and body active and prevent you from slipping into a vegetative mode!

  • Of course you should enjoy sleeping a bit later in the morning as (I think) it’s one of the main benefit of not working, however it’s important not to spend half your day in bed! So set up your alarm clock to a reasonable time so you have enough pre-lunch hours to enjoy!
  • Echoing what I said earlier, I feel it’s important to define a schedule for your day otherwise you can easily get absorbed in counter-productive activities such as endless job hunting that will consume your day without any results. I usually focus on job searches in the morning when I’m fresh and the most positive and keep the afternoon for yoga, blogging, walks and any other activities a bit more fun. That way I feel like I work part-time and have accomplished my daily task by 1pm, which helps me enjoy my afternoon even more!
  • Try to leave job hunting or other learning activities behind when the evening comes so you can take a break from it all and most importantly enjoy some quality time with your partner without rehashing the same doubts or complaints and risk spoiling the moment you have. Also keep in mind that, just like you, your partner is going through a changing phase and is probably as stressed up as you are by his/her new life and responsibilities at work so go easy on him/her!
  1. Enjoy the small things

Don’t forget to enjoy the benefits, how small they seem, that come with your new situation. There are a lot more than you may realize…

Take the time to sit down and reflect on things, sleep longer in the morning, try that crazy recipe you’ve seen on TV, indulge in a daily yoga session, meditate in the middle of the afternoon, take a nap in the park, go swimming when the public pool is empty etc…

The list is long so relax and enjoy the freedom while it lasts!

Thank you for reading! Like and leave a comment below if you enjoyed reading this article and would like to share your experience with us!

4 thoughts on “A trailing spouse story…

  1. I’ve moved abroad twice, both times following my partner’s work, and think your advice on the transition is spot on. And I love the way you phrased your tips! Especially if you’re a ‘trailing spouse’, remembering that you (one way or another) are choosing to be there and owning that decision is a huge help in regaining a sense of confidence and control in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! As a fellow “trailing spouse” I’m glad my tips resonnated with you. I’m discovering your blog right now and loving it! Expat life is extremely rewarding but it can aslo be incredibly challenging, especially when you are the “one who follows” so reading about others experience is precious!!

      Like

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