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?


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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Celebrating Women Explorers on International Women’s Day

I recently contributed to a series of posts celebrating women around the world. What better way to mark International Women’s Day than to share it with you today. The post, which is part of Silver Lining Mama’s She-ology series, highlights the achievements of three remarkable Victorian era women explorers: Mary Kingsley, Gertrude Bell and Nellie Bly. It seems incredible that these women aren’t household names like their male counterparts (David Livingstone, Lawrence of Arabia et al). Not only did they have to overcome all the same difficulties as the men, but they also faced the barriers of their sex in an era when most women of their class were expected to sit at home and look pretty rather than climb mountains, canoe rivers and ride across the Arabian desert.

So in celebration of the unsung Victorian female explorers, I give you MARY GERTRUDE NELLIE.

Happy International Women’s Day!