How to Manage Transition From a Career Woman to a Trailing Spouse

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Marriage is about making sacrifices for each other and committing to make life work, no matter how epic it may be. After dating long-distance (a six-hour flight apart) for two years, I made the move to seal the deal for good.

Moving to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was the toughest decision I had to make. I had to give up my job in Shanghai to settle in Kuala Lumpur. The transition from a career woman that commands a team of 50 staff to a wife who can’t draw a salary because she is on a spousal visa is a tremendous change, but I have never regretted my decision.

Not always "a day at the beach" by Cosmic Time
Not always “a day at the beach” by Cosmic Time

If you are like me, you will find yourself suddenly at a loss of goals in life. While your partner goes to work, you may twiddle your thumbs at home, driving yourself crazy staring at the four walls. Here are some of my tips to help you transition better from a working machine to a stay-at-home person.

Acknowledging that your role in life has changed is the first step. It is easy to get caught up in the epic adventure of relocation and a whirlwind of activities. Before you know it, you may suddenly face emptiness once all the relocation activities die down. Pace yourself, ease yourself into the new role, and look at the change positively.

Huge Adjustments

Instead of waking up at 7 am, wolfing down your breakfast, grabbing your house and car keys so that you can reach your workplace in time, you’ll be awake at 7 am confused and dazed, wondering why did you wake up that early when you have nowhere to rush to. It takes a while for your body clock to realize that you no longer need to wake up at a scheduled time.

Not only will you need to adjust physically, but you will also need to adjust mentally when there is lesser mental stimulation stuck at home with no immediate goals. There is also a culture shock in a new country to get used to.

Another big change you might have is the lack of income. You will need to have a financial talk with your partner about how household and personal expenses are to be managed.

While it is an awkward topic, the sooner you have an honest chat about financial expectations, the better. I know of many marriages that have broken down because of money issues. I am used to having disposable income when I was working; I wasn’t careful about how I spent that money.

Now, I find myself being more cautious and aware of my expenditures because it’s my husband’s money. I use an app to track all my expenditures and give access to my husband. I learned to cut down on unnecessary purchases because I no longer need new clothes for work or transport for the daily work commute.

Keep Communication Open

Keep talking and enjoying by Nate Dumlao
Keep talking and enjoying by Nate Dumlao

Besides keeping tabs on your family and friends far away (for me, Facebook likes don’t count), the most important person to communicate your difficulties with is with your partner.

I find myself telling my husband of my dreams, fears, and every little thing I encountered during the day. Together, we create little goals together for me to have something to work on and look forward to, such as planning our next vacation.

Also, try to find an expatriate circle to mingle with. It keeps me sane to have someone in the same situation that can relate to the uneasiness.

Finding Yourself

With extra time comes the freedom to indulge in self-exploration. I tried new things that I have never had time to commit to because of my busy career.

Getting it in focus by Pixabay
Getting it in focus by Pixabay

I checked off more things on my bucket list within the first year than I did in my entire lifetime. I climbed mountains in Innsbruck, learned to lap dance at a professional studio, shot my first pistol in Cambodia, went rock climbing (for the first and last time) in Cherating, found my hidden passion for scuba diving in Tioman, explored the Forbidden City in Beijing, adopted three beautiful cats, volunteered at a non-profit family organization, had my first article published in a local magazine, designed my personal website, and started freelancing.

If I were still working, I wouldn’t have time to do all these things. Instead, I’d be stuck in an office, pushing my limits and aiming for the next promotion.

I wouldn’t be able to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a mother. My doctor said without the rest my body was getting, I would have had a hard time conceiving naturally because of the constant stress and irregular long hours I worked previously.

Many of us thought a career provided a convenient identity. We lost ourselves to our hectic jobs and equally busy social lives. It can be hard to get used to when you first move without the distraction of your work, your friends, and your family. You may hate the label of “trailing spouse” or the sudden financial dependency, but you can embrace the freedom it will bring to you to learn more about yourself.

Did you follow your spouse to another country because of his or her career? Let us know how it is going for you.

by: Kally Tay