10 Reasons I Became a Trailing Spouse

In the expatriate world, “trailing spouse” is a term used to define the person who is “following” his or her partner on a move abroad. I’ve mentioned before how I hate this term because it implies that the spouse didn’t have an opinion on the matter and is just sitting in the passenger seat for this adventure.

I certainly had a lot of say when it came to our decision to move to Germany and do not consider myself a trailing spouse in the undertone of the word. I am, however, technically, a trailing spouse. I am only in Germany because my husband received an amazing work opportunity. And you know what? I’ve fine with that. We are a team. What is good for my husband is good for me and vice versa. We went into this decision together and if I weren’t okay with moving here or felt it unsafe or unwise, we wouldn’t have come, like most decisions in our marriage.

Funny story to show how true this is. One day Vinn came home from work and said, “Hey, a position is opening up in Japan. We could go there as my international assignment for three years. Do you want to go?”

My response, “No.”

Vinn: “Don’t you think we should talk about it?”

Me: “I think we just did.”

No is a full sentence and in this case is exactly that. I have nothing against Japan but it would have certainly been a different experience moving there as opposed to Germany. My biggest reason, though, for saying no right away is because the work culture and working hours are incredibly difficult. Most people work 12-14 hours a day and there would be no way for me to get a job in Japan, the language is much more difficult and I would be home by myself all day long. So, no. And I’m 100% happy with that decision because it allowed us to accept the German position when that one opened. Everything happens for a reason.

Anyways, I’ve shared the 10 things I wish I knew before moving abroad and today I thought I’d share what exactly what into my thinking process for moving abroad and the 10 reasons I decided to become a trailing a spouse.


  1. A new adventure. The number one reason I said yes to being a trailing spouse is that this would be such a great adventure. I mean, giving up everything to move to another country is an exhilarating experience. The adventure has definitely been a wild ride but one that I will never forget.
  2. Getting more passport stamps. The great thing about moving to Europe and Germany specifically is that it is centrally located and you can get to so many countries really quickly. We can drive 4 hours and be in Austria,  Switzerland or France. Unfortunately, when we drive we don’t get any stamps in our passports, but we have visited so many countries in our one year here and are only traveling more this year. It is so fulfilling to travel together and see some incredible sites.
  3. Immersing myself in an entirely new culture. From the language, to the food and the interactions, life in Germany is certainly different. But it sounded like a lot of fun to step out of my comfort zone and experience something totally new. It has certainly been an adjustment, but it a great experience, none the less.
  4. A special time for my husband and me. I had such ideas about how great this move would be for our marriage. And it definitely has been that. For the first few months, we only had each other. We could only lean on each other and it has made our relationship deeper, more intimate and wonderful. We will look back on these years as some of the best years of our lives.
  5. A growth experience. Combine 1 -4 and you have a growth experience. No need for an explanation.
  6. I could (hopefully) find my passion.  I wasn’t sure if I would find a job so I hoped that something would open my eyes to a passion that could eventually turn into a career. I truly love writing and think I have discovered my passion. I just need to put in more effort so this can turn into a career.
  7. Meeting new people. I hoped that our move to Germany would bring friends from around the world and we’d make life long friends. And, let me tell you, it was really hard, but we have a great group of friends now and ones that I hope we’ll have for years to come. We are even planning weekend trips coming up in April and May.
  8. A step towards a great future. I knew this move would be a step in the right direction for Vinn’s career. As part of the managerial track, it is important to have an international assignment, so this move is closer to management. It was definitely a big motivating factor, as I want him to be happy and satisfied in his career and to be in the best position moving forward to climb that corporate ladder. Plus, it is never a bad thing to have international experience on your resume!
  9. It will be so fun. What wouldn’t be fun about traveling around Europe, speaking German and eating pretzels and drinking beer?
  10. When would we get this experience again? The opportunity came at the perfect time in our lives. We don’t have children, so we didn’t need to worry about schools or anything. When would be able to pick up and move to another country again? Never. This is certainly a once in a lifetime experience and one that we do not take for granted. We are experiencing everything to the fullest and not wasting any minute of it.

Well, there you have it. The 10 reasons I decided to become a trailing spouse or move abroad. It was definitely the right decision for me and my family. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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  1. Kim Reynolds | 28th Mar 17

    Hi Jessica!
    Interesting that my generation didn’t have a term for, or any stigma associated with being a “trailing spouse”. I moved to North Dakota when married. Uncle Scott was stationed there. Who moved was usually based on which spouse made more and planned on working that job longer. I was one of the last generations when some women didn’t work after marriage, although “women’s liberation” and Gloria Steinem we’re changing people’s views. I thought I could, and should, “do it all”. “Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let him forget he’s a man”, was from a commercial in my day, and pretty much summed up the modern woman of the 1970’s views.

    Now that I’m retired, I feel I did it all, but would have been less hard on myself to do it all at the same time! I did it all, its mostly unrealistic to believe you can always do it all, at the same time! Priorities and shifting needs of the family should dictate who does what, and when. It was a high point when everything could be done at the same time. It only worked well when no one was sick. Having children made that less likely! Scott and I called working full-time and raising children our form of “extreme sports”! It took all our strength and all our endurance. It is extreme to do it all at once! I did not always do it all. Some times the family needs dictated that I not work full-time. Some of those times were our most fun years! So enjoy your now!
    We just finished a vacation to San Diego, California. It took us 9 hours with bathroom breaks to drive there. It’s amazing how close different Countries are in Europe! We’re planning a road trip to Wisconsin this Summer. It will take us 3 days of 10 hours of driving each day to do that! Enjoy yourselves and your travel opportunities! Love to you and Vinn!

    • Jessica | 29th Mar 17

      That is really interesting how it’s so generational. I definitely think it’s best to stay in your own lane and focus on the needs of your family. Thanks for reading and sharing!!

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