Today I am going to spill three “dirty secrets” of trailing spouses, and I suspect that many of you will be glad I did. I am talking about things that you or your fellow trailing spouse likely wouldn’t admit in public, but chances are, you can relate.
Don’t worry: After the cat is out of the bag, I will share three proven steps to do less trailing and more living. This insight is based upon years of experience training and coaching trailing spouses from six continents – complimented by my own expatriate experiences in Switzerland and West Africa. Three “dirty secrets” most trailing spouses won’t admit in public:
1. “I am a bit lost.”
You would never guess it by talking to them at the school’s drop-off spot or over a cold drink on a Friday night. However, there are a significant number of women who, while confident on the outside, feel stuck. Self-doubt sits like a small but irritating weight on an otherwise happy heart.
Don´t get me wrong — these are strong, productive women. At the same time there is a part of them that feels lost, in doubt or simply down. Ironically, most are slow to even admit this to themselves. This somewhat subtle yet uncomfortable reality is a signal of an inner desire for change.
2. “It is not enough just to be with the kids.”
What mother in her right mind would admit this in public? We all agree children are a gift. Children can add depth and joy to our lives that is unparalleled. Yet, all too often there is an undertone of shame when women do anything but put their children’s wishes ahead of all else.
One of my workshop participants said it beautifully: It is like negotiating at a street market when you propose a price and the seller responds: C’est bon, mais n’est pas arrivé. It is good, but it’s not enough.
At the same time, these women are hungry for a purpose outside of motherhood and beyond supporting their partner. They are talented and eager to make a contribution to the world. They have underutilized skills and talents that are bursting at the seams to be shared.
3. “I want control.”
No, they don’t want to control others. They want some sense of control over their time and things that are meaningful for them.
A trailing spouse can easily have her day filled up for her with school and home obligations – especially in some countries where “getting things done” can be far more complex.
Ok, the truth is out. You can see these are actually not dirty secrets but pure realities for women who are hugely supportive of their children as well as their partners.
By my definition, a Trailblazing Spouse™ comes clean of these “dirty secrets” by taking charge of her own life. Here is how she does it:
* She has projects that are fulfilling and in alignment with her future goals.
* She is happy – and when she is not, she can recognize it and has solid strategies to make things better.
* She has a community of like-minded individuals whom she can call upon for personal and professional support.
* She has resolved the identity dilemmas from the relocation.
* She has found balance between the needs of her family and her own.
A Trailblazing Spouse™ has found joy in her life abroad and is committed to making the best of it.
Here are three steps that will help you get there: up, back and forward.
1. What brings you up?
Get crystal clear on what lights you up. Name two things you know you´ve always wanted to do or experience. Make a commitment to get started on one of these within the next three weeks.
2. What holds you back?
3. What is so appealing that it will move you forward?
Identify one small step forward on your trail. Bribe yourself with something so amazing that it is irresistible to take the first step. Celebrate this accomplishment and repeat liberally.
Just get started today. Your adventure is waiting.
The author, Sundae Schneider-Bean, is an experienced coach and intercultural specialist who helps trailing spouses transform their lives. She offers programs and coaching for trailing spouses to live in better alignment with their passions and skills.
(Image credit: iStockphoto.com)