An interesting article about “trailing spouses”

My friend Jim in the US pointed this article about being a “Trailing Spouse” to me.  Like the author, I can honestly say that the last six months haven’t necessarily been what I thought they’d be.  That there was far more isolation and loneliness than I expected.  However, I will say that Elanor has been my ticket to friendships and community far faster than I would have found them as a non-mom.  Also unlike the author, I haven’t been as eager to throw myself into local culture; I find myself craving the familiar-American TV, American Food, etc–because a day out in Singapore can still completely overwhelm me.  I want home to be a safe place full of the comfortable and the familiar.

The hardest part, which the author addresses eloquently is the dependence.

But my husband had the simple advantage of going to a job everyday, offering him benefits I didn’t share. His days had structure, he made friends at work, and he maintained his professional identity.

In my case, I was financially, socially, and emotionally reliant on him.

This dependence was surprising given that I had lived abroad before. I was certainly no stranger to culture shock and lifestyle differences. I had expected them, but I hadn’t considered the difficulty of adjusting to a new country as an “accessory” without my own purpose for living there.


If you’d like to read more, click the link to the article…

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6 Responses to An interesting article about “trailing spouses”

  1. musns says:

    The Foreign Service has one of the highest rates for divorce and alcoholism. I think your posting (and linked article) have a lot to do with the high divorce rate.

    Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have a child – or (worse!) if you didn’t have a child and were a complete introvert.

    • Crystal says:

      I can believe that. Of course what’s ironic is that getting divorced when living abroad is far more complex and tangled, just as everything about living abroad is.

  2. Alaine says:

    Hang in there!
    Have you heard of the American Women’s Association (AWA) in Singapore.
    Perhaps you can make some friends with other American women who are also trailing spouses.

    I have been craving Singaporean food lately, the weather is getting cold here in the East Coast, USA. The food in Singapore is amazing, I hope you get to try the local food as much as you can even when you are craving American Food.
    There’s always Hulu for American TV shows and Pandora for music. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Welcome Alaine…

      I’m a member of the AWA. They’re a nice organization, but they have a fairly frustrating habit of scheduling things at “waytoofuckingearly o’clock” for me. But a dear friend here is the mom group/kids stuff coordinator, and through her I’ve met some wonderful people.

      As for Hulu…sadly it’s blocked from access outside the US. We have a slingbox, which works, but often has buffering issues. It’s not necessarily about what I see or don’t see…it’s more that to see American tv, to talk to my American friends, to find access to the familiar, I have to make significant effort rather than just pick up a phone, flip through channels, etc.

      In general I wouldn’t say I’m unhappy here. I appreciate the new creative outlets living here has allowed for. I will definitely enjoy having a live-in helper when we decide to have another child and I find myself parenting a pre-schooler and a newborn. But I have also learned that I’m not the type of person to throw themselves fully into a new culture. I take what I enjoy–the zoo, the flora, the beaches, etc….and eschew the rest. I’ve learned that I’m far too American to appreciate “real” Asian food (other than Indian) and I’m okay with that. I don’t necessarily think there’s a wrong or a right way to be an expat, and that each person will find the path that’s right for them.

      • Alaine says:

        Singapore is so different today than it was 10 years ago when I was growing up there. I remember when Subway, Starbucks, Borders, Taco Bell, Tanglin Mall opened. It was such a big deal to hang out at Subway after school – hahahaha… (I went to SAS)

        Being culturally American w/out having lived here, I had such a big culture shock when I moved to the States for college. Talking and acting the same as everyone else but being completely different really tore me up inside. I was neither here nor there. And then going back “home” to Singapore to visit was another reverse culture shock. Nothing felt right, too many things different, transient, and out of place. Always out of place. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that my definition of home is just my memories of places, people, and events. Being neither here nor there and out of place 90% of the time is ok. (At least in NYC)

        Having a live-in helper is wonderful, I miss that. I grew up having a nanny, maids, a driver, and a mom who took care of everything. I had to learn how to drive, wash dishes, do laundry, clean the house – everything on my own (and it sucks!). Laundry piles up, dishes piles up, and clutter everywhere – on top of keeping up with my life. I suck it up every couple months to clean house and pony up some money for 4 hours of hired help. I sound slightly like a snotty brat but really its because I grew up with the luxuries of having hired help in Indonesia (lived there before Singapore).

        I think you will eventually develop a taste for “real” Asian food as much as I’ve developed a taste for American Chinese food (orange beef… lol). Glad that you are keeping busy with all the creative outlets.
        I recommend the following places/things to try if you haven’t already done so: Chilli Crab, Singapore Sling at Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel, High Tea at Raffles Hotel, Holland Village, Buffet Sunday brunch at Shangri-la hotel, Dim Sum at Shang at Shangri-la hotel, Botanical Gardens, Fort Canning Park, Chicken Rice at Takashimaya, Renting and riding a bike at Sentosa, Ice skating at Kallang, Chicken satay at Satay Club in Clarke Quay – the Indian Roti Prata is delicious too, Trick or treating around the Woodlands area near SAS a.k.a. “Little America”, Japanese Garden in Jurong, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, American Club… I’m forgetting some things…

      • Crystal says:

        Grin…even if you’ve forgotten some things, you’ve given me quite the list.

        You hit the nail on the head as to why having a helper can be a mixed blessing. I want my daughter to learn how to do all those things long before she moves out, but it probably won’t happen in SG (I mean, c’mon…I struggle with the microwave here…). It’s also one of the reasons I don’t want to be here for a long time (among many others), but am happy at the moment with a small child and plans for second at some point.

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