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TRAILING SPOUSE* - THINK OUTSIDE THE LOOP
*the person who trails the primary income earner to a new career destination

Sometimes when you are moving things are much more complicated than you want them to be and sometimes you really have to think outside the loop to make the move a good one for everyone. So far we (in my family) have been lucky but this is not always the case.

I had friend who was recently told that her family would be relocating to a new country within six weeks. Neither she nor her husband had been there before and they were not allowed a "look-see" tour. They didn't speak the language, there could be some racial issues for them to contend with and the only school that their son could attend would not teach him in a language that he understood. They could go or not but if they didn't accept the posting (which was a promotion) then this would be a black mark on their expat record. What to do?

The Monday to Friday solution
Her solution was to come over to my house and cry a lot. We pulled out an atlas, checked the neighbouring countries and worked out that it may be better for them to relocate to a country that was closer. Closed borders and travel restrictions also confused things. The husband could do Mon-Fri in the work country and travel back and forwards at the weekend. Not an ideal solution for them as a couple but a manageable one for them as a family unit given the circumstances.

Boarding?
Another friend has battled with schooling choices over the years. Where they lived was not great for their daughter as she needed extra support and attention in a number of different areas. Their solution was to buy property in their home country and downsize their expat home. The daughter went to boarding school as a day boarder and the grandmother looked after her at the weekends.

A colleague in Hong Kong put her daughter to school in Phuket as she found the school was closer to them than a boarding school back home in Canada. This way they could stay in regular contact and with more moves through Asia on the cards, the daughter would have a stable education and a static set of chums.

Split through distance
One thing I would not recommend though is extended periods of time apart. A friend whose husband was transferred decided not to move with them and, after being apart for a number of years, they divorced. They had got too used to living apart to manage being together.

The main things though is to be open to the process. Living in two countries, downsizing, upsizing, changing homes, houses and lifestyle could work for you all depending on your circumstances.

Think outside the loop if you have to. It may provide the solution that you need.

Dr Amanda O has been an expatriate for most of her life and can't imagine living any other way!

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Posted 15Sep05