Relocation Considerations for the Trailing Spouse

Nearly one million Americans relocate for work each year. And over 75 percent of them are married, according to the Employee Relocation Council. So what happens to the “trailing” spouse in this situation?

The decision to move means leaving family, friends and maybe even a career behind. But most spouses are willing to take the plunge for a career opportunity or in support of their partner. Many corporations understand this and try to compensate for the inconvenience.

In fact, relocation assistance is often used as a recruiting tool. For some it includes a bonus, arranging job interviews for the spouse and flying the whole family back and forth to visit the area. However, even though the perks help smooth things over, there are some things that the trailing spouse will have to adjust to.

Finding Your Focus

While the transferee is immersed in the new environment as an employee, the trailing spouse may have to handle the issues of finding a home, moving, settling in, getting the kids in school, making new friends and adjusting to the new life and new home on all kinds of levels.

As a guide to help you determine what's most important during this stage of your life, consider the following:

  • What are your long-term career goals? What are your goals for yourself and how will you work towards them? Contact the local Chamber of Commerce, register with employment agencies, ask for referrals from friends, family and your current boss or get to know people in the neighborhood for possible leads. You may even want to start your own business and develop a career you can take anywhere.
  • What do you need to do for yourself to feel fulfilled? What is it that fulfils you? Perhaps volunteering, taking up a wellness and fitness program, starting a new hobby or advancing your education. This is a great way to reach out in your community and meet new people.
  • What family responsibilities do you need to take care of? What family issues need to be addressed, e.g., schools, daycare, healthcare, finances.

Getting Things Done

There are so many details to take care of when moving to and establishing yourself in a new area. Keep focused and do one thing at a time and things will get done. Here are some tips:

  • Prioritize what needs doing so you have the peace of mind of getting the most important things dealt with.
  • Do tasks early in the day so you have a sense of accomplishment for the rest of the day.

Taking Care of Yourself

You have left behind your previous life, family, friends and maybe a job and now you are now responsible for making sure many of the domestic affairs are taken care of. This is a time to make sure you get important tasks done, but also to give yourself some room to adjust and breathe.

  • Join a group or take a class so you start to get connected with others.
  • Make a nurturing haven, a special spot in your house where you feel nurtured and connected with what matters to you, maybe have some pictures of favorite people and places and a couple of items that are dear to you.
  • Do something you enjoy every day - something just for you.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and that you are going through a stressful transition time.
  • Communicate with your spouse.
  • Stay in touch with former family and friends.
  • Treat yourself regularly to some flowers or other special indulgence.
  • Get a library card and explore the library; it is a great resource not only for books and videos, but also for community information.
  • Explore your new area.

Your spouse's human resources department might have a special program to direct you to finding organizations or support groups. It's also important to attend activities where you can become acquainted with other trailing spouses.

Moving is said to be one of the top five stressors, but the move and settling in will be much easier if you take things one step at a time and nurture yourself through the transition.