The realities of being the trailing spouse

I know the spirit of this blog is to be light-hearted and positive, but it is also about being truthful, so I wanted to take the opportunity to write about something a bit more serious. From only limited research on the internet, I’ve surmised that my current living situation is by no means unique for the expat community. My husband and I have been married for just about 4 months now and have lived separately the entire time (except for our wedding week, 2 trips to Leipzig to learn the area and get an apartment, and a lengthy holiday vacation spent together). Wow, when I list it out like that I really sound like I’m being petty. The point is, I don’t think it’s uncommon for the spouse of an expat to be left in the home country to tie up loose ends, finish up at a current job, etc. before joining their other-half in the new country. I knew going in that this would be my reality, but in all honesty, I completely underestimated the challenges, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Physically – there are a lot of boxes, a lot of things to pack, and by default I’m left to do it alone. To be fair though, Craig will get the other end of this in the un-packing phase.

Mentally – I am currently trying to finish my graduate degree, which is a lot of hard work. But as I sit at my desk attempting to write my dissertation, my mind is 1000 miles away, already in Europe. All day I’m thinking about how we are going to organize our new apartment, what supplies I need to buy so that we are well-equipped for a smooth transition, where we are going to buy our washer and dryer, how we are going to make friends in a new country, where we are going to travel, etc. I’m already checked-out. I want so badly to be in Europe with my husband and to start our expat lives, start our married lives, together, that there is no room left in my mind to be present in my daily life.

Emotionally – It sucks. It sucks for both of us. Literally every day is a struggle. We’re not used to living apart and have been pretty much inseparable since the day we met. Sure, it’s healthy to be independent and self-sufficient without your spouse, but no one said it had to be enjoyable. It’s like the broccoli of living situations (but to be fair, I like broccoli, so it’s maybe more like the water chestnuts of living situations). Food analogies aside, it’s downright miserable to be separated from the one you love. People try to console you by telling you things like it’s only for a couple of months, that this is your last opportunity to live by yourself so you should make the most of it, and that given the shear number of visiting opportunities you’ve been so fortunate to have, you are really being ungrateful, irrational, and making mountains out of molehills. Despite the attempts, I’ve been basically inconsolable. I won’t deny I’ve been pretty damn fortunate. I’ve been able to visit my husband on several occasions since he started his job, I live in a time/place where we can have daily skype chats, and I have an amazing husband who is incredibly patient with my completely irrational emotions. (You know, the incessant crying over missing him.) What people don’t quite understand is that I also find my emotional response completely irrational, but it is still there. If I could reason it away, I would in an instant. I know my emotions aren’t helping anything. But, in the moment, that molehill of problems truly feels like a mountain. It feels completely insurmountable. It feels like I will never reach the day when I get to move back in with him.

Alas, all I can do is be patient. And I know this. And I remind myself of it often. I’ve had to stop myself from quitting my position and buying a spur-of-the-moment red-eye flight on several occasions. It’s hard. And I’m going to say it’s normal. Long distance relationships are hard enough on their own, but in this circumstance it is particularly hard because I’m planning to be there, but I can’t be there yet. It’s even more challenging because I don’t know the exact date of my move yet, so I have no idea how patient I need to be; I will just be there “soon.” This whole experience thus far has been maddening at times, but all I can do is hang in there and hope that it is worthwhile in the end (the toughest things in life usually are).


2 thoughts on “The realities of being the trailing spouse

  1. Geri says:

    Hang in there Becky, it will all be worth it when you have your degree & join for husband in Europe! Take Care, Love You, Your DZ Mom, Geri


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