Trailing Spouse? You don't have to lag behind

Today I stumbled across the term ‘trailing spouse’. Although we have lived as expats for many years, we are in a unique situation. We both moved abroad to follow God’s call and work with marriage and families. However, many expats move abroad because either the husband or the wife was posted overseas because of a new job.

There is a special term for the spouse who has to follow. The term is a ‘trailing spouse’. It isn’t a very nice term, and it certainly doesn’t sound as though they are living abroad by choice. Many are not! Since around 20% of management positions are taken up by women, the role of the trailing spouse doesn’t belong to women only.  This doesn’t change the fact, though, that their families have to trail along behind them. It also should not be assumed trailing spouses are confined to the secular world. Many people involved in ministry also find themselves in the same situation.

Each expat will meet their own challenges. Challenges like: learning a new job, working long hours, learning a new language and a new system are not unusual. The trailing spouse, however, may find settling in a new country even more challenging! Along with culture shock comes isolation and loneliness as well as the challenges of running a home abroad. The phenomenon of the trailing spouse is so significant that a recent article by the BBC used the term. Trailing spouse syndrome captures the difficulties that many expats experience. I recently read two fascinating articles on a website called; the piece explored the life of William Carey a famous missionary.


The Trailing Spouse

William Carey married a lady named Dorothy in 1781. Dorothy thought she was marrying a shoemaker and was shocked to realise that he was called to India. Not only was he to move continent but she was expected to go with him. Dorothy was the stereotypical trailing spouse and because she did not share William’s call to the mission field. The years that followed were filled with torment for her. The marriage, as a result, was not happy and after 14 miserable years in India, she died.

The Called Spouse

William married again, this time to a lady named Charlotte.  Charlotte, however, shared William’s vision, and both the marriage and the mission were a success. Through William Carey’s experiences, the mission agency learned much about what it meant to have a One-flesh call. Many couples do not realise that God brought them together for a purpose. God can blend to people together! Their giftings and anointings can complement one another.

Many Christians are experiencing dissatisfaction in their marriage because they have become a trailing spouse. They simply following along without the knowledge that God has called them both to the work. As Christians, we need to stop, pray, seek God’s will and follow Him together.

If your spouse doesn’t share your vision, the answer is not divorce! The answer is prayer. Ask God to show you what He has created for you to do together.Bitterness and resentment occur when the responsibility of seeking God's will together is neglected. Share on X Each spouse blames the other for the decisions made and cracks start appearing in the marriage. Living abroad needs to be a mutual decision, how you serve God together needs to be one also!

By Lainey Hitchman

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