Trailing spouse

The term trailing spouse is used to describe a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment. The term is often associated with people involved in an expatriate assignment[1] but is also used by academia on domestic assignments. Other terms may include expat partner, military dependent, and accompanying spouse.[2]

The earliest citation of the term trailing spouse is attributed to Mary Bralove in a Wall Street Journal article titled "Problems of Two-Career Families Start Forcing Businesses to Adapt."[3]

Another personnel man remembers the promising executive he lost because her husband was a dentist who couldn't find a good practice to join in the area. To cope with this problem, some 150 northern New Jersey employers participate in an employer job bank. The bank is designed to provide job leads for "the trailing spouse" of a newly hired or transferred executive.

Trailing spouses are a common phenomenon among military and foreign service households,[4] as well as in private sector companies with employees in different cities, states, and countries. As the conditions of employment require a geographic relocation, the employee's spouse is faced with a major transition that includes personal and professional challenges.


  • Professional Sacrifice – It is not uncommon for a trailing spouse to sacrifice their professional / career goals during their trailing period.[5]
  • Family issues – Stresses caused by social, financial and cultural strains placed on the family relationships as a result of the assignment.
  • Barriers to mobility – The willingness or otherwise of the trailing spouse or other family members to relocate. Lack of support by the sponsoring employer to address the needs of the trailing spouse.
  • Work/life challenges – Difficulties associated with finding and maintaining meaningful work or other sense of worth while on assignments, prompting a need to consider career transitions, develop professional resilience and embrace opportunities for reinvention.[6]
  • Loss of identity – Difficulties associated with loss of identity and the subsequent period of reshape and remodelling that ensues in the new environment.[7]
  • Gender – Experiences and issues facing male trailing spouse vary from those faced by females.[8]

Notable ExamplesEdit


  1. ^ Keenan, Brigid (2006). Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse. Hachette.
  2. ^ Gupte, Nicole Neroulias (2019-10-19). "What's a Trailing Spouse?". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  3. ^ Bralove, Mary (July 15, 1981). "Problems of Two-Career Families Start Forcing Businesses to Adapt". The Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ "A "Trailing" Spouse? | The Foreign Service Journal - March 2014". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  5. ^ Knežević, A (April 2013). "I've lost my identity, what have i gained?" (Print). Expatriates Magazine. Paris. pp. 22–23.
  6. ^ " Our Philosophy". Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  7. ^ "The Trailing Spouse No Longer Need Be Such A Drag".
  8. ^ "Adaptation of Trailing Spouses: Does Gender Matter?". Anne M. Braseby - Florida International University.

External linksEdit