When I made the decision to move to the United States with H, it was with the caveat that I be given the opportunity to work, whether I wanted to utilize that opportunity or not. H agreed, which was why he insisted on the E-3 visa as opposed to the more popular H-1B visa, even though E-3 does not provide a pathway to permanent residency or Green Card. It was never our intention to remain in the US for long so that didn’t matter to us. As his dependent, I can earn my own money, whether as an employee or as a sole trader.
This was to prevent boredom as well as depression which seemed to be common among “trailing spouses” but hardly discussed. While the typical spouse used to be women, the global work landscape and same-sex relationship acceptance had mad it such that the term is no longer limited to women but to men as well.
Image from healthination.com
I’ve met a few female Merchandise Buyers and Planners who transplanted their entire family from the UK to move to Australia whose husbands made the decision to give up their career in their home country.
When couples decide to relocate, especially due to work, one of them will almost always certainly have to give up an established career. If both parties are happy with that decision, no passive aggressiveness, no blame throwing, no “I have no career because of you” fights, then it’s smooth sailing.
Relocating, especially to a new country can be stressful. Aside from looking for a new place, expats need to learn how things work in the new country, from how to rent a place, opening a bank account, day of garbage disposal to understanding the culture and mindset of a company or city or a town. For the spouse or partner who is working, it’s generally easier because they are immediately immersed in a work community. For the spouse who is not legally allowed to work, before May 2015, most of these were holders of H-4 visa. Now, eligible H-4 visa holders are allowed to work.
I believed before I even got married that it’s important for a healthy relationship to make sure that both parties are relatively financially independent. When I had to move to Australia and was looking for a job, it was soul-crushing to have to ask H money and gave me flashbacks of when I was a kid asking my parents for money to buy things. In my head, I shouldn’t have to depend on him because I held a degree (now two degrees and a few diplomas). I have to admit, I did go through a period where my confidence wavered. While I had my funds, the conversion rate between my home country’s currency and the Australian currency wasn’t a lot to live on. Fortunately, I was able to get a job after two months of actively searching and with a lot of support from H.
Here in the US, I can just imagine how many of the “trailing spouses” are going or have gone through either a career or identity crisis because of this situation. Career-minded spouses who suddenly find themselves without a career may find the adjustment hard. Not only do they no longer have a paying job, they also don’t have a support system.
Skype, face time, WhatsApp are some ways to keep in contact with friends and family but sometimes phone calls or video calls are not just enough.
In my case, I made the decision to take this opportunity to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life. I looked at my life goals and started ticking them off.
I wrote a novel and legitimized it by setting up my own little company for my writing. I’m currently looking for a line editor because the last one was a dud. I’ve traveled as much as I could afford. I also joined two Toastmaster’s Clubs. It used to be three, but I cut it down to two. While I had no problem staying at home, working on my novel, reading kindle, working out to you tube videos or watching reruns of CSI and NCIS, I still wanted some form of social interaction that had a purpose. Through those two clubs, I am able to hone my public speaking skills, to socialize with others, and to learn more about the state I’m currently residing in.
My friends ask me, “Don’t you get bored?” I answer, “No. Not at all.”
I am aware that I am one of the fortunate ones and I’m always grateful that I have a supportive husband.
For those who are struggling right now, I say don’t give up. Reach out to others. Your worth is not defined by a title or a corporate position. Use this time as an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted, whether it’s to go back to school, to learn a new skill, or to just explore your new surrounding.