Sunday, November 21, 2010

Traveling Spouse!

It was staring us in the face!  You're always an accompanying spouse (they are too), a trailing spouse sounds fucking dreary, but if you are going from one place to another, you are a TRAVELING SPOUSE. What bad connotations does that have?  I just started reading Robin Pascoe's Culture Shock this morning, and when she said "traveling wife", it just clicked (after crossing out "wife" and adding in "spouse").

I'm reading the 1992 version, and though there's a 2000 edition, I am still amazed that in this day and age, wives are still the majority in traveling "with".  What is with this frigging world?  I know I'd still have issues with my situation, but if it wasn't so common for the woman to be accompanying, I think I'd feel less neurotic about it.  Let's all take a moment and hope/pray really hard that our children/our friends' children will have to look back on us and wonder why we were all so weird, divided and unequal.  I want them to squint in frustration trying to understand the things we did and the world we had to live through.

But, anyway, I am happy with traveling spouse.  But should we take a poll?  I've added one on the right, so have at it.  Hopefully there are as many readers as there are choices.


  1. I'll come out of the woodwork for this--I've been reading since your email was posted at Notorious, but I've been too shy to comment. I like traveling spouse (I also liked the earlier suggestion of sidecar, as well). I'm the graduate student, and my (male) partner and I are just starting to get an idea of what being a traveling spouse/partner will mean, and the lack of feminism in this country has gotten him some sidelong comments criticizing his decision to follow and my committment to an uncertain profession. (Not to be all whut about teh menz, though).

    Anyway, love the blog, my partner and I both read it. I'm in my third year of study and not close to looking for a job yet, but we are preparing for a possible research year and your posts have been helpful starting points for us to talk about what's going on with us.

  2. I like traveling spouse too...and I'm glad you are reading one of my old's very old though and out of print (in fact, did a new parenting book too)....The re-issued version of my wife book (sorry, 'traveling spouse' :-) book is now called "A Broad Abroad" with the unfortunate (for this exercise subtitle) of "The Expat Wife's Guide to Successful Living Abroad"...see it at my website and if you really want to know how I feel about this, watch the teaser for my video lectures at And by the way, I used to call myself 'expensive luggage.' Great blog of yours which I'm going to add to my blog links at my site! Cheers, Robin

  3. @Eileen- Readers like you are why I decided to write this. The help I got from Notorious was great. I hope the tone of my blog isn't too dour-- my first step towards organizing my feelings was allowing myself a space to vent and work these problems out. And if I'm confused about how my feminism jibes with following my spouse, I'm sure your partner has some issues to deal with, too. Post-feminist society, my ass. If your partner wants to write a guest post, oh please please please. We're all in this can of worms together.

    @Robin Pascoe- I hope I didn't come across as critical of your books (heck no!). Just critical of the world they were written in. People say, "There's no instruction guide for ______", but you appear to be writing them. I I'm really glad I found these before we move, so I have time to prepare myself and talk things out with my husband.

    I watched a few of your videos on youtube, and hearing your words straight from your mouth gave me a little sense of peace this morning. A real person, expressing things I've been feeling but didn't have the words for. Thank you.

  4. Anything is better than trailing spouse, but the others still have second fiddle connotations. I don't see why we can't just say husband or wife. If one spouse works and the other does not in an on-expat setting, they don't need to be differentiated to this degree.

    But if I have to choose, I guess I'd say accompanying spouse.

  5. @Alanpaul

    Though the terms are problematic, I think there's more problems in not naming it. Before I came across these terms, I felt like I was alone and feeling crazy that I had all these thoughts/feelings about my identity if I leave my job/town and go somewhere with my spouse (so he can follow his path).

    I hope you don't mind, but I am going to continue this thought in a new post. You've brought up an excellent (and thorny) point.

  6. No I don't mind. go for it, and keep me posted.

    It is a particularly thorny issue for a man. Really sort of emasculating. I wrote about this in my book, Big in China, which I'd love to talk to you about, actually. Look for email.

  7. I guess being a male traveling spouse is even more difficult in other countries.

    What's hard for me, is that so many places I look, the advice is not only designed for women, but only designed for women, because it's so common that we'll be the ones to uproot ourselves. I never thought I was a person to do that, so I'm very conflicted.


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