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.
"Trailing spouse" is absolutely a horrid term. I've just already renamed my blog twice, and it took me a long time on the internet to even find that one term, so horrid as it is, it's a keyword beacon for other frustrated souls.
I think there's more problems in not naming it. Before I came across these terms, I felt very alone that had all these thoughts/feelings about my identity if I leave my job/town and go somewhere with my spouse once he gets his post-doc job. Once I found the term "trailing spouse", even after recoiling at the name, it felt good to know that I wasn't imagining things. Like when I found out "lie bumps" were just inflamed taste buds, not tongue cancer.
If there's not a word for it, and it's mostly women who are in this position then we're implicitly saying that it's just a normal female role. "Why give it a name? Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" And even though the "you" in this situation could be male or female, if it was mostly men, there'd be less demeaning name.
Betty Friedan opened the door for a more comprehensive vocabulary about these issues in The Feminine Mystique, where she wrote about "The Problem That Has No Name" (women's ennui with traditional feminine roles). Hello Feminism! I can't imagine what it felt like to read those words back in the 60s. As a twenty-something in 2010, I am conscious of the long road we still have to travel as women, but cannot even pretend to know what it was like for my grandmothers, or my mother. And I thank them for saving me from those experiences. And so, when I hear that differentiation isn't necessary, I would rather err on the side of too many names than not enough.
I hope this post doesn't come off as too aggressive, but I am a fan of words, and an obnoxious baby feminist to boot. I'm sure reading one or two posts made that last point obvious. I still can't believe anyone is even reading this.
*I've linked to a post he wrote about his work/life/marriage situation. Good to hear from a male perspective on this! He is now on my blog roll! (and I know he's just thrilled).