Relocating Partner Facts

By Gabriela O’Malley

Instantly at the epicenter of rapid and usually extreme change. In charge of overseeing every end-to-end aspect involved in the relocation – from housing, schools, new brands; to making sure everyone is safe, healthy, fed, cared for, connected to family back home… well settled and happy.

The Relocating Partner

First introduced by Mary Bralove in an article WROTE FOR the Wall Street Journal on July 15, 1981 “Problems of Two-Career Families Start Forcing Businesses to Adapt.”, BRALOVE used the term “trailing spouse” TO REFER TO THE PARTNER WHO RELOCATES SUPPORTING THE OTHER ONE’S CAREER; a term that slowly has been pushed away by many other names - expat partner, global nomad, dependent, or THE most RECENT AND commonlY USED, Relocating Partner.

If you’re a partner who (hopefully happily) agreed to venture into relocating to support your spouse’s career with the understanding that the new job would bring greater opportunities for your family and be a path to adventure, discovering new cultures, and/or learning new languages, here are the three biggest shoulds you need to know:

1.    The experience ahead of you is something you need to walk into with as much clarity, understanding, guidance and preparation as possible.

2.    Have a list of honest, detailed and accurate resources for advise and support.

3.    Expect that your relocation will make a memorable impact in your life and your family’s.

There’s a path a lot of us relocating partners have traveled: we’ve left jobs or careers behind, we’ve been left alone with a load of mundane housing challenges while raising children, we’ve navigated uncertainty and battled emotional chaos, we’ve been in a vortex of new information learning how to maneuver it all in order to relaunch our lives in foreign and unexplored environments, and we’ve been away from our safety network for a fair amount of time. We’ve spent so much time throwing away whole pieces of our lives…only to replace them with newer, different versions.

One of the most valuable lesson I’ve walked away with after spending many years moving and relocating is this: as a pivotal part of successful domestic and international relocation assignments, men and women need and deserve to have sufficient ongoing support to thrive as individuals, parents, partners, and professionals. Because everyone has their own story — career goals, special needs, age, number of children, personal goals, health challenges, issues in their marriage, long hold dreams - personal stories require of personal attention. 

Before deciding to relocate, the couple need to openly discuss a big issue that typically isn’t talked about: what’s in it for the relocating partner? How can she/he make the most of the experience for themselves and their family?

Fast Facts Faced in Transition:

♂ ♀   Your life changes the second you say Let’s do it. When you arrive at your new destination, expect to be absorbed by fast, prevailing, and extreme change. From that moment on, count on all your forthcoming experiences to carry tags like -  intense, brutal, overwhelmed, excitement, solitude, tiredness, adventure, chaos, impossible challenges, epic…and more.

♂ ♀     You’re taking on a new (unpaid) role and agreeing to climb the mountain (perhaps with a kid or two on your back). Sometimes, you’ll be doing all of this with limited or none support.

♂ ♀     You’ll face situations that will be mostly out of your control, pushed out of your comfort zone, no family - no friends.

♂ ♀     Dealing with all of the “mundane details” means you will gain irrevocable expertise in logistics, multicultural adaptability, problem-solving, organization, resource-finding, communication within multicultural environments, resiliency, and much, much more.

♂ ♀     Your life will be shaped by the amazing people you’ll meet and by the richness of the experiences, cultures, and places you’ll find yourself in.

♂ ♀      You’ll grow into an individual with a global mindset: more empathetic and tolerant, less judgmental, with a more inclusive mentality and sensitive awareness of the needs of others. You won’t realize this until later, when your life returns to “normal,” or at least, your new “normal.”

While you’re surfing the wave of change, you’ll probably feel there’s too much drama and solitude in your life, which is true. Still, although no one can assess the learning part of the journey while simultaneously going through critical changes, you can be attentive and aware as you go through each experience.