The earliest citation of the term “trailing spouse” was used by Wall Street Journal writer Mary Bralove in 1981. She used it to convey how some wives sacrifice their own lives and careers for the benefit of their husband’s work.
When I read the words “trailing spouse” and “sacrificing their lives and careers” it creates a storm of mixed, mostly negative, emotions. The definition of trailing implies that one has dutifully followed, one is not part of the decision. I am too proud of all that I have accomplished to be identified like that. Nor do I want to be labeled as a victim. My strong emotional reaction means I feel concerned and that it’s important to me. Am I overreacting? Can the term “trailing spouses” be worn proudly? If not, how can one best describe it today?
Times have evolved since 1981. Contexts and situations are more varied. Defining anybody or anything is more complex. Today the “trailing spouse” can refer to any gender and any kind of long-term partnership. Secondly, the kind of work assignments have evolved. The reasons for moving abroad are no longer limited to moves for big international companies or organizations. Thirdly, I believe we should also include domestic moves.
Would love to hear what you think would be a positive term to describe the person who stands by their partner when moving to another location for a work assignment.