What is Trailing Spouse Syndrome? [Resources & Assistance]

Relocating your employee for their job can be full of unique experiences and opportunities for your employee. However, their spouse might suffer more than you realize. Trailing spouse syndrome is expected in the spouses of employees who decide to relocate for work. 

The term “trailing spouse” was first cited in 1975 by Mary Bralove in the Wall Street Journal. While trailing spouse syndrome can be difficult to ensure, there are ways to prevent and help overcome it.

What is Trailing Spouse Syndrome? 

Trailing spouse syndrome is when the spouse of a person relocating for work feels lost and struggles with their mental health throughout relocation and selling their current home

The spouses of those who need to relocate for their job have to leave behind everything, including their careers, family, and friends. Trailing spouse syndrome is not considered an official diagnosis, but it is a term that best describes how a spouse feels when they need to move for their partner’s career. 

Situations Leading to This

There are a few different situations that can be the cause of trailing spouse syndrome in partners.

Business Relocation

Business relocation is a common cause of trailing spouse syndrome. When a husband or wife follows their spouse during a job relocation, they tend to feel depressed for some time. Moving to a new location can cause profound mental suffering. 

When a spouse is relocating to a new state, women are typically more likely to move than men as men feel their career is more important. However, this statistic is expected to change throughout the upcoming years as many women are understanding that their jobs are also meaningful. 

Expat Lifestyle

The Expat lifestyle is another common reason spouses struggle with trailing spouse syndrome. When an employee’s spouse moves abroad, there are more reasons for them to struggle with adapting to their new surroundings. 

Not only did this spouse need to leave behind everything they know, but they needed to adapt to a new culture, possibly learn a new language, and might need to sacrifice their own career goals. 

According to a survey, 92 percent of women and 89 percent of men would be willing to relocate for their spouse’s job. However, there is a lower percentage of those ready to move when it comes to Millenials. 61 percent of Millenial women and 57 percent of Millenial men are eager to relocate to another country for their spouse’s career.

Relationship Issues Caused by Traveling Spouse Syndrome

Several relationship issues can arise between your employee and spouse when relocating for their job.

Resentment

Feelings of resentment in your employee and their spouse can come on quickly due to all the changes they are experiencing. The spouse may be unable to work because of visa limitations, and they may feel homesick or lonely. 

The relocating employee’s spouse may not only resent your company for relocating your employee, but they will likely feel resentment towards their husband or wife for wanting to move for their career.

Loneliness

The trailing spouse will feel lonely when moving to a new state or a new country. The feelings of loneliness will be strong initially, mainly because they might be home without a job longer than their spouse and have nobody to engage with.

When the trailing spouse does not yet know anybody in their new location, they might feel agitated that their spouse gets to work and interact during the day while at home alone.

Disconnection

A sense of disconnection is shared among the spouses of those who move for their careers. The trailing spouse often feels like they lost their identity, lack purpose, and are isolated from the rest of society. 

If these issues do not resolve over time, the spouse can develop trailing spouse depression, leading to your employee needing to end their assignment early and move back home. The divorce rate for trailing spouses is 50 percent due to the stress they endure while learning to adapt to their spouse’s move.

How to Prevent and Overcome Trailing Spouse Syndrome

To help prevent relocation depression for the trailing spouse and employee, it is wise to allow your employee and their spouse to participate in counseling.

To help the employee and trailing spouse adjust to their new lifestyle, it is a good idea to make your employee feel welcome and suggest that the spouse volunteer in the new community to get to know their new home and neighbors. Volunteering can help the trailing spouse feel less isolated and like a part of their new community. 

Final Thoughts

Since trailing spouse syndrome is common, your company needs to discuss how you can help prevent this issue during your employee’s relocation

A professional relocation company, like ARC Relocation, can help ease the relocation burden and make your employee’s spouse feel better acclimated to their surroundings. Your company can suggest immersion coaching or job assistance to make them feel more comfortable. Contact ARC Relocation today for a free quote or consultation call.