Supporting Your Spouse After Returning Home

Moving your family and spouse repeatedly can be difficult on the entire #family – they have to keep packing, unpacking, finding new friends and community. They may miss their families and want to put down roots. Perhaps, they didn’t even really want to come in the first place. And yet, when you go overseas you experience all these incredible things and coming home might suddenly be much harder than you thought it would be. Alternatively, you hated your experience abroad and are more than ready to come home to “reality.” Supporting the spouse with a flexible career or who chooses a lifestyle that allows them to move with you is as important as their support to the relocating professional. Relocating professionals are often at the advantage with an office, where they have structured time and a built-in community. The professional also often has better resources at work to support the move. Spouses and families can sometimes feel left to pick up the rest – both literally packing and unpacking the household items and figuratively as they find a new emotional infrastructure in a new country, perhaps with limited local language skills.

When returning home, spouses and families might struggle with reconnecting to old friends and family – both due to the challenges of connection (see our tips on How to Talk to a Return Expat and How to Use Your Expat Experience to Get Over Reverse Culture Shock) and their own identity evolution.

Supporting your family through this transition can be a daunting challenge. Often a

professional is navigating their own professional adjustment and move as well. However, as the party responsible for the moves, the professional may also be called upon to support the family emotionally with the transition. For purposes of this article, I’ll be using the term “trailing spouse” for the member that is not the cause of the move. Consistent with the vast majority of moves today, this article assumes that one spouse was asked to move for work. It also assumes that while the other spouse agrees with the decision to move, they have less agency in the decision than the professional being asked to move. This half of a couple is also constantly having to find their identity in each new location, with a n