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Trailing spouse syndrome

Trailing spouse syndrome

Old Jan 14th 2018, 1:37 am
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Default Trailing spouse syndrome

Just less than a year ago the opportunity arose for my husband to work in the Philadelphia office for 3 years. I was fully onboard with this, as I felt strongly this presented a fantastic opportunity for all of us.
Once we'd made the decision to go, obtained our E2 visas and told our friends and family it was all go. Never once did I question whether it was the right thing to do for us.
This is what I knew before we left;
  • Hubby and I were solid. He's my best friend. If I have problems I'll tell him and I expect the same from him. I'm an extrovert, he's an introvert.
  • Our children's schooling was our priority, and we were very pleased to secure private school funding for them for the 3 years.
  • I was leaving my PhD study (not possible to do it remotely) but I was only 5 months in, and this was too good an opportunity.
  • I'm a registered nurse in research but I wasn't going to register in the US, it would be logistically too difficult.
  • I was apprehensive that for the first time I was going to be financially dependent upon my husband.
  • As an extrovert I am not afraid to make friends
So we've been here 6 months, the Christmas decorations have been put away, the kids have gone back to school with renewed energy and, thank goodness, they've made friends. Although they do have alot of homework they're happy. My husband has spent the last week busy back in the UK office.
Suddenly, I'm feeling at a loss. I'm not homesick. But I am feeling discontent and I can't quite put my finger on exactly why. The kids are happy, which was always my priority. Hubby is happy, which of course so much hinged on. Even our dogs are happy with more space. Our house is beautiful. In November we met another expat family who had just come out in an almost identical situation and I'm so grateful, but I can't offload onto such a new friendship.
I've joined a running club and met some lovely people there, but then again these are new, tentative friendships.
My husband knows I'm not quite right and he doesn't know what to do. He's worried that I have given up my career and now I'm losing my drive and focus.
I know I need to stay strong to support the kids and my husband but I'm afraid I'm losing a seam of enthusiasm that was present throughout last year.

Any ideas please?
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 9:54 am
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Hi, RollingStones.

First, I am sorry you are feeling this way. My wife was a "trailing spouse" for a while and I know it is not fun.

Can you elaborate on why your PhD can't be done remotely? I know that there is usually an on-campus portion to start with, but once your proposal has been drafted/approved etc - it's often expected that you are not on-campus.

There are a number of good universities in and around Philadelphia (the University of Pennsylvania, is Ivy League) - I am wondering if perhaps it would be worthwhile to investigate a transfer option - this would probably be doable with a UK master's credit. Quite often (generalising here) you are allowed to transfer a number of credits over into a PhD program. Once you get the coursework portion out of the way, the number of credits you have to pay for goes down substantially and you don't have to be on-campus. "Assistantships" are often given to PhD students - these (generally speaking) cover your tuition and pay a small salary, and in exchange you work as a research assistant to someone or a teaching assistant to someone (teaching their classes). I don't know how being a UK Citizen affects this but there are options available for international students.

Good luck. The weather at this time of year, in that part of the US, doesn't help either.
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 3:14 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Hello RollingStones,

Below are some thoughts/ideas. If any of them help then great - if not - please ignore and know that they were written with the best intentions.

1. There are times in my life when I have literally stood in front of a mirror and said out loud to myself 3 times “I am kind and gentle to me”
2. You say that you need to stay strong to support your kids and husband. I say you need to stay strong to support yourself. I also think there are times when it’s OK not to stay strong.
3. January can be a difficult time after all the excitement of Christmas. You now have time for reflection after the previous busy 6 months. Perhaps meditation may help. I dealt with a major issue last year by turning inward and I too consider myself an extrovert. A book that really helped me was The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer. You’ll get a really good idea of the book just from reading the reviews on Amazon.
4. Your identity has changed with regard to your PhD study.

All the very best
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 3:35 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Hi Rolling Stones!

Volunteer somewhere - there will be loads of opportunities if you start looking. Your medical knowledge will be invaluable somewhere even if you aren't able to "practice". Sick kids' hospital? Mother and toddler groups? Special needs charities? AIDS charity? Children's schools - especially in low income area.

It's hard to think about working when you know that in 2 years you will be packing up and it's also good to have something to write on your CV about what you did in this time. I've done a fair bit of volunteer stuff in my time and it's always ended up being incredibly fulfilling and interesting at the time as well as providing some future benefit in terms of experience and contacts in the future. I've got some absolutely cracking stories about my time volunteering in Dallas for an AIDS charity when I was the only "straight" person in the building! They took to calling me Hyacinth ( after the tv program)

As for new friends and offloading.... well certainly the friend that is going through the same thing as you might well be glad to have a real conversation instead of superficial pleasantries. My best friend is someone that I met in the exact same situation and she is like a sister to me. We helped each other through some hard times and also had a lot of laughs. It's kind of nice to have someone with similar experiences rather than being an oddball all the time.

There is a forum called "I am a triangle" which you could google and which should have plenty of people going through the same thing as you all over the world. The FB group was great, the forum not quite so good or active but worth a try.
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 4:37 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

I’d like to second petitefrancaise’s suggestion re volunteering. I’m a bit shy, but when I moved to my current town I got involved in canine rescue and met some great people with similar interests. Before that, I volunteered at the state radio station for the blind and recorded books on tape for them, too. I hope something along those lines might help. Good luck!
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 8:22 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

petitefrancaise - many thanks for mentioning “I am a triangle”. I had never heard that term before - lots of very interesting articles that I’ve just read.
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 11:13 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Originally Posted by RollingStones View Post
  • I was leaving my PhD study (not possible to do it remotely) but I was only 5 months in, and this was too good an opportunity.
Originally Posted by carcajou View Post
Can you elaborate on why your PhD can't be done remotely? I know that there is usually an on-campus portion to start with, but once your proposal has been drafted/approved etc - it's often expected that you are not on-campus.

There are a number of good universities in and around Philadelphia (the University of Pennsylvania, is Ivy League) - I am wondering if perhaps it would be worthwhile to investigate a transfer option - this would probably be doable with a UK master's credit.
My thoughts are in the same direction as carcajou's, but I wonder if you may already be in a position to teach? Adjunct positions are notorious for being insecure and poorly paid, but if you are not reliant on them as a means to survive, they can be a good opportunity to keep up with the academic environment.

I would see if you can meet with academics in your field to (a) talk about continuing your studies (even if it is just attending lectures/seminars informally); and (b) see if they can line you up for some adjunct work.
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 11:24 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Being a trailing spouse can be very tough. You need to reengage. As others have said explore some adjunct teaching and I would definitely look into continuing your studies. Penn is a great school as is Temple in your immediate area.
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Old Jan 14th 2018, 11:54 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

E2 trailing spouse can get an EAD.
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Old Jan 18th 2018, 8:53 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Originally Posted by Boiler View Post
E2 trailing spouse can get an EAD.
Bingo.
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Old Feb 24th 2018, 3:21 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Thank you for your thoughful, supportive posts.

I did actually go so far as to contact a research centre about a part-time job within the area I'm experienced. However, I was put off by the chap at the centre telling me that he didn't think it would be fair to show me the department first, especially when they get around 100 applicants per advert. Now while I accepted his reasons for declining my request I'm nervous, pre-application visits are always regarded as good practice at home. It's a great opportunity to meet each other outside the interview situation.

It's also true that I have loads of plans for things to do when the kids are off school, it would be a great shame to be forced to plan childcare. Especially given the fact the kids were just becoming independent enough and we had a support network for this not to be an issue at home, we're too isolated here. So I'm leaning away from the idea of taking on a contract.

I like the idea of volunteering. Now I need to think about how to approach that one.
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Old Feb 24th 2018, 3:35 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

You've expressed your love of horses and riding in your recent dude ranch in WY thread. Perhaps volunteering for a horse rescue organization might fit well. Pennsylvania Horse Rescue Groups
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Old Feb 24th 2018, 3:38 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Thank you Rete. I like this idea.
It's a long time since I've been around horses, a great way to do it without feeling selfish.
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Old Feb 24th 2018, 3:41 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Originally Posted by Rete View Post
You've expressed your love of horses and riding in your recent dude ranch in WY thread. Perhaps volunteering for a horse rescue organization might fit well. Pennsylvania Horse Rescue Groups
Originally Posted by RollingStones View Post
Thank you Rete. I like this idea.
It's a long time since I've been around horses, a great way to do it without feeling selfish.

Lovely idea, Rete! Good luck, RS -- volunteering is all about making a contribution while doing something you love. My "things" are books and dogs, so I volunteer in those areas.
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Old Feb 24th 2018, 3:45 pm
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Default Re: Trailing spouse syndrome

Originally Posted by Nutmegger View Post
Lovely idea, Rete! Good luck, RS -- volunteering is all about making a contribution while doing something you love. My "things" are books and dogs, so I volunteer in those areas.
Mine was cats and I love volunteering for Posh Pets in Westchester County, NY. I have to clean litter boxes at home so a few more makes no difference and it is never a chore to cuddle and play with a kitten or adult cat. The most rewarding was manning the booths on adoption days.
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