When You’re Feeling Like “Just the Trailing Spouse”

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trailing spouse

I’ve been feeling a bit of shame these days about being a “trailing spouse”.

Since moving back to the U.S., we are constantly asked, “What did you guys do in Africa?”

I usually stay quiet as my husband proceeds to tell about his career, awing the crowds with the impression of such an extremely altruistic life. (Those of us who have lived it know it is far more self-serving than it sounds.)

I just stand by, quietly listening. I think to myself, I hope they don’t ask me. They would be sorely disappointed. I haven’t done anything quite so significant in the world.

Does Trailing Spouse = Less Significance?

Logically, I know that comparing myself to my husband has no upside. But I still find that I hold so tightly to that belief–as if it’s just somehow a fact.

So I asked myself this question, “What significant things have you done while living in Africa?”

At first, I could only come up with a pretty lame list. But, as I continued to force my brain to relive the past 17 years, the “significant” things I had done became more and more real.

I began thinking of individual people I had loved and served wholeheartedly.

I thought of the communities I had the privilege of being a part of.  Of the friends I had shared life with. I thought about my kids and my own marriage.

And all of the sudden, my thought became, “Man, the freedom I had as a ‘trailing spouse’ gave me the opportunity to have such a greater impact on the lives around me than my husband ever did!”

(There I go comparing again. But this time it seemed helpful!)

Thinking of all the individuals that I have loved and served to the best of my ability made my life feel very significant. I began seeing my life as a life well-lived. Not because of the Things I Have Done, but because of the people that I have been able to love in profound ways.

And I believe love always has a huge impact on the world.

So, to my fellow “trailing spouses”: In what ways have you been able to love others in significant ways?


Faith Hoskins has lived overseas for 17 years in 5 different countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries on 6 continents. Each time she travels or moves to a new country, she leaves a better person than when she came. She now works in Colorado as a life coach assisting others through life-altering transitions. Find Faith and her services at FurtherUp.org.

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