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2-Article: Trailing Spouse Syndrome

           Why accompanying spouses can find relocation so hard ...

An important focus for Active adaptation counselling, is the emotional and psychological well-being of relocated families and in particular of accompanying spouses of transferred professionals, who may have left much behind them and sacrificed many of their own needs, in order to accompany their husband or wife and who may find themselves bereft of a clear role in their new situation . Although this applies to both sexes, women make up the larger proportion of accompanying spouses in this position.

Once the administrative and organisational aspects of their situation have been taken care of, the managing of day-to-day functioning remains challenging and they may still feel disoriented and have the impression that they do not have control of their own lives, that they are at the mercy of the unpredictability and strangeness of their new context .

Although these people have risen to the challenge of relocating to a new country and find the differences they encounter interesting and stimulating, they do not yet identify with anything within the culture around them and may feel that they are having to live in isolation, surrounded by a world they have no part in. The social support network of family, friends and people who shared their way of life before, is very much missed and it takes time to recreate this again .They have been stripped of the roles that gave meaning to their lives and defined their social identity before .

Professionally, accompanying spouses may have renounced their own career development and feel that they have lost too much, particularly if they are unable to resume a professional activity in the new country, because of language, legal or family constraints .

Where there are school going children in the family, there is often concern that problems with the language and different education system will involve the repeating of a school year, retard their progress or put these children in a disadvantaged position with respect to their peers . Reassurance that this is not necessarily at all the case and that a multicultural and varied education is if anything, an advantage, does not always allay these fears. Schooling remains an area of extreme concern for the relocated family with children who will be attending school in an entirely new educational context .
Parents want the best possible for their children, and may naturally feel uncomfortable about their choice to recreate their lives in a new country (even temporarily) if they have the impression that they are compromising their children's chances for "normal" and uninterrupted educational progress and social interaction.
They want to be able to evaluate what the education system in their new environment has to offer, and form an idea of how their children are adapting to and progressing within the new system. Having no experience of education in France themselves, there is no echo of their own school years to relate to and they may feel cut off from their children's experience, incapable of assessing the situation and unable to help their children effectively or be involved with their education to the extent that they would like .

Feelings of inadequacy and guilt at not being able to cope with the change and being unable to support one's spouse who is also having to integrate in a new work situation, can also add to a general state of helplessness.

In this state of mind it is very difficult to find the motivation to continue rising to the challenge of creating a worthwhile way of life in a new country.

At worst, the demands on these people may be perceived by them to be insurmountable and they may decide in the interests of their family as a whole, to return to their country of origin .
It seems unfortunate that this should be the result, as it is in a sense a failure, for the family itself, for the employer and for the community, where such a family would in time, have made a positive contribution .

Active Adaptation Counselling seeks to provide a means of addressing the situations encountered by internationally relocated families and so enhance the probability of successful international transfers to Grenoble in particular and France in general.
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