There’s something so romantic about the idea of packing your bags, leaving everything behind, and following your spouse to the end of the Earth (or at least wherever a job takes him or her). The reality is much less rosy.
In fact, a 2015 InterNations study showed that among all types of expats, the group that moved for love was the least happy. Most of such “trailing spouses,” as they’re commonly known, are women, but men are increasingly following their wives abroad, and there was an increase in homosexual couples living abroad as well. The traveling spouse was the second-least happy group. The differences between these two groups are small, and they lie in the details. When I moved to Germany in 2005 to be with my husband, I moved for love. When he found another job in the Netherlands in 2009, and I joined him there, I moved for his career.
I was surprised when I read the results of the study. Originally from Poland, I’m very content living in the Netherlands. In fact, I’ve spent some time apart from my husband before and was way more miserable then than I am now.
But then I looked more closely at the study and discovered that despite their unhappiness, traveling spouses (both male and female) were quite satisfied with their lives, except in one critical area: money. While most of the spouses were happy with their general financial situation, their personal finances were a source of deep concern or even anxiety within this group.
Most of the expat wives I know left well-paid, secure positions, and have done so several times. In their new home country, they end up being paid less than before. In some countries, they’re not even allowed to work without the support of a local sponsor. And by the time they do find a job, it’s time to move again.