True Story: I Became a "Trailing Spouse" and Hated It


By Nissa Francisco

Over seven years ago I left Canada to live in London where my husband was pursuing a work opportunity in his career. The idea of moving to a different country to be with him was something I didn’t think twice about at the time. There was nothing more thrilling to me than having the opportunity to support his career endeavors while giving me the opportunity to start fresh somewhere I had never been before. I had just fought my way to finishing a Masters degree I wasn’t even sure I wanted, while working a full-time job that was not fulfilling or progressive in the ways that I had hoped it would be. I was really beginning to question my purpose and my life condition was at an all time low. London seemed like just the shake up I needed. I would take the opportunity to pursue interests that I would never dare pursue in Canada while taking advantage of a new culture and way of life. I worked in fashion retail, took acting classes and completed a course in fashion buying and merchandising. I ended up working for a really great start-up clothing company and could see myself growing with their brand…but I still wasn’t happy.

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London was really tough for my husband and I. We were both fresh off of finishing expensive post-graduate degrees and trying to get work opportunities to support ourselves in one of the most expensive cities in the world. London is a great place to live IF you can afford it (and if you like very little sun, but that’s a post within itself. Ugh). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for us during that time, so when our work visa’s came to an end we decided it was best to cut our losses and bounce. My husband ended up getting a great work opportunity in his home country, Nassau Bahamas, so we did what any broke young couple would do…We followed the money. For me, following the money also meant following him…again. Apparently there is a term for people like me: Trailing Spouse. It makes me want to dry-heave! Couldn’t they come up with a more self-empowering phrase? But that’s exactly what I was. Initially, it was great going from almost never seeing sun to almost never seeing clouds. It’s the Bahamas – who wouldn’t want to live there? Yet, vacationing in paradise and living there are two different experiences.

My husband was flourishing career-wise in Nassau. He was finally starting to see the fruits of all his laboring and I am so proud of all that he has accomplished thus far. We have been together since we were nineteen and twenty so I’ve literally seen him work his way up to where he is. He’s one of the hardest working people I know which is why I always did my best to get behind him and throw my support his way. However, I was having a hard time finding my bearings in Nassau. The industries out there are very limited and unless you fall into one of the more common career fields, you have to find ways of navigating and etching out career opportunities on your own. In Canada and London I knew how to find my own little way and create my own opportunities even if I was starting from scratch. But it just wasn’t happening for me in Nassau for various reasons.

In the time I was there my husband and I started a family, welcoming our daughter Neylan into the world in 2015. I was working before I got pregnant with Neylan but as much as I tried to make it work, the job itself just wasn’t for me. By the time my due date was nearing I knew I didn’t want to return so I left the company to stay at home with her. Being a stay-at-home Mom was great for the first year, but by the time Neylan was one-and-a-half I was more than ready to be stimulated in other ways. I did a few freelance gigs here and there and met with a few people my husband would introduce me to in hopes of there being work of interest and/or opportunities available, but nothing was really panning out. Eventually, my husband and I both decided that it was best for me to return to Canada where I would not only have my own support system to help with Neylan, but where I could start focusing on my own career again and regain the independence I used to have.

So here I am – back in Canada. My husband is still working in the Bahamas and visits once a month until he can move here full-time. We settled in the same city and area I grew up in. How’s that for full circle? I lived in all these cool “exotic” places and ended up back where I started. And you know what? I’m more than okay with that. Life can be beautifully ironic sometimes. I love the school Neylan attends, I love our diverse neighborhood, I love that my family is near and I like that things are different, but familiar. Most of all I like that I am reclaiming my time (Come through Maxine Waters)! I have no idea what to expect but I know that at the very least my skills match the opportunities available for me here and right now that’s important to me.

I am realizing that it’s okay to not want to be the “Trailing Spouse.” It doesn’t make me less supportive or selfish. More importantly it doesn’t make me a failure. If I have to move a hundred more times in my life I will. If I want to stay put for the rest of my life I will. I don’t need the approval of others to validate my decisions. My journey is my own. I am worthy of spending time on myself in the ways that will help me evolve so that I can be better in all areas of my life – wife and mother included. It’s my time…

Have you ever been a "trailing spouse" or put yourself last in a relationship? 
Nissa writes a blog called Unraveling Impulse, dedicated to black women worldwide, who struggle to be seen and heard as the unique beings that they are, and who courageously navigate the world by daring to be whoever they want to be.

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