The trailing male spouse
The needs of male trailing partners differ from those of their female counterparts. TheMIGroup explains, offering advice on how to ensure a smooth relocation and a happy family unit.
Male spouses’ differing needsDr Nina Cole, associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, has conducted two major field studies, sponsored by the SHRM Foundation, involving in-depth interviews with expat spouses to delve deeper into the unique challenges associated with the adjustment process of a ‘trailing’ individual. In the 33 interviews with male spouses, there was a clear consensus that their needs were different from those of females from a cultural, social and personal standpoint.Males tend to create social circles and networks very differently from females. Since the worldwide expat spouse community has for so many decades been dominated by women, male spouses are finding it challenging to tap in to these communities.
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While these predominantly female spousal circles (consisting of coffee dates, shopping trips, or impromptu meetings over school dropoffs or pickups) are, of course, open to men, they are not optimal for meeting other male trailing spouses. Males frequently gravitate towards networking around a common activity, often something physical. With this understanding, niche markets are forming, creating new spaces in which men can find these connections.
Finding a new social communityThe prevalence of social media and social networking platforms has also opened up a new corridor for male trailing spouses to find a social community within their new home. The InterNations site, for example, connects expats from over 390 cities, hosting meet-up events for them and their families as well as linking up expats of the same nationality.Often, overwhelmed by staying afloat within a totally new culture, language and lifestyle, it can bring great comfort to meet a community of people from your home country who have navigated the same process and can offer valuable tips and suggestions for helping to ease the sting of culture shock.Some groups cater specifically for the male trailing spouse, offering a welcome alternative to the typically female-dominated expat spouse groups, which, for many men, are uninviting and isolating. Most notorious is Brussels-based Spouses Trailing Under Duress Successfully, the expatriate male spouse network and social club. Affectionately known as Studs, it has been around since the mid-1990s. The group allows members to participate in forums through a blog, keep abreast of local events, share hobbies, and arrange regular meet-ups over a beer.Newer to the scene is Shanghai-based Guy Tai (a play on ‘tai tai’ – Chinese for ‘lady who lunches’), which hosts regular meet-ups in a microbrewery and organises sports, factory tours and lunches.As well as their witty names, these male-based groups have three things in common:
- A cure for the social isolation that many male spouses experience.
- A stepping stone to developing a community within the new local environment.
- A catalyst for the creation of similar networks; as expat spouses move to other countries, they form their own local groups to recreate the support network they found through groups like Studs and Guy Tai.