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The Trailing Spouse Advantage



I had 27 construction managers in 31 months of selling new homes in a Houston suburb. The two best ones were Vatas. They were self-directed, focused, constantly in motion, hell bent on getting the job done. Driven is the word. I was the quintessential Kapha, slow moving, all talk and no walk – the best moniker description would be a Plant Manager type.

The Vata goes from one crisis to another, while the Kapha doesn’t know the meaning of the word. I have always been a ‘trailing spouse’ tied to my mother’s apron strings, but for 30 years I was married to a Vata on steroids who considered her demands minimal and imperative. At the time, still in the early stages of my relationship development, I did not know about the three body types – Vata – Pita – Kapha, nor was I aware of my ‘trailing spouse’ karmic path.

I went from a Vata to a Pita marriage next and because Pitas are humanitarian, florid smile, good natured types, I was benevolently introduced to my plight as the ‘trailing spouse.’ My greatest esteeming moment in our thirteen year relationship came with the realization that even a ‘trailing spouse’ can wear one pant leg in the family.

Now, seasoned in the Vata-Kapha relationship dynamic, I know my place in the Jane Marie-teg putative marriage. Although, Jane is a Vata from the get-go, she was wounded in the ‘Concern for Others’ stage of childhood development and unabashedly wears her "Caretaker” title, e.g. never seeing an orphan that she doesn’t want to adopt.

Sharing the China experience these past three years has awakened me from my couch potato existence to following Jane’s crisis management career path. I always confuse career with careen, which helps explain why I’m the ‘trailing spouse.’ Example, "Jane why do you always want to save the orphans in China?” Answer, "Because there is a need.” Well. Marilyn Monroe and Steve Jobs were orphans, and look where they got on their own.

Anyway, in Jane’s five year China career she has risen from the standard ESL teacher, to the "please be our International Bachelorette school savior.” White, good looking, mature blond, native speaking American, JD diploma, "Guardian Ad Litem,” Libra scales of justice personality, "please, please help us establish a bonafide IGCSE K12 program.”

"Saving Private Ryan,” would be an easier task.

When the leading spouse comes home from a day at the Chinese owned, Korean student-body, multi-cultural foreign faculty, international school wannabe environment and hopes that tomorrow it will be different, how is the Kapha ‘trailing spouse’ supposed to respond?

"Jane, what if you wanted to start a Confucius Chinese school in Iowa and you didn’t speak Chinese, the students didn’t speak English, and the faculty were from everywhere but China?”


Then, I gave her the wise Abraham, Esther and Jerry Hicks, adage, "When you keep receiving negative emotional experiences, it means you are not going in the direction you want to go.”

Vatas don’t want to quit, it is a sign of failure, that they didn’t complete their project, their task.


My Kapha neighbor at Henan Agricultural University, was a former plant manager of a Detroit auto parts manufacturer. When, they closed the plant in 2005 he came to China as the proverbial ESL teacher – even if he was a former brain surgeon, he’d be marked to the ESL market – married a Chinese lady, told the HAU administration how their "cow should eat the cabbage,” and went back to Detroit.

What did our putative partnership learn from our China experience? How effective Toastmasters can be in helping non-native English speakers better themselves in the same way it does in the US. I failed to recruit a single new member in my role of VP Membership for Sugar Speakers TMC in Houston but the 2008 fiasco doubled their membership overnight.


Why? "Because there was a need.”


Over half of the 400 clubs in China are multi-national corporate Toastmasters clubs. FedEx has 800 employees in their Beijing operation without a single ‘laowai’ and they have discovered TMC’s to be the cheapest and quickest way to teach US style communications and leadership training. It is not just China and India that have embraced the self-help Toastmasters program, Jane and I were overwhelmed by the youthful enthusiasm of Jupiter Toastmasters in Addis Ababa.

We also learned how challenging it is to learn a second language’ I added ten new words a year. However, the Chinese speaker is less encumbered by vocabulary content, and therefore speaks from their heart. Kwan from Guangzhou has twice finished number two in Toastmasters’ World Championship of Public Speaking. Bested this past August by a guy from Sri Lanka.

Best of all teaching ESL to primary, secondary, university and adults gave us windows and doors to understanding the Chinese culture, making friends and discovering that their birthdate equates to the same personality type the world over.

Where was my leader going next? As the trailing spouse my job was sending out Jane’s many splendored CV. Nobody pays like China when you factor in the free apartment and cost of living. Vietnam is still in the Peace Corps lifestyle and Hong Kong is like a bank, if you need a job you need not apply. The European Union ESL bar is higher still, example in Cyprus you need to speak Greek and like HK you don’t need to make a living.

As avid practitioners of the Law of Attraction, Jane saw the "stirring of the waters” on her three week confinement in the girl’s dormitory of the Itaewon Hostel of Seoul. Go to where the East is East, the West is West, and they do meet in Istanbul.

Christmas 2014 we poked our fingers in the nail holes of our Turkey vision to discover that Antalya is the preferred destination of Turks, Germans, Russians and the Christian Fellowship. 12.5 million Tourists visited Antalya in 2014 and it was selected to host the 2015 G-20 summit. Americans, because there are few, can do ESL duty 12 hours a day seven days a week.


However, after walking around the mazy streets of Old Town founded in 200 BC it was a no brainer – "Antalya Here We Come.” Leaving China with more than the two suitcases we could take on the plane is an ongoing learning experience. My three boxes and Jane’s 37 are on the slow boat from China – so far they have left Yantai, made it to Seoul and are on their way to Shanghai. When they enter the Suez Canal we’ll get excited.

Vata Jane has all cylinders going teaching ESL according to the European Language Portfolio structure, envisioning an orphanage for ISIS refugees, decorating our 3/2 120m2 apartment and ramping up the gas stove oven in our dine-in kitchen, complete with raised panel cabinets above and below the marble counter top.


I have to go to work this Friday teaching the speaking clubs at another training school that also, employs the European framework, while looking to become a tri-continental Toastmasters club member.

What’s best about visiting or living in Antalya? The weather, July-August it’s hot, three months of snowless winter and seven months of ideal blue Mediterranean climate to explore the 2,300 year old Roman-Byzantine-Ottoman Empire outdoor museum.

What’s the ‘trailing spouse’ advantage? Not having to make scary decisions about which direction to take or act on that decision. The steroid Vata wife wanted to go down the Amazon, in Egypt she scripted our Nile cruise and most memorable of all, forced me to spend 2 -1/2 days looking at animals in South Africa’s Krueger Park.The Pita suggested living in the Texas Panhandle, where Coronado in 1500 abandoned his exploration, declaring the area was an inland desert.


So, far I’ve no complaints about Vata Jane’s, "Let’s move to Antalya.” Even if I did, would it make any difference? No, as the bazaar vendor called out as we past his shop, "You’re a very lucky man.”



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