My marriage has been on my mind quite a bit this past month. How do I feel about my wife? How does she feel about me? Are we in love? Will we ever be romantic again? Do I want to stay in a marriage that lacks romantic intimacy? Is platonic love or staying together for kids a reason to stay married?
I’ve shied away from writing about it on my blog, because I felt like such questions were private until the answers to them could be revealed or resolved, but reading about the Mormon couple, Josh and Lolly Weed, made me decide to write down my thoughts as writing has always proven cathartic for me, and a much better medium for working through tough issues than simply thinking quietly in a corner.
Josh Weed is a gay man who married a straight woman, and came out five years ago as being gay. They have a few daughters and have been married 15 years, and the other day he and his wife announced that they would be getting divorced on his blog (Link to post HERE.). I think most of it, especially Lolly discussing why they are getting a divorce is worth a read, and that there are some significant parallels between a gay man being married to a straight woman, and in my case a trans woman being married to a straight cisgender woman.
Even this early in my transition I can so relate to this situation. I am a trans woman married to a cisgender heterosexual woman. Now some spouses go bi, lesbian, or pan to stay with their transitioning spouse. Many stick around to try and make it work for children, which early on isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it allows for time to process what is happening, and if as a couple you are able to transition the intimate part of your relationship as well.
But what if you can’t? What if the best you can do is a platonic love between best friends? Should you stay together? This is the issue I wrestle with and I know my wife is wrestling with even though she doesn’t talk much about it. Our interactions center on our children, other safe topics, or hanging out like friends after the kids go to bed. Staying in those places allows her to stay away from the third rail of our marriage…my transition…which is also the transition of our marriage.
She has made some efforts to be supportive, gives me space when I need it, and is letting me evolve. However, she also doesn’t share my successes, or really want to talk about them. Occasionally, she does ask questions, but if I try to go into any detail she often changes the subject or tries to extricate herself from the discussion. There is no romance, no intimacy, or sharing on an intimate level. I have noticed where I used to always kiss her on the lips before bed, that has changed to kissing on the forehead, and it’s because she seems to prefer it to the old. We have hugged and held hands a few times, but from my perspective, and I’m sure hers as well, that things have changed.
After coming out as trans to her, she struggled as I would expect anyone to. She processed, grieved and went to a new place. She is making an effort to keep the family intact. She will also tell you that as a family we are stronger than we have been in a long time, and all of this is true, and yet I find all of this extremely sad. She has admitted to me, that if we did not have kids, my coming out would have sent her running and that she would already be gone. She has said at times that she feels like we are already divorced. She has also been clear that she doesn’t like women that way, and that having a man is important to her. Finally, she said to me and also said to a friend of mine that “we have to stay together for the kids”.
In an attempt to be honest with myself, I will attempt to write down my most significant thoughts of the past month, and process them at the same time. Thankfully she doesn’t read my blog, because this would cause a fight that I never want to have, or it might speed up a timetable that neither us, nor the kids are ready for…So here we go!
To begin with, coming out saved my marriage. However, I’ve come to believe in the six months since then that coming out is really just prolonging a marriage that will eventually come to an end. Whether it’s two, three, or five years from now…it will come to an end. Certainly coming out transgender is the big monkey wrench thrown into the works, but we also have had issues in our marriage that go back to around the time the kids came to live with us. I always thought we would get our groove back, and that we’d figure out how to be both parents and romantic partners. The issues that we were dealing with before my transition certainly play a part in how I feel, but as this blog is about my transition and things related to it, I am going to focus on the state of my marriage from that context. In addition, it is not my intent to throw my wife under the bus, and I’m sure she also could come up with a litany of issues regarding me, and she certainly would be justified in doing so as I think many of my issues from before are related to my being trans and being in denial for so long.
I want to address three spheres of importance in a marriage, and how I see these spheres as the relate to us. These spheres (Emotional Intimacy, Romantic Intimacy, and Family Life) are important to any marriage, and the state of them often reflects the state of a marriage.
We used to have this in spades. We could talk about anything with each other and couldn’t wait to do so. Hopes, dreams, the future…they were all on the table. She was the first person I couldn’t wait to share something with, and I think I was the same to her. This has changed significantly on both our parts. We still vent to each other about our days, and are intimate when it comes to issues involving the kids, but as for the rest? It simply isn’t there. We don’t talk about our hopes, dreams, or the future anymore. In fact, I sense she is afraid to discuss such things, and as a result I am afraid to talk about mine.
See, for me, my hopes and dreams for the future focus on me living my life authentically as the woman I am and these certainly are not her dreams or hopes, except to say I do believe she wants me to be happy. My hopes and dreams might actually be the things that are crushing hers, and that’s a hard things for a person to live with. She finds emotional support and intimacy from being with a man, which regardless of my current appearance is hard for her to do now. It’s also something I don’t want, as it makes my presenting and expressing at home that much harder.
I want to be clear, I still find myself wanting to share things with her. She is my best friend, and I want her to be happy for me, but I don’t think she is capable of it. Being supportive does not necessarily mean being happy for someone. It simply means you love them enough to want them to be happy, regardless of how it makes you feel, or what that might mean for you.
We are still connected, and I know her better than anyone, can read her better than anyone, and I know she isn’t happy, and hasn’t been happy for awhile. Issues with herself, and issues with our marriage are part of it. She would also stay with me in a marriage simply for the kids. She would give up her right to be happy for them, and she is willing to lose herself in the process. She has some expectations that I would do the same thing, but she also knows me well enough to know that there is a good chance I will not do that.
I don’t believe a person can make another person happy. I know television and movies try to put forth the thought this is possible, but I believe that we determine our own happiness by the expectations we have for ourselves. People can magnify our emotions. Married to the right person your happiness can be magnified, and to the wrong person for you, unhappiness will be magnified as well. The reality is we may not be the right people for each other anymore, and that is O.K.
There were issues here before I came out due to medical and health issues, small children, and I think partly due to the fact my internal conflict ramped up for a couple years before coming out. We stopped being cute and playful, and instead became tired and less physically affectionate. I had hopes we’d find ourselves again, but sex seemed of less interest to her, and the same became true of me. I had stopped caring about myself due to my dysphoria and put on weight. Becoming a mom, like it does for many women, changed her priorities of what is important. With both of us working full time, and up very early, there was little time for physical intimacy, and rarely did she seem interested. Being female on the inside I read this and didn’t push for it, but it also had the added impact of making her feel like I didn’t desire her, when in truth I wanted to feel as desired as she did, but there was no way she could know that, and it was something I didn’t feel I could tell her. Stereo-typically, I was always taught it was the man who is supposed to show they want sex, but there were cracks in my mask, and I was tired of playing games I had never wanted to play in the first place.
Sex for me had become mechanical in many ways. I hated having intercourse, hated feeling like a rutting beast. Over the years it had gotten worse. I loved foreplay, and the intimacy associated with it, but as for the rest?…it just intensified my loathing for a body so clearly male. Even with all that said, when we did have sex, physically it was still as good as it ever was, but it was just a much rarer occurrence than the first twelve years of our marriage.
Sex has been sporadic and minimal the past six years. Many couples see a decline in the frequency of sex as they get older, and it isn’t the be all and end all to romantic intimacy, but how can a couple hope to find it again when they are both women and one is heterosexual and says she only wants to be with men?
There is also something that I need to touch on and that is my evolving sexuality. I can admit that I no longer view myself as being attracted only to women, but that in the past month I also realize that I do have the potential to be attracted to certain types of men and non-binary people. I also am coming to realize that I need to be with someone who sees me as the woman I am and also desires me for it, whether they be hetero or queer.
Her constant sexuality and my evolving sexuality may be the real deal killers in our marriage. I am 43, and hope to be full-time by some point in 2020 at the latest. I will turn 46 in 2020, with plenty of good years left. My wife will turn 44 in 2020, and she has just as many good years left. Are we supposed to take vows of chastity and give ourselves to our children and vows taken that no longer hold relevancy as “man and wife?”
Don’t we deserve to find romantic love again if it is something we want? Do I deserve to find someone who will want me the way I’ve always desired, but never had? Does she deserve to have someone look at her the way she wants, and to treat her the way she deserves to be treated in a way I can’t.
Sex isn’t the most important part of a relationship, but depending on who you are, it is important. Right now, there are so many things I want to experience once my mind and body reach concurrence, and I’m not sure physical intimacy is one of those things I’m willing to give up. I also feel she should be able to have that again, if she wants it, and in the manner she wants it.
All marriages are families, some have children and some do not. Most bring extended family from both sides together, and family is often central to married life in many ways. My wife is a wonderful mother. Our children adore her, and she goes all out on their behalf. In short, our kids are her life. Due to certain needs our children have this cannot be helped, and as they gravitate towards her (both being under 10) she has to deal. I say the above to say I don’t resent her for this, but it does make me sad to see she has no interests she pursues outside of the home. I often feel like she is losing herself, and one of our nastiest fights was about this as my guilt before coming out made me bring it up, and when she got defensive I simply got louder and it got ugly. I am sorry for that and it is one of my biggest regrets, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still feel this way.
She is also a homebody and an introvert. Playing boy I was happy to go along with that, but as a woman I am clearly an extrovert who wants friends, and wants to do things with those friends. This is not to say we can’t integrate my friends into our life, but they will be my friends first, and they serve as a reminder to her of new parts of my life that I’ve created which are not dependent upon her or our family. I’ve been good about this so far, and have minimized getting together with friends to once a month, but I’d like to at least double this as I gain needed energy for it by getting away and being myself 100% with friends who only know Allie.
I can only think, while things are harder for me right now in how I go about presenting and expressing at home, meaning that I have been toning it down and keeping it in check, there will be a point where due to HRT I will no longer be able to do so, and more importantly won’t care. There will be a point where my wife and kids will have to see me as a woman, and the man they still think they see will be gone. When that day comes, their reactions and adjustment will be very telling as to what kind of family we will have. Surgeries and other transition landmarks will only further those adjustments to the point where a decision will have to be made, if it isn’t made before that point.
Since coming out, our family has gotten stronger. I am more engaged, and participate far more in events with the kids, and this makes both the kids and my wife happier. You could say our family life is strong. We eat dinner as a family, do things as a family, and due to attachment issues from before they were adopted, having all of us under the same roof means everything to my kids at the moment.
I say “at the moment”, because my kids will get older and more independent. They won’t want to do everything with us, and then I am left wondering what do we have that makes it necessary for us to be under the same roof, and more to the point, is it healthy for us to stay under the same roof?
Many couples who get divorced continue to be kick ass co-parents. They meet for family dinners, holidays, and some even still take vacations together. The point is, one does not need to stay in an unhappy marriage to have a good family life.
In addition, there is the lesson we as parents teach our children. Is it better to stay married and be miserable, or is it better to divorce and be happy? Our children are always watching and learning from us, and I want them to feel that it is not necessary to lose their happiness for the sake of others. It is O.K. for relationships to evolve and grow outside of traditional norms. After all, there is nothing traditional about being trans and everything that goes with it, so why does our family have to maintain that stereotype to be happy?
In the end, I believe my children will come through this just fine, and will learn much about what it means to be a family whether under the same roof or not. As for my wife and I? She is my best friend, and I love her dearly. We became adults together, and there is so much I am thankful to her for, but I also know she isn’t happy, and I want her to be happy. She deserves to be happy, and if she can’t be with me as a woman, then I want her to find a man who will make her the center of his world. She deserves nothing less. Even if she finds new love and were to marry again, we will always love each other, respect each other, and value one another. That will never change. We will always be family.
How will that family look? Well, that has yet to be decided, we may yet find our happiness again, but as she and I have discussed, what happens with our marriage is a decision we will make together. Regardless of what happens we will do it in a way that positions us and the kids to be as happy as possible with our decision.
If there is one thing that transition is teaching me, it is that life is short and everyone deserves to be happy with the life they choose to live. Life is also fluid, and sometimes we have to adjust to that fluidity. Change doesn’t have to be bad, and often it can be better than anyone could possibly have ever imagined. My life and family are changing, and I’m certainly hoping in the end it is for the better.