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Crossdressing 101: Part 6 – What’s The Problem, Darling?

Okay students, class is in session!

By Amanda J.

For many CDers, there comes a point in time where the question of confession to their nearest and dearest arises.  Perhaps through carelessness in covering their tracks, perhaps because the guilt is becoming debilitating, perhaps through a belief that their spouse already knows or they feel it’s the morally right thing to do or they want to involve their spouse or….  There are any number of reasons that precipitate ‘the talk’ but as many of us can testify, myself included, it often does not go quite as well as we anticipate or hope.

Now, before I go on I want to set some terms of reference for this post:

Firstly, I am not here to judge whether telling one’s spouse is the right thing to do or to negatively view those who decide to continue without their wives’ knowledge.  There may be good reasons not to tell a spouse and, having been in that situation myself, I fully understand and support those who go down that particular route.

Secondly, telling one’s partner at the outset of the relationship, or at least when it starts to get serious, is more or less a no-brainer.  If the future life partner is fine with it, then it can become a shared activity in the relationship; if it’s a dealbreaker, better to find out early on than several decades into a marriage.  But equally, there may be good reasons for not telling; in my case for example, I thought that all desires to cross dress had evaporated as my love for my wife grew and I had no idea of the depth of my latent feminine feelings and desires at that stage.

Thirdly, this will not be a guidebook on how to confess to wives.  More than anything, it’s just not possible because all wives are different and what may help with one wife may make things worse with another.  If you want more insight into my personal experiences, take a look at my ‘Matrimonial Challenges’ series in my ‘back catalogue’ of posts here.

What I want to do with this post is look at the whole thing from the wife’s perspective.  Clearly, never having been a wife myself, that’s going to be a bit tricky but I’ve picked up enough through my own experiences, reading the experiences of others and some basic anthropology to have a reasonable idea of how these revelations can be received.

It’s very easy to approach the confession from the point of view that it’s just about the clothes and a bit of recreational dress-up play.  All good harmless fun so what could possibly go wrong?  Pretty well everything actually.

Let’s start with the obvious.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that men and women are different.

In the liberated 21st century, it’s all too easy to forget that males and females have fundamentally different roles which are instinctively ‘baked in’.  And whilst in humans those instincts have been more or less buried by modern attitudes, they still play a part in the whole area of attraction – in fact it’s critical for the preservation of the species.  So most of us are ‘programmed’ to be attracted to the ‘opposite’ sex and females are instinctively drawn to males who will protect and provide for them.  And so if our wives suddenly find out that in addition to the male persona that they fell in love with, we are also harbouring a female persona, it’s only natural that it will trigger an emotional response.  That response may be a positive or neutral but, more often than not, it’s a negative one.

But why should it be a negative one even if we reassure our wives that they’re ‘just clothes’ and even when we’re dressed to the nines, we’re the same person they married underneath?  The short answer is that our wives can often see what we can’t – that the whole thing is often far more than ‘just clothes’ and whilst we may be the same person underneath, in their view that’s not the person they thought they were marrying.  And as a result, the reassurances that we give can sound very hollow.

At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the situation if the tables were turned.  ‘Ah yes’ you say ‘but that’s different.  My wife has a shortish haircut, rarely wears makeup and wears clothes that could be described as androgynous and it doesn’t bother me.  I still love her as much as the day I first set eyes on her’.  Fair point and we all lament the fact that the clothing rules for men and women are different.  Basically, there aren’t any rules for women and they can wear what they like!  But if you then found out that your wife bound her chest, wore a false beard and put padding down below when you were out of the house, wouldn’t that change the landscape somewhat?  Would you start to wonder where it was leading?

That’s an important point because whilst we may emphatically declare that we’re just a CDer and have no desire to take things any further, our wives may see it differently.  They extrapolate forward and fear that the man they fell in love with and to whom they look to for protection & security will slowly disappear before their eyes.  They fear ostracisation by their friends.  They fear loneliness in old age if the marriage breaks down.  And they start to see every hope and dream they ever had of growing old with the man they fell in love with all of those years ago going up in smoke.

Mrs. A certainly thought she saw the writing on the wall back in 2013 when I first confessed to her.  One of the first things she asked me was ‘do you want to be a woman’ which I answered with an emphatic no.  And yet, over the ensuing months, she asked that same question several more times, each time receiving the same answer.  And when she tried to embrace it and encouraged me to dress in front of her, her doubts resurfaced and the cease & desist ultimatum quickly followed.  Some who have heard my story have denounced Mrs. A as being unsupportive and cruel by taking that stance but, in reality, wasn’t she just saying that if I wanted to progress further down that particular path, I’d be on my own without her by my side?  Wives have as much right to shape their own futures as husbands do and Mrs. A’s stance was summed up when she said ‘I don’t want to be married to a woman’. Brutal but I can completely relate as I don’t particularly want to be married to a man!

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard accusations that a wife’s unsupportive stance contravenes the vows she made during the marriage ceremony – the part that ends ‘…as long as we both may live’ in particular.  The fact that the vows are made in response to the opening question ‘do you take this man…’, – a phrase which they now see as possibly not a completely accurate depiction of their husband – is conveniently overlooked.

So if you’ve formed the impression that confession to your wife may well have very negative consequences, you’d be absolutely right.  The bad news is that there’s more to come.

In a marriage, there are implied boundaries – the limit of what one spouse will tolerate as far as the actions of the other are concerned.  A wife may just shrug her shoulders when her husband tells her that he went out for lunch with a female colleague who the wife knows is very attractive but may not be so accepting if she learned that he’d had an evening dinner date with her.  Some wives may be fine with both, others may feel betrayed by either.  And to further confuse the issue, the boundaries can move and, where wives are concerned, frequently do!  In particular, she may be fine with the idea that some men want to feel in touch with their feminine side & CD but not so fine with the idea that her husband is one of them.

But where implied boundaries are really important is in the area of secrecy.   All marriages have secrets – the expression ‘what happens in Blackpool/Las Vegas/Wherever, stays in …’ was coined for a reason!  But that raises the question as to what is an acceptable secret to keep.

I’m not going to attempt to discuss what are acceptable secrets because, again, it varies from couple to couple and there are no hard and fast rules.  Most will also accept a degree of latitude, accepting that things will happen on the lads’ stag weekend in Blackpool or the girls’ trip to Vegas that are probably better left undisclosed.  But sadly, the disclosure by the husband that he has been CDing in secret for years, if not decades, and wishes to continue doing so can be viewed by the wife as a significant & continuing betrayal of trust and can cause a significant ‘wobble’, if not worse, in a marriage.

But that in itself presents a moral dilemma.  Is it right to seek to relieve our own feelings of guilt by effectively dumping everything onto our wives?  Does a wife really want to hear something that will cause her unimaginable emotional torment?  And this is where I really do have to say that I genuinely don’t know.   Even asking myself whether I’d want to know if the tables were turned is inconclusive – if Mrs. A told me because she was struggling to deal with it and knew that it was affecting our marriage, I’d probably want to know so that I could give her support and try to help her work through it.  If it was just a case of her seeking approval to carry on with no regard for my feelings, I’d probably have a very different view.

We can hope that our wives allow us to continue on a DADT – don’t ask, don’t tell – basis.   In theory, it’s giving us carte blanche to do whatever we want as long as we keep it well away from them.  But in truth it’s a clear indication of a wife’s disapproval and a sign that under no circumstances does she want any further information regarding her husband’s feminine activities.  Quite simply, it’s her saying ‘I don’t want to know’, not ‘oh that’s wonderful darling, you just carry on and don’t worry about me’!  And it also presents a moral dilemma as we allow our feminine personas to grow because we know full well that, once again, there are boundaries.  Whilst the DADT arrangement may be interpreted in a way that says that while the wife may not approve, she accepts that it is something her husband will do.  But it was quite possibly agreed to without any thought that the husband may go out dressed, particularly in the locality of the family home and act & behave as a woman while doing so.  Our defence, of course, is that the DADT arrangement precluded us from talking about our desires to take this side of our lives further but does that really stand up to close scrutiny?

Once again, there’s no easy answer.  I’ve been the husband who deceived his wife and nearly blew her life apart.  I’ve been the husband who blurted out a confession with the sole aim of relieving my own guilt.  I’ve been the husband who watched his marriage nearly collapse because he gave no regard to how his wife would react emotionally.  I’ve been the husband who promised to quit and then, several years later broke that promise.  ’ve been the husband who knew that the right thing was to confess again but agonised every single day over the devastating impact that it could have on his wife.

Many of us have learned the hard way how wives tend to react to this sort of revelation about the husband they thought they knew.   What for us just seems like a bit of harmless dressing up can be viewed by them as fundamentally changing who we really are.   Some wives will react with anger, some will be deeply upset, some will feel envious of their husbands’ new ‘girlfriends’ and some will feel rejected as their husbands prioritise the other woman in the marriage.  So it’s hardly surprising that, as happened first time round for me, an ultimatum can quickly follow basically asking us to choose between the two women in our life – the one we married and the one we see in the mirror.

And having been on the receiving end of an ultimatum, I can confirm that it’s not easy to say the least.  We can denounce those ultimatums as being cruel and unfeeling but aren’t they just the wife declaring that she still values her marriage with the man she fell in love with but not at any cost?  Why should a wife be expected to accept something she personally finds distasteful just because her husband suddenly springs a side of his personality, of which she had no prior knowledge, onto her after several years/decades of marriage?

But I’d really like to end this post on a positive note because the reality is that even the most disapproving wife can change her stance.  In some situations, patience can pay off – it’s wrong to expect a wife to immediately and unconditionally accept something that her husband has known about for years,  More than anything, the wife needs her husband to be honest about this side of him and reassurance that, despite appearances to the contrary, permanent changes are not on the cards (if that is the case).  She also needs to see that the secrecy was driven not by a desire to deceive but by an ongoing struggle to overcome something that her husband knew could potentially harm the marriage.  And most important for many of us, she may need to see that her husband’s CDing activities can be kept well away from the marriage if that is what is required to preserve it. 

We often talk about ‘stepping into someone’s shoes’ and it’s particularly ironic here.  In a literal sense, we may want to step into one of those cute pairs of heels that are so temptingly displayed in our wife’s wardrobe/closet but the metaphorical meaning is far more important.  It’s only by stepping into our wives’ shoes and understanding the whole situation from her point of view that we can make what are hopefully the right decisions.  It’s the least we can do to remain true to the public commitment we gave in our marriage ceremonies all those years ago.

As always, here are the five takeaways from this post.

1.  Wives will often view CDing in a completely different way than their husbands do.  They are perceptive by nature and can often see what their husband either fails to see or denies.

2.  To form an understanding about how your wife is likely to feel about your CDing activities, imagine that the tables were turned and how you’d feel if she revealed that she liked to dress up and act like a male.  Be honest in your thoughts and just because you believe that she’s so feminine that it could never happen, remember that she probably has similar thoughts about your masculinity.

3.  Realising that you have a strong feminine side may completely upend every preconception your wife has about you.  You may assert that it’s just about the clothes but she may see far more, particularly if she perceives a deep happiness in you when you talk about your CDing.    Don’t assume that you know your wife so well that you can foresee exactly how she will react.  Just because she’s totally fine with the whole trans thing doesn’t mean that her support will extend to her husband’s participation or that she will turn a blind eye to the idea that it’s been going on for years behind her back.

4.   The realisation that her husband is a CDer can cause your wife deep emotional distress both from the thought that you are not the man she thought she was marrying and from the knowledge that you have been deceiving her for some or all of the marriage.  The deception angle is often overlooked but it can be that that does the most damage to the marriage because it calls trust in all things into question, not just those related to CDing.

5.  There is no imperative to confess and sometimes it may be better to accept the limitations that continuing under the marital radar places.  However, if you really feel that you have no option other than to come clean to your wife, then read Kandi’s ‘Open Letter To Our Wives’ post.  It’s a masterclass in how to focus completely on one’s wife when framing a confession and several of us here, myself included, have benefitted greatly from its wisdom.

And on that note, time to draw this to a close.  The next and final post in this series will look at taking everything further.


13 Responses

  1. Amanda,

    As always, a well-written and thought-provoking post. Thank you.

    Each wife is as different as each of us, but one principle seems to apply to every situation: one is not well-served by trying to “rip off the plaster (Band-Aid)!” Go slow, even when it is the hardest thing possible for you to do. You might want to have a discussion about how each of you express your feminine and masculine sides, if that is a comfortable type of discussion in your marriage. We did that for years, yielding interesting results (such as my wife suggesting I get a manicure, because she learned that I like my nails neat), before I ever told her more details about my CDing activities. Just a thought. I too have struggled in this area, as should be clear from my own posts.


    1. Lisa, thanks for your kind words. I can definitely testify that going slow is the right approach having done a two second confession the first time round. I wish there is a formula that guarantees success but the sad truth is that there isn’t because every wife is different. If there is any commonality in this, it’s how wives feel when presented with this sort of revelation and I hope that having an insight into how the news may be taken will give any reader who is faced with this situation the opportunity to give careful consideration as to how they wish to present this and have a fighting chance of emerging with some degree of intactness.

      I really feel for wives faced with this situation; many are far more perceptive than we realise and it only takes a minute or two thinking about how we’d feel if the tables were turned (a simple exercise which I sense is often not considered) to get some understanding of the devastation we have the power to inflict.

      Thank you again for your friendship and support.

  2. Amanda,
    What a great post. You are an excellent writer and you present a balanced perspective of a very important issue.

    I cannot add anything which would advance the discussion; you have covered it all.

    I am sure we all wish there was an easy, quick solution to achieving peace with our spouses, but there isn’t. What you clearly show us is that we are not alone and that each relationship is unique.

    Thanks for your great insight.


    1. Jocelyn, thank you for your kind words and, as always, for your friendship and support.

      I wish there was an easy answer to this but the truth is that there isn’t. Even the ‘to tell or not to tell’ question is mired in issues and dilemmas; the old saying goes that honesty is the best policy but I for one can categorically state that Mrs A’s life has not been enhanced by knowing about this particular side of me. In fact it has caused her a lot of upset and anguish and the DADT arrangement I have now is a clear indication that she wants nothing to do with it and wants to completely expunge any knowledge or memories of it from her mind.

      The expression ‘if I’d known then what I know now….’ is often overused in our community and, of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I try not to have regrets as there’s nothing we can do about the past but if there’s one thing I wish I’d given far more thought to than I actually did, it would be the first confession. The outcome may well have been the same but I’d hope that I did it in a way that would cause far less upset than it actually did.

      Thank you again.

  3. Amanda,
    The talk is hard and different for everyone. I’ve had the talk with both of my wives early on. However, both marriages ended for very different reasons.
    I know this is a part of me and will always be. I want my next partner to love ALL of me as I love all of her. I plan to be upfront with my next partner. But I don’t think I will have a hard time starting the conversation since injuries have force me into 4” inch heels and I have colored acrylic fingernails. The problem I have been encountering is the NIMBY. I am still hopeful that there exists a woman out there that will cherish me as I cherish her. I know I’m a dreamer, but it good to have dreams.
    Amanda continued good luck to you and Mrs. A as your relationship continues to grow.

    1. Cali, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I do like the NIMBY analogy as it sums up well the attitude of many who are supportive of the general idea but draw the line at their spouse/partner’s participation. That said, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been on the receiving end of it. However, attitudes in general are changing for the better, I think, and let’s hope that with that general improvement in understanding, the whole thing becomes an easier pill to swallow for those wives & girlfriends who encounter it.

      I hope Ms Right soon pops up for you!

  4. Amanda,

    I know you have thought long and hard about this issue because of the situation with your wife. This article provides a lot of very perceptive insights into an extremely complex and emotional issue. In my opinion, one of the most impactful things you mentioned was in you answer to Lisa where you wrote about how CD’s would feel if they truly had “some understanding of the devastation we have the power to inflict”. Sometimes CD’s do not devote enough critical thinking to a wife’s perspective and the results can be disastrous.


    1. Fiona, thank you for the endorsement! Empathy is a very feminine trait and the unfortunate truth is that many guys lack it and for those of us who cross the gender divide, it’s not an easy attribute to acquire, particularly if we’re used to shooting from the hip in our male lives – we can look like a women, walk like a woman and talk like a woman but thinking like one is on a completely different level of complexity!

      I’m one of the lucky ones because I was given a second chance. But the significance of that second chance is not the DADT arrangement that emerged but, rather, that I was given a second chance at all – a different wife may have called time on the marriage there and then.

  5. Amanda,
    Your whole piece explains why our dressing/gender issues tears many of us us apart . For most it’s not just the marriage status but the whole equation of owning a house and the mortgage that goes with it and possibly children . Most men are the bread winner so it’s perfectly understandable how devastating it is for wives/partners to have her whole life undermined by the need for their male partner to wear women’s clothes . I discovered there is never a right time to make the disclosure , I also feel we can’r play down how devastating it can also be for the man to openly declare this inner need .
    I know you don’t touch on this side of it but if a couple really can’t deal with it then they must seriously consider professional help . I firmly feel that if the male has gender issues he should not be made to feel guilty about them , because we all know there is nothing he can do to change those feelings , the couple owe it to each other to be truthful and honest with themselves and the professionals they seek help with .
    My gender issues may or may not have caused the demise of my marriage the mistake was made by my wife assuming it was an illness that could be cured , she she saw no point in counselling as she wasn’t the broken one that needed fixing .
    Sometimes it almost a flippant quoteby declaring I’m an occasional crossdresser , most men don’t do it for flippant reasons , I certainly wouldn’t have risked so much if that was the case . To me it’s a dreadful insult to a family to declare I dress for enjoyment , at times no more than a hobby . the obvious answer is go find another hobby .

    From a woman’s viewpoint the dressing situation raises so many questions , the obvious ones being do you wish to be a woman and/or are you gay ? Even if she does accept she must still consider what are the clothes really meaning , she may find her femininity is undermined and possibly if it’s sexual does he prefer himself dressed to her ? I recall having coffee with CDer and he showed me pictures of himself and then pictures of his wife , declaring he was more attractive than his wife . I told him never to relate his looks to his wife , she is female no matter how she chose to dress and it wasn’t fair to undermine that . My wife accused me of only marrying her for her clothes and in a heated moment said I hope you don’t look better than me while wearing them . Some people could argue that was a fair point to make but she was failing to see what my gender issues really were .

    If I was going to give anyone advice it would posssibly be don’t treat crossdressing in a flippant way , we crossdress for a reason and that reason often goes deeper than others are prepared to accept .

    1. Teresa, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      This was both an easy and near-impossible post to write – easy because thanks to my own lack of insight and forethought before confessing, I’ve seen first hand every consequence I wrote about here. And near-impossible because I have absolutely no way of knowing what it really feels like to be a woman (i.e. someone with XX chromosomes) – I can have a pretty good guess from my male perspective but is there something lurking in the subconscious of an XX-chromosomed brain that emotionally amplifies this in ways that we can never appreciate? It’s not an unreasonable supposition given the very different roles that males & females have in a primaeval sense.

      What is undeniable is that society’s perception of CDers does not help – we’re either fetishists, drag queens or pantomime dames/comedy acts in most people’s eyes. And, in fact, the realisation that CDing is not driven by any of those can exacerbate the situation if the wife then realises how deeply the feelings run – and remember at this point that I’m talking about occasional crossdressers who deny the wish to be a woman but then spend a lot of time emulating them in both appearance and behaviour outside the house.

      Is it flippant to declare oneself as an occasional CDer? There are several here, myself included, that would strongly disagree with that assertion. Personally, I don’t treat what I do as a hobby, it’s more analagous to therapy for a condition I live with, but there are clearly those whose activities have different motivations and that’s fine by me. In their case, is it any different to those who dress in military costumes from years/centuries gone by to re-enact battles? Or someone like Grae Phillips, or androgynous models, to whom the CDing is a means to earn a living?

      Ultimately, though, all of this has little relevance to a wife who has her husband’s CDing sprung on her. As I have documented here many times, I have had to confess twice and both times were because I was effectively backed into a corner where I had no choice. What I hope is that anyone reading this can gain an insight into how their revelations MAY be received and give a lot more thought to the whole thing than I did first time round.

      1. Amanda,
        Your second paragraph raises a very important point and that is what society’s perception is of CDers . Perhaps your wife’s acceptance places you in that grey area , am I the lucky one or not to have to have succesfully emerged from that period of inner conflict set against the perception of close family and society in general ? Some may ask the question was the price too high , that’s very much your dilemma , I know how tough that is to resolve .

        Sorry to stray off subject slightly but only today i’m now faced with my own dilemma ,this morning I received a letter reminding me to update my driving licence in April . I know I have to bite the bullet at some point and make my name and gender marker official . So now I need to make the decision quickly to get my new licence issued as Teresa and subsequently my passport . I admit I’m finding the choice scary as it officially rubber stamps my transition , the MR will have formally passed on !

  6. Hi Amanda,
    Another fantastic, well written post by my Fav contributor. As you know I told my wife about Trish before we were married. So you would think I’d have the wife figured out with 48 years of marriage under our collective belts. I think you know as well that we’ve decided to see a counsellor and are two sessions in. It was a good idea because I found out what I think she means when she says it and what it really means aren’t even in the same ball Park. For years she kept saying I can’t compete with you. Which I took to mean she couldn’t compete with Trish, which to me was ridiculous. After our second session I finally found out that she meant she couldn’t compete with my girl friends and she was feeling left out and all alone. So that was discussed further in the session and what I had to do to get her feeling that she’s number one and always will be again. It’s been a few weeks since and I felt she was happier and it looked like we were headed in the right direction.

    Well SURPRISE…we were sitting watching TV and she looked at me and said “are you cheating on me”? I looked at her with a blank stare on my face thinking WTF, where did that come from? So I said “what the hell would make you think I’m cheating on you.” To which she said “well you spend a lot of time with your girl friends”. The lot of time spent was 5 days in Vegas, and 1 day of shopping with a girlfriend followed by happy hour at the pub. That was it.

    So I think that’s going to have to be discussed further with our counsellor next session. The reason for this comment is men in general and CD’s in particular will never have their wifes and what goes through their heads figured out…..ever. We just have to learn to adjust, deal with it as best we can and carry on, lol. Have a great day and nice weekend girl.

    Trish 💖

    1. Trish, first of all thank you for the lovely compliment.

      As I read through your words, I couldn’t help thinking back to the first paragraph of my reply to Teresa above that I’d literally just finished typing and, in particular ‘…is there something lurking in the subconscious of an XX-chromosomed brain that emotionally amplifies this in ways that we can never appreciate?’ and Mrs Trish’s question to you about having an affair adds much weight to that theory. And taking a slightly perverse interpretation of that question – are we each having an affair with ourself?!! There’s clearly no physical intimacy for obvious reasons (!) but I know that I have a strong emotional attachment to the woman in the mirror and it raises the question as to whether, for others that feel that way too, that registers in wives, particularly if they sense a degree of emotional detachment.

      What your experience, which has many similarities to mine first time round, underlines is that all of this is a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs – what’s acceptable today may not be tomorrow and vice versa. I know from my own experience that it’s a horrible position to be in and I was a sobbing wreck on more than one occasion as a result but what I know now is that if we want to preserve the marriage, our focus must never waver from the needs of our wives; ironically I’m a far better husband now that Mrs A has agreed to look the other way while I deal with this side of myself than I ever was when trying to manage the guilt of breaking my promise and deceiving her and building an emotional wall around myself in the process.

      I hope that you and Mrs T will soon be back on an upward trajectory!

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