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Matrimonial Challenges – Part 4 – Giving It Your Best Shot

There she goes, making us think again...

By Amanda J.

In part 1 of this series, posted on 17 January, I talked about my botched confession to Mrs A, my wife, and the resultant ultimatum I was given.  In part 2, posted on 31 January, I considered the ethical position of my subsequent return to CDing under the marital radar and in part 3 posted on 21 February I tried to look at everything from a different angle.  Now it’s time to consider what I’ve learned from the whole sorry episode and how it could be approached differently.  I’ve aimed this in particular at those readers who are facing the desire, or need, to confess to their nearest & dearest but hope that those readers who didn’t get it as spectacularly wrong as I did will add their own thoughts and advice to the comments below.

Let’s be clear at the outset; there’s no sure-fire formula for guaranteeing success because there is a large and unknown variable – the wife’s attitude to transgender issues in general and her husband’s participation in them in particular (and I’m using ‘transgender’ and ‘trans’ as umbrella terms for the full spectrum of gender variance from occasional CDing to full surgical transition).  If a wife is the sort of person that would call security about ‘a man in the ladies’ toilets’ if she saw a transwoman using them, the odds of a successful confession from her husband are not high.  And even if she is supportive of LGBT issues in general, that support may not extend to tolerance of her husband’s enthusiastic ‘enjoyment’ of them.  The only thing that any husband who wants or needs to confess can do is do his best.  And I have to add a disclaimer here; we’re all different and married to different people and we can’t unsay what we’ve said.  For some wives, a CDing confession is sufficient grounds to immediately end a marriage and what follows is only my opinion.  I’m not a trained counsellor and the points I make are solely how I would do things differently if I could wind the clock back.  They may work for others or they may not but your decision to confess and what happens afterwards are your sole responsibility.  In other words, if it all goes wrong, don’t blame me!

So, having got the disclaimer out of the way, here goes…

Before you even start to plan what you’re going to say, ask yourself the simple question – how would you feel if you weren’t trans but your wife suddenly told you that she was in some way uncertain about her gender and liked to explore her male side by binding her chest, wearing a false beard and so on, something she’d been doing behind your back for many years?  Would you be OK with it or devastated?  Would you feel that your trust had been betrayed, not only because she’d been doing it behind your back but also because she’d not felt able to talk to you about it?  Would you wish you’d never asked her to marry you in the first place and tell her that she either had to be a proper wife and forget these thoughts or pack her bags?  Would you worry what your friends will think?  What is the end point – full transition?  These are all thoughts & fears that your wife will have so think how you would want to be told if the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.

Now do your homework and then prepare, prepare and prepare again: 

  • Before you start the conversation, try to understand why you are this way. If you’re over 50, did your mother perhaps take an oestrogen-based drug during pregnancy (google ‘DES sons transgender’ if you’re unaware of a drug that was widely prescribed to prevent miscarriage on both sides of the Atlantic up to the 1970s).  Was there something in your childhood that may have been a factor?  What’s important here is that you are able to convey the simple fact that this is something you cannot help, not a lifestyle choice.
  • Think about all of the struggles you’ve had. The denial, hating yourself and feeling shame for having these thoughts, perhaps feeling that falling in love with your wife had cured you.
  • Try to understand how far you want to take this – occasional crossdressing, regular socialising as a female, low dose HRT, full surgical transition or somewhere else.
  • Understand that the marriage dynamic may change and what compromises you will be prepared (or able) to accept to preserve the marriage.
  • And now for the big one – have a compelling explanation as to why you hid your trans feelings from her for so long. All of the times you’ve tried to bury the thoughts, feelings that you were ‘cured’, disgust with yourself etc. It’s very important that she does not see this as an intentional breach of trust or deception within the marriage.

And now for the conversation itself…

  • Pick an appropriate time – don’t ambush her when she’s just returned from work as I did or when she’s preoccupied with other things. You’ve had a long time to process this & prepare for the conversation, she hasn’t.
  • Focus the conversation on her needs, not yours – she will need answers on why this has been hidden and what the implications are for her in the future.
  • Understand that the news will probably be devastating for her. She may move out of the marital bed into the spare room, she may experience raw grief, she may be angry with you or any of a large number of other emotions. Give her the space she needs to process it but support her by being there when she needs to discuss it.
  • Answer every question she asks with complete honesty. That does not mean that you have to disclose every last detail, particularly if doing so would unduly add to her emotional distress but, for example, if you’re confessing to crossdressing and she asks ‘do you want to be a woman?’, answering no when you’re either actively exploring that option or know in your heart that it’s what you want to do is only going to cause more hurt and distress when the truth eventually comes out.
  • Understand that whilst you may want the marriage to continue, she may not – in the same way that you are claiming the right to deal with your transgenderism in whichever way you want, she has an equal right to make whatever decisions she wants to shape the rest of her life. In particular, if you are planning to make permanent changes to your body or lifestyle, be prepared to give her everything she needs for her happiness – that is the price to pay for yours. The marriage dynamic may well change but if she can see that you’re putting her needs at the top of your priority list, it’s probably got more chance of surviving in some form.
  • Do not, whatever you do, take up a position of conflict, point out that she promised ’till death do us part’ in the marriage vows (the same vows that asked whether she took ‘this man’ which you’re now pointing out may not have been an entirely accurate description of you) or try to suggest that it’s all OK because you’re still the same person underneath. You need to work through this together as allies, not enemies, in particular as the only beneficiaries in a hostile divorce are the lawyers who have to be hired to sort it all out.

So that’s my two pence/cents worth.  I wish I could finish this piece with the statement ‘follow my simple steps and your wife’s approval is guaranteed’ but the fact is that nothing is further from the truth.  There is no simple formula for doing this for the one simple reason that there is a large factor over which you have absolutely no control – your wife’s views on what having a trans husband means to her.  Every marriage is different – some are based on physical attraction, some on shared interests, some on emotional connection and so on – and every wife is different and two identical confessions to two different wives can have two very different outcomes. 

In the end, no one understands your marriage dynamic better than you do and that understanding must shape how you approach ‘the conversation’.  But when you’re having it, please just don’t make the same mistakes that I did! And that was supposed to be the end of this little series but, as I put the final touches to it, I realised that there was one more issue that, mercifully, I haven’t had to experience.  Well not yet, anyway but it’s almost certain that, as time goes on, the probability that my little secret that I have resumed my ‘under the radar’ crossdressing will be ‘rumbled’ and I’ll have some explaining to do.  So part 5, which I do intend to be the final part, will look at getting caught.


11 Responses

  1. Hi Amanda:
    This has been a fascinating series, one to which I can relate having recently made such a reveal. I must have done something right, or maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones, as my marriage did not end, we are OK and my wife is accepting, even participatory up to a point. It’s important to mention however that even in the most accepting situation most SOs have boundaries that should not be crossed, and don’t be surprised if these come up early on. For me, its stepping out publicly – something I want to do but know that such a deception could be a “deal breaker” should I be “caught”. How we feel about such an arrangement ,perhaps a negotiation of sorts, might enter into our equation of how to handle the CD disclosure and how we handle the aftermath.

    1. Kris, thank you for taking the time to comment and I’m glad to hear that things have worked out well for you. I think you make a very important point about boundaries and it’s quite possible that, after disclosure, those boundaries will be more restricting than the freedom previously ‘enjoyed’ when everything was still under the marital radar. And, of course, those boundaries can change – push things too hard, too quickly and tolerance can evaporate; take things steady and respect the wife’s viewpoint, on the other hand, and attitudes can soften over time and wives can even enjoy the ride.

      I hope that you will fulfil your dream to step out into the big wide world sometime soon.

    2. I told my wife after 10 years of marriage. She had found a women’s name and phone number in my wallet. That night I told her about my femme side.
      We are now married 50 years. She has not seen me dressed enfemme except for a pic by accident. The keyword in my life is balance. I tried to have my wife understand my femme side over the years. I get out enfemme when I can. My children don’t know. I have struggled with this part of me my whole life. We are all different and all the same in some ways.

      1. Terri, thanks for commenting and your story just goes to show that there are many flavours of spousal tolerance. In the end, you prove that this need not impact on a marriage and the ability of both parties to compromise is everything.

  2. Amanda,
    Thank you so much for presenting your views and recommendations on this very serious subject. Your advice has helped me greatly to amend the speech I have been preparing for decades.

    But, I do not plan on giving that speech, ever.

    You are a very special person. I continue to hope your life may be happy and fulfilling as en homme and en femme.

    Your friend,

    1. Jocelyn, thanks for contributing. I completely get the wife’s point of view in all of this but I find it tragic that the level of understanding is often so low. And by that, I don’t mean understanding why we do it – we don’t even understand that so what hope has anyone else got? – but understanding how deeply it affects our lives. Personally, I would far rather be able to walk away from all of this and keep the promise I made but I tried and it just didn’t work.

      I think the biggest gulf we have to bridge is the view that we do this purely for pleasure. Yes, getting all tarted up feels amazing but I know that every time I climb that ladder to retrieve Amanda’s things, it’s because it’s necessary for ‘him’ to function. I’m in a bit of a lull at the moment so I’m quite happy to leave everything where it is but I know that sometime soon, maybe in a day or two or a week or two, she’ll be once again screaming to be let out and trying to do anything other than succumb will be to the detriment of my day to day life as him. The sad thing is that conveying that concept during a confession is nigh on impossible, firstly because it soon becomes apparent that it’s firefighting to save the marriage and secondly because it turns everything the wife believes about her husband on its head.

      And that’s really the biggest challenge we face.

  3. Before we were married my wife found my “stash”in my apartment. She was devastated because she thought I was cheating on her.I have always felt there should be full disclosure and honesty on both sides going into a marriage.Nobody wants any surprises so I told her the truth.To my total surprise she really had no problem with it.In fact after we married and time went by she even encouraged me to do this more up to fully transitioning if that was what I wanted ,although I never went that far.For a time she bought me many gifts and they were always girl things including jewelry.We`ve been together now 49 years though I rarely dress now.Whether I do or I don’t there’s never any mention one way or the other. I still don’t quite know what to make of her non-reaction and encouragement.

    1. Laura, I think we’re all turning green with envy! Mrs Laura sounds like an amazing lady!

      You are very fortunate that the opportunity to talk about this to your wife presented itself in the way that it did. I think many of us look back and wish that we’d played things differently but often the reality is that, at the time we met our future wives, we were either unaware of the woman within or we believed that we’d been able to banish her to eternal oblivion. But your story, plus those of several other contributors here, demonstrates that it needn’t be a dealbreaker as far as marriage is concerned and providing both sides are respectful of the other’s point of view, the marriage can be all the better as a result. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  4. Thanks for the excellent series Amanda, as one of those who has chosen to not tell my wife at this stage. I found your series really balanced and thoughtful.

    Of course in the ideal world, I would have told my wife before we were married, but that would have been impossible because Becky only emerged 20 years after we were married. When one is a ‘late on-setter’ when is the time to tell?

    1. Becky, thanks for the compliment!

      As for when is the time to tell for the late onsetters, the answer of course is a long time before we get to the point when we realise that, in an ideal world, it’s something we should disclose. By the time we realise that, of course, we’ve dug ourselves into a hole with our only way out being a hope that our wives will understand .

      Against that background, I think that the answer to the question is at the point when we first realise that we have an urge to CD. A conversation that starts ‘over the past week, I’ve felt an increasing urge to explore my feminine side and I’d really like your help and support in exploring this’ is almost certainly going to go far better than one that, regardless of how it starts, ends up with the revelation that one has been a CDer for years, if not decades. At its core, CDing is harmless but it’s all the other baggage we pick up as we ‘enjoy’ our feminine side that can potentially do the most damage to a marriage.

      In the end, the best time to tell a wife who loves the idea of her husband actively exploring his feminine side and will enthusiastically support his every move is five minutes into the first date. The best time to tell a wife who will be tempted to slice you into small pieces and dance on your grave is never (acknowledging that, even parking the CD issue, she may not have been a wise choice for a wife anyway). The problem is that we’re never completely sure exactly where on the continuum between the two our wives actually sit and that’s the challenge!

      1. Becky and Amanda,
        Of course once the “genie” is out of the bottle you cannot get it back in, if the wifely response was negative.
        Damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

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