In between a full evening of reading about and discussing the Chelsea Manning announcement, I did do a little reading on other subjects and in so doing I came across a comment someone posted about the nature of how she and her spouse were working out the new paradigm of their relationship. That in turn got me to thinking about my own relationship as well as those of other of my friends who’ve had to deal with some trans related modifications.
Of course, the variations on this theme are as numerous as the families going through it, most notably it’s a different thing to make an actual gender transition as opposed to a part-time dressing hobby. The former carrying a lot more permanence and public impact than the latter in most cases. I’ve good friends who’s spouses were accepting and supportive who remained at least on some level a romantic couple, others whos spouse was emotionally supportive but wished to amicably end the marriage and shift into a new sort of relationship. Obviously, the more hostile partners would be less likely to adjust to the changes.
Naturally, this can be less cut and dried for the crossdresser than for the TS. Significant others have to mentally adjust to what role “she” (your fem self) is going to play in their lives. In some cases perhaps the CD activity is embraced and the wife or partner readily accommodates your desire to spend time as a woman. In others perhaps she will see it as a threat and act with hostile intent towards “her.”In the case I had in mind, the CD was mulling the idea that her wife had grown more accepting in behavior while still insisting that the couple was “husband and wife” even though the lifestyle was more one of girlfriend/roommate. For some wives, maintaining the profession of husband & wife even when it’s obviously something new is an important coping mechanism apparently. Even if to us it may seem an act of denial.
It seems to me that in many cases the lynchpin which determines the health of the future relationship, whatever sort of relationship it may become, is the extent to which the spouse is willing to move away from the traditional “husband & wife” model. This is more so for TS than for CD I assume, but applies well in both instances. A woman who feels she has lost something significant in simply losing that label is one more likely to struggle with accepting the situation which cost her that value, or in this case the woman who took it away from her. Conversely, it seems that the one who can transition themselves relatively easily into “partners” or “girlfriends” or “sisters” stands a very good chance of having an ongoing positive relationship with the person she married.
For some couples, what results is something that amounts to an “open marriage” in that they do not end their current relationship but one or both are free to peruse a more conventional outside relationship. For others, they adopt either a bisexual or lesbian relationship or, as one friend of mine described it “My wife and I are not lesbians, we’re heterosexual women who are making an exception.” Still other amicably end the marriage and yet remain very involved in each others lives. Obviously, there’s also the ugly war-like split that comes when the spouse proceeds from the assumption that the trans choices, either to transition or to CD is the competitor who ripped her marriage from her hands and the further interactions become routinely hostile or in some cases non-existant.
To the extent that I’m speaking her to SO’s (Significant Others) of whatever stripe, I urge you to adjust to your partner’s situation with compassion and grace. You are of course free to separate yourself from it but please consider that your marriage, if it is worth keeping, goes beyond the label which is applied. Stay if you can, leave if you must, but please don’t get so wrapped up in labels that you lose site of the bigger things.
Photo by: jordi.martorell