Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's Love Got to Do With It?

I've been reading a blog by a transwoman who also happens to be somewhat of a celebrity in certain circles. She never came out in her job. She didn't tell most of the people in her life. She "secretly" tried to transition. More recently, she shared that her spouse was not able to take being married to a woman, even a part-time woman, and the blogger resigned herself to being a husband for his wife.

Now, his wife has come to the conclusion that choosing that path is wrong for both of them. It is not fair for the blogger to trap herself in a body that doesn't fit and it's not fair for the wife that she was forced to change the nature of her marriage.

Nobody wins.

The blogger made a comment that she loved her wife as much as ever, but her wife did not. The wife's love had diminished.

Was this really true?

I have a wonderful reader who is the spouse of a transwoman. Their situation is similar to ours, with two young kids and a strong desire to support the transitioning (or in my case, transitioned) partner. She commented the other day that sometimes "love is not enough."

Could this be true, too?

In thinking about my own situation, I feel a lot of love. That love hurts sometimes, but mostly, it's just some nice, comfortable love.

If we don't stay together, does that mean that my love for Natasha lessened somehow? Has that already happened?

I don't think so. And what, exactly, is love, anyway? Isn't love the way you feel about somebody when you want to be with someone and you want to share your life with that person and you want the best for that person and you want that person to be happy?

Has that changed for me?

No. Not at all.

But I love me, too. I really do. Sometimes, one's love for another ends up clashing with one's love for oneself. That's why nobody wins in this kind of situation. It's because we love our spouses that this situation hurts so much for both parties. Love, you see, is spiritual. Physiology has nothing to do with love.

This, I think, is the problem. You can't change your physiology any more than you can change who you love and both forces are equally as great. Now, if you're lucky, your physiology attracts you to both genders and everything is wonderful. But really, how common is that? It's really not. Maybe some day, in a utopic world, we won't have genders and we'll all be able to have babies and our physiology won't stand in the way of love. But I don't think Nature works that way, not when your species is at the top of the food chain and has no problem reproducing in abundance. Anyway, here's my point:

A loss of love has nothing to do with it. I truly and honestly think that we three wives have not changed how much we love our spouses. In reality, our natural instincts are telling us that what we need is no longer present and that feels really weird in such a way that we cannot seem to get past.

It is, however, love that makes us want to keep our spouses in our lives in some way or another. It is love that makes me understand that I am still very happy where I am. It's love that twists my stomach into knots every now and then with guilt that I think about my needs that my spouse can no longer meet. Love makes me feel guilty that my physiology isn't compatible with the situation and wish with all my heart that I could change that... that I could somehow grasp more of my liberal attitude about life and sexuality and just push it a little further. Love is what I show my children so that they understand that what their Sunny has gone through was something that had to be done for the good of all.

Love kept us from running at first mention of gender dysphoria.

But love might have to be what helps us to make the tough decisions, too. Love may help us make our own transitions with our spouses from marriage to partnership or some other form of relationship. Love helps us to make necessary sacrifices, like the one we wives made when we gave up our husbands so that our best friends could be happier.

Love has to be enough. It has to be, or it will all end in ruin. We have to remind ourselves how much we love the other person so that, no matter what happens, we make the most loving and best decisions for everyone. Love gets us past the fear of the unknown. Love reminds us of the good things that have remained, even when other things have changed.

Love tells our physiology that some things are more important right now, and that we'll get to those other issues later.

Look: the bottom line is that the vast majority of transfolk can not maintain a life of non-transition. It's a part of the medical problem. It's a compulsion of hatred of one's body that only builds over time unless heavy medication is involved. We know that they aren't doing this "on purpose." It's never something they choose to have happen to themselves. We spouses and partners should understand that from first-hand experience. Sure, not every transperson handles the compulsion well. Sometimes they are completely selfish and lay it all on the table as a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, but then, how much love was there for that person to behave that way? From my experience, most transfolk in relationships do handle things much better than that, often resorting to being secretive because of fear, rather than because of some weird sense of power or ego. Regardless, if we love the transperson, we want the best for that person. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when diagnosed correctly, what is best is transition. It's a horrible list of choices for everyone, but it is, admittedly, the best choice. Suicide and/or heavy anti-depressants are the other choices.

Love tells us to just hold on, hope for the best, but accept what comes and keep trying to deal with it. Love tells us when we can't do that anymore, too. That's what we spouses and partners have to keep reminding ourselves, and that's what we have to tell our trans partners if they question it. We love them no less. We wouldn't be having these conversations if our love had waned. It's quite the contrary, frankly, and that's what makes the whole thing suck so much.

It's not about the love. Trust us.

No, my wonderful reader. Love may not be enough to keep your marriage together, but it will be enough for you and your spouse to make the right decisions and remain good, proud parents and friends for the rest of your lives.