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.


Jenn said...

Love seems to be all I have these days.
I love my "spouse", I really do. She is kind hearted, un-selfish, caring and compassionate most of the time but on the same hand selfish, introverted and uses the fear of loosing me as a crutch.
That being said, that doesn't make her a good or bad person, just human. We all are those trains at one time or another.
Love has kept me here, love had allowed me to accepted this transition and understand the need because the alternative, having her die is worse.
I promised myself, no matter what, I would be here through the stages and I would not commit to staying or leaving until transition was complete. That the kids understood that this changes nothing, that we all love each other and are a family.
Weither I stay or go, we will be a family. I will still love her but sadly I am not in love with her. She is my best friend but not my lover. She is who I want to share the good times with but not always the bad any more. It's when I'm feeling sad, lonely, grieving etc that I can't share. How do I look into the eyes of someone I love and tell them I hurt because you changed? That isn't fair of me, so I hold it in until it hurts so bad I could explode.
I am glad she didn't decide to be my husband any longer. She did for 6 months and that is like waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was awful, I was pregnant and scared out of my mind.
The only thing I am scared of is hurting my family, letting my children down. I feel selfish for wanting other things (no not just sex but the relationship I had with a man). Life we be so much easier if I was bi-sexual but sadly I am not.
There is no good situation... I think I know the blogger you referenced and I have tried to put myself in both situations and being someone else for those you love will never be a win for anyone. That applies to gender, sexuality, religious name it. If you aren't true to yourself you will never be true to anyone else.
I admire you Marnie, I have tried to blog several times (you may of known me as "our transitioning family") but sometimes I have to shut down to work through it all and 2 years ago I shut down.
But I would very much like to chat with you sometime and thank you. knowing that someone else is in my same situation helps xoxo

Hailey Bell said...

Thanks for all your posts. Its very encouraging to us, as we go through the same thing.

Marni said...

@Jenn - I think you and I are on the same page. I'm glad you like my blog. I'm a writer by nature, so it's not hard for me. It's also a bit therapeutic, as I don't go back to edit myself. I just write it and click "publish." Please email me your information and we can set up a time to talk. (

@Hailey - That's why I do this thing. :-)

Debra said...

Good post. The first part of it really hit me. I knew early on that my wife would not be able to handle things even though she clung dearly to me in whatever ways she could. My logic was that it would be better for both of us if we broke up and found others who fit better into our lives and now that has happened and I do believe we are both much happier than we would have been if we had stayed together through the process.

Stephanie said...

7 years after my transition my wife and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary on June 18th. We love each other now more than ever. If I wouldn't have transitioned there would be no celebration because of my constant problems of switching back and forth. Our vows of "for better or worse" and "'til death do us part" are still intact. Love is very powerful.

Marni said...

@Stephanie, it is wonderful to hear that you and your spouse have made it work. I know that at some point, people get to a point in their lives where companionship is defined more by platonic friendship than anything else. For me, and for Jenn I think, we are not yet at this point in our lives, and this is why the decision about what to do is so very difficult.

@Debra, I admire you for being able to look at your situation so openly. To love someone so much and let her or him go is a testament to your strength. It must have been very frightening for you.

john said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Noelle said...


I always believed that Love could conquer anything. Love was all that really mattered. And now, a year into my partner's transition, I feel the same love I always felt. However, last month she told me we needed to break up, that it wasn't working anymore because I'm not a lesbian and she is. I'm still not sure what to make of that. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, whether the body itself is male or female makes very little difference to me. No, I'm not a lesbian, but I love this PERSON. I'm not giving up on a once-in-a-lifetime love just because her body is different now. Maybe we'll find a way to make things work so we can be a "couple" again, but for now I still have my best friend. As you said, the alternative is suicide or being zoned out on mega doses of Xanax.

Kali Reynolds said...

I have never seen someone write so closely to my experiences. Thank you. I wish you had more compassion for women who leave because of sexual orientation.
Sex is a part of marriage. The lack thereof can be distressing, and seeking sex outside of marriage is not an option for many.

I left my marriage out of love. I was holding him back. I was depressed and suicidal. I missed him but had sometime to heal.

I came back out of love. I don't want an asexual relationship. I never have. I didn't sign up for that neither did he. I say he because my spouse was living as a man before I came back to him. He said that he had been on a journey and that he knows now he wants to live as a man. I didn't believe him.

I still don't. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. He dresses still of course, but is causes me terrible anxiety. I don't know what to do. Leaving was terrible, being with him is wonderful. I don't want a repeat of history. I feel like I have put myself in the position to suffer everything twice.

He is unhappy not feeling free to present whenever she wants. I feel like a dictator. I want my husband back. I don't want to go through all the pain, self reflection, public circus, personal hatred, and sexual disatisfaction again.

It is like I want to make it work, but not how I tried before. Before I tried to become lesbian, I tried to overcome my anger towards public abuse, and misunderstanding. It didn't work. In the end I lost my attraction for her and felt trapped and miserable.

We have a 2 year old.

I thought if I could just live for the day. Not picture or worry about him changing to transition. Not worry that he needs to present female part time. If I could just not be sexual with him when he is presenting female I might avoid that wrongness and sadness I felt before. And live instead for the long hikes, spontaneous drives to the beach, for the sweet touches, and warm snuggles.

I don't know if what I am doing is right. I am sad and anxious today, because she is out shopping.
we have spent several days talking about how anxious he has been from not dressing, and how he misses anti-andogenes.

I don't want to go back to that dark place I lived before where my choices seemed black and white.
stay with your soul mate, or leave. Live or die.


Marni said...

@Kali - I'm glad you found my blog and I hope it helps you to figure out what you must do. I have plenty of compassion for partners who leave because of sexual orientation. I may leave some day because of that very same thing. What I have no compassion for is for partners who leave solely because of impulsive reactions based solely on sex. I take no pity on those people who claim to have loved a person and yet turn on a dime and flee without first thinking and making decisions based on the real issues. It doesn't sound like you are one of those kinds of people, None of the partners who read my blog are like that. They may have considered it at first, but in the end, like you, they wanted to try their hardest to make it work.

All of us partners who truly love someone who is in transition (whether or not it actually happens) have been or are still going through the pain and heartbreak of "losing" the person we once had. For many of us who are still in a "sexual" part of our lives, the unfortunate truth is that there is something in our physiology that instinctively nags at us, urging us that we have found ourselves in a "wrong" relationship. The question is: what do we do about it? For me, I'm doing nothing for the moment. I am very much settled in the fact that my spouse of nearly eleven years is a woman. She has been for about three years. The fact for us is that there is so much other crap and upheaval going on in our lives at the moment that what I want or need sexually in my relationship is taking a back seat. What I DO need from my spouse during this time is exactly what I have, only in a woman's body. She is every bit the person I married (the good and the frustrating :-D). Now, when all of this settles and we are in a new place in our lives, who knows? I don't really ask that question very often anymore because what happens, happens. No one can really plan anything, I have found.

Kali, all I can suggest to you is that you try not to look at your situation as black and white, to keep talking with your spouse, and to recognize that while "he" may claim to be content with not transitioning, if she is truly transsexual, then she is in denial and it will blow up in her face if she doesn't talk to someone and come to terms with the truth of the situation. Ultimately, we non-transitioning partners have to be quite strong. Sometimes we are the ones who have to "give permission." The sad fact is that if you are not at all a lesbian, then one or both of you will be unhappy until it has been resolved. Do me a favor and look up "Don Ennis" on Google. He claimed to be transsexual and put his wife through the ringer, publicly, for a very long time. He claims now that it was all due to medical problems in the past. Wherever the truth lay, his wife was so hell-bent on him not transitioning that she contributed to his own inability to settle on what the Truth was. She still left him. He tried to get her back. I don't know at this point what's going on in that relationship, but as he claims he was never truly transsexual, I can't imagine her staying because then it was all a big lie and he put her through a ton of crap.

My point is that your spouse needs to fully understand where on the gender rainbow he is. Is he truly transsexual or just transgender? If the former, then you both need to talk to someone, at least for a while. If you want to try to make things work, then do everything you can to try. But don't give yourself away, Kali. You can't help him if you are unable to help yourself.

Stay or leave? Live or die? It's not that simple and you know it. We're here for you. :-)