While my husband’s personal journey is of the utmost importance here (we are currently using a range of pronouns and titles), I feel there is value in sharing my experiences too. A marriage involves two people, and both people in it are affected by what happens to the other, and must work together to adjust to major changes. So if my experiences can be useful to other couples dealing with transition, they feel worth sharing. My spouse has consented to me sharing this story anonymously.
‘Something was churning within my husband that needed a voice’
At the beginning of the year, my husband’s mental health took a serious nosedive: always someone who struggled with emotional openness and appeared occasionally vulnerable, suddenly it seemed that life had got the better of him. He dealt with disordered eating, panic attacks and depression. It was a frightening time, but luckily we found a wonderful therapist and GP who helped us to identify an approach that seemed to contain the worst of it.
But even with all this support he wasn’t getting better. It was obvious to me that something was churning within him and needed a voice.
This voice was heard early one Sunday morning. The previous evening I had discovered, on returning from a trip with our children, an unexpected item of clothing in the bedroom that prompted the initial revelation that my husband had been wearing women’s clothes. We talked that evening about cross dressing and sexuality and much else besides, but the word ‘trans’ wasn’t said. Then at 6am on that Sunday morning, the love of my life appeared to me in an utter state and finally used the word ‘trans’ to describe who they are.
‘My friend, lover, partner, was finally telling their truth’
I love my spouse with my whole heart and soul and honestly my first thought, whilst I held him/her was relief: I finally knew why he was in so much pain. Then I felt sadness because as we talked I understood that this was something that had been with my partner since she was a child, and I cannot imagine the struggle of carrying this alone for years, feeling utterly unsupported.
It never once crossed my mind to feel betrayed or let down by her for not being honest with me earlier: all I saw was my friend, lover, partner, finally telling me their truth even if it was hard to hear. I just felt a tidal wave of love for this human, who – at least in terms of speaking their truth – could now be free.
So this was the start of my new normal. And I won’t lie – this new normal is incredibly tough as well as being a beautiful thing.
‘Feeling happy and somewhat devastated at the same time is not something I am used to’
So how do I feel? Well, I’m feeling quite a lot at the moment. I’m feeling all the feelings that were ever invented. There’s relief at understanding my partner’s pain, grief at losing the husband I thought I had, excitement because this is one hell of a journey I’m on, anger at feeling lied to and somewhat duped when we got married, and a level of instability because my future is not what I thought it would be. Feeling so many emotions at once is overwhelming. Being happy and sort of devasted at the same time is not something I am used to.
What has helped us as a couple and family is support: we have found a fantastic therapist who we are seeing as a couple; my partner continues to see their therapist as well. We have the most amazing group of friends who have been nothing but supportive and kind and loving. To say I am incredibly lucky is an understatement.
I also find myself in an odd situation in that, although my husband is trans, sexually she is still attracted to women. Although I am still working my way through that idea, it has not meant that our relationship as a couple is over – in fact our sex life has never been more amazing and has completely changed in tone and style.
‘It has freed us both to embrace what we like sexually’
I am a cis woman but I have had experiences with women and have found women attractive over the years, and I can say that when we have sex now, I am sleeping with a woman. My partner doesn’t want to have penetrative sex any more so we have looked into and started using a range of different sex toys and have become more experimental to achieve a sex life which works for us both. It has already opened my mind to new experiences and physically we have never been closer
For my partner to have sex in the way they have always wanted to has been revolutionary for them and for me I have discovered more about what kind of sex I want and enjoy. We communicate without embarrassment or shame and it has freed us both to embrace what we want to do sexually.
It is very strange to be in a couple and have your sex life change so dramatically it almost feels like you are sleeping with a new person. It’s also made me look at myself and my boundaries. I used to be very sure about my sexuality and what I wanted, but this experience has changed that. I have to admit, though, that I look at myself and sometimes think – am I weird being OK with this? What will people think of me if they know I am with someone who is trans?
‘Communication and honesty are so important’
Sometimes I worry that if my partner chooses to fully transition I won’t be attracted to them any more. It’s a frightening thought that I can’t let go of. And I will be honest in that having a situation on the horizon which may mean your romantic conection with someone you love deeply will be over is a hard thing to carry.
When going through something like this, communication and being truthful are so important. It is scary because you, the partner, are vulnerable – to an extent the shifts to your life are dictated by someone else – but my partner and I have so much more truth between us now and our house has become such a place of safety and happiness because no one is hiding any more.
I do not yet know what the future holds, but I do know that we can travel this path together because, put simply, we love each other deeply and that’s a good place to start.