My experience with Gender Dysphoria – Part VI

This is the sixth of a sequence of posts in which I describe my personal experience with concerns and confusion over my gender.  This was hard to write and even harder to put out in public.  Please be kind.  This part contains my disclosure to my wife and the turbulent events over the next year.  Part V can be found here.

I had been silent for too long.  A few months after realizing that maybe I wasn’t consigned to the depths of hell after all for my constant desire to be female, I decided to tell Andromeda.  I had considered somewhat the ramifications of what I was about to tell her, but I hadn’t really put myself in her shoes completely.

I was also perhaps a little overconfident or at least unrealistic in my expectations of how she’d take it.  To begin with I was still completely overjoyed with this new understanding and insight I had gained.  A huge amount of guilt was suddenly lifted off my shoulders and I had more hope than I had ever had.  I also had felt like she might already suspect it, as in spite of my best efforts to appear normal, from my perspective little truths and evidences had started to slip out here and there over the past seven years.

I wasn’t confident to the point that I thought it wouldn’t matter at all, though.  I realized the gravity of this deceit, and I knew that she was under no obligation to stay with me if I wasn’t what she wanted.  I knew that by revealing this I could very well be initiating the beginning of the end of our relationship.  But I couldn’t go on any longer.  I had hope that things would work out alright.

So one winter evening as we were reading in bed, I told my wife that I had something very important to tell her.  I told her that I had kept it secret from everyone for my whole life.  I told her that I knew that what I was about to say was a game-changer, and that I held her under no obligation to stay with me if she didn’t want to.  I asked her to promise not to tell anyone what I was about to tell her.  Then I told her that I wished to be female and always had for as long as I could remember.

She was shocked.  She listened quietly and asked few questions as I explained why I was telling her now, why I felt like maybe it was okay (or at least not sinful) that I desired this.  I explained how I had gone to great efforts to hide this from everyone.  I explained how it didn’t affect my love or attraction to her.

She was unnervingly quiet.  She said she needed time to think about it.  The next few days were very uncomfortable.  We talked a little and she was alternately sad and angry.  Sad that she had lost the husband she thought she had.  Angry that her hopes and expectations for how her life should be were thwarted by a simple confession.

She was also dumbstruck.  Later she revealed that she had never seen this coming.  In spite of all the leaks I was paranoid about, she had never chalked it up to anything more than either me being weird or just filed incidents away and ignored that which couldn’t be as easily explained.

A few days later she said that things were fine and that she didn’t want to leave me.  She tried to find out what I wanted and attempted to be that.  I was grateful that things didn’t turn out any worse, but we weren’t out of the woods yet.  She was still grieving for her husband.  She had stifled her own authenticity for mine in her efforts to do what she thought was right.  I could sense that things weren’t as settled and okay as she claimed they were, but because I wanted everything to be alright, I didn’t choose to address it.

Things persisted like this for almost half a year.  I finished my schooling and we came back to Utah, unsure how long we’d be here.  While there was more honesty in our marriage with my confession, our relationship was still unhealthy.  I had continued to be self-centered and we were both unfair in our expectations of each other.

We were not happy with each other for many reasons, the least of which was my desire to be female.  We fought, but we had also started to not fight and instead ignored problems.  Looking back, this was a serious warning sign that our relationship was close to death.

It turns out that Andromeda wasn’t okay with the position she was put in at all.  She didn’t want to be with a man that wished to be a woman.  She didn’t even want to be with a woman.  She wanted a husband, and had some clear expectations of what I was supposed to be doing in that role.  She had been put in a difficult situation and unable to go to anyone about it due to my request for secrecy.  She had no outlet for her concerns, fears, anger, or tears.  I put an extra burden on her because I expected her to help me feel better about myself, so she didn’t feel like she could be honest with me, either.

Naturally, she had to find an outlet to not go crazy.  In the months following my sharing of this information, she had started to converse with a high-school friend that she was romantically interested in.  She had no inappropriate conversations, but she had become emotionally invested in him – the seeds of an affair.

I had noticed her distance and the long conversations she had been having.  One day I asked her, pointedly, who she was chatting with and why.  She told me and explained that nothing inappropriate was happening.  I sensed something deeper, though, so I probed further to find out that she had been thinking of him substantially.

I was crushed.  I had recently shared the most important detail of my life with her, the one person I trusted most in the world, and there she was thinking of someone else.  I felt so vulnerable and so hurt that I lashed out in kind.  I said mean, angry things.  I said things to hurt her.  Then I broke down and told her to leave.

And she left.  She packed up the kids, took the car, and went to stay with her sister who was vacationing at her cabin an hour or two away.  Her sister was to be there for the week.  Andromeda said that she’d stay there with her and figure out where she was going after that.

I was completely devastated.  I was alone.  I was hurt more than I’d ever been.  I’d been meaner than I’d ever been.  I had just lost my family.

At a loss as to what to do, I went to my mom for help.  I told her what had happened.  I told her I wished to be female.  Her reaction was unusual, as she didn’t seem shocked but nor did she really seem to care.  I started down my list of complaints over what Andromeda had done.

She stopped me immediately.  Instead, she talked to me about what I needed to change.  I suddenly realized how wrong I’d been in my dealings with my wife.  My perspective had been one of self-focus, where I had not taken thought to her needs or how my actions affected her.  I had not once thought that I needed to make some changes.

My mom talked to me for a few hours and I left realizing that if I wanted this (or any) marriage to survive, I had to make some changes.  I needed to be much less self-focused.  I needed to strip away all expectations.  If I wanted something done differently at home, it was up to me to do it, not my wife to somehow guess what it was and then jump to serve me.  I realized I had not prioritized the family high enough, and my wife even less.  I saw, clearer than I ever had how my disrespect and unkindness had been such a negative effect on my wife and family.

So I changed.  I am nothing if not deliberate and capable.  I knew that I wanted my family back.  I knew what I needed to change to achieve that.  I knew I could do it, so I did.

Unfortunately, Andromeda didn’t have the same type of help on her end.  She told her sister all that had transpired.  Her sister got angry and defensive and wasn’t able to give Andromeda advice that was helpful or as far-seeing as that I had received.  In my efforts to call my wife to apologize, she took it upon herself to yell and lecture me.

The end of the week came and Andromeda reluctantly came home.  I had eventually been able to communicate to her that I was sorry for the things I had said and for my overreacting that had prompted her departure.  I also explained how I realized how disrespectful and inconsiderate I’d been of her, and I assured her that I would not do it again.  I told her I hoped she’d return home with the kids and that we could continue to try to work things out.

She did come back, but it was with one foot out the door.  She stipulated that we talk to the bishop and do marriage counseling, both of which I consented to.  Life continued though relations were strained.  She had not recommitted to making things work.

Speaking with the bishop was not a good experience.  We had just barely moved to the ward so he didn’t know us.  He had also obviously never heard of gender dysphoria.  He offered to have the ward help us pay for counseling as our financial state was as bad as it had ever been.  He tried to understand but seemed to not know what to say.  I had very little desire to tell this stranger the intimate details I had kept secret for so long.  I didn’t trust him and didn’t feel much confirmation from the Spirit on what he did say.  But I was willing to do what I had to do to keep my family intact.

One would think that given the nature of our problems and the fact that our marriage almost ended, he would want to meet with us regularly.  He didn’t   We saw him only two or three times total, and all were visits we initiated.  I’m not trying to paint him out as a bad bishop, and I’d like to think he was trying his best.  He certainly had some valid excuses for his apparent lack of concern over our family: he was younger than me, had a small family of his own, and was a bishop of a very large ward.  I don’t think he did right by us, though.  Luckily we pulled through, and maybe it’s just as well.

Talking to a counselor was not much better.  We chose a counselor who specialized in sexual addictions who was also a bishop in another ward.  The first visit was not bad, I told this other stranger intimate details that I had never shared.  He confirmed to me that I need not feel shame for wanting to be female.

Nothing very helpful came after that.  I wanted very much to do what’s right, so I was very open and honest.  I cooperated, listened, and tried to understand what he had to say.  It soon became evident, though, that the counselor, Andromeda, and I were not on the same page.

My reasoning to be there was to do what I had to do to preserve my family.  I had no sexual addiction.  With very rare exceptions, I exhibit great self-control.  I already knew the many things I had done wrong and I’d already started repairing them, primarily by changing my priorities and showing Andromeda more love and respect.

It wasn’t long before I saw that there were ‘sides’, and that the counselor was not on mine.  He did not have high hopes for our marital success and didn’t actually offer us any helpful ideas on how we could succeed.  He’d just take off his glasses, rub his eyes and mutter something like ‘it’s difficult’ while he typed something on his computer.

I don’t feel like he cared for me much and after we’d told most of what there was to tell, nothing really happened there anymore.  I was done after one visit when he, in my presence, told Andromeda that he didn’t think our marriage could succeed because of me.  I didn’t go back after that.

In the midst of the rare bishop’s interview or the weekly counseling sessions, Andromeda and I tried to piece things back together.  Like I said, although she ended up coming back home, she wasn’t really there.  We had no trust and we both knew that at any moment things could fall back to pieces.

She visited her sisters again a few months later.  They noticed that she wasn’t doing well, and in an effort to assist her they discussed me and my recently disclosed secrets.  Many already didn’t have a high opinion of me partly based on my disrespectful behavioral patterns towards my wife, and after hearing about my desire to be female they jumped to their sister’s defense.  Andromeda left planning to divorce me.

When she returned home she told me how my secrets were revealed to an even broader audience than I intended.  I was very hurt to know of this, as I didn’t really care to have others know.  I understand she wasn’t out to betray me, but she wasn’t defending me either and that truth was hard to bear.  A few days later, she informed that she had started to file for divorce.

In the final installment I discuss the slow recovery of our nearly destroyed marriage.  Continue on to Part VII here.

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