My experience with Gender Dysphoria – Part VII

This is the seventh 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 the events from my wife’s plans to divorce to the present.  Part VI can be found here.

Though it was only a year and a half ago, I remember very well when my wife of over eight years informed me that she had started to file for divorce.  We were on our way out to a family Halloween party.  I spent the whole party going over the biting irony that my wife had taken the first steps to leave me unbeknownst to anyone else there.

I was heartbroken.  It had been four months since when she’d left for the week.  It had been nine months since I’d opened up myself and my long-held desires to her.  I had done my very best to be loving, kind, and respectful.  I had taken away all my expectations.  I was living for the family.  I was doing whatever I could to be good and to try and keep her from breaking our family apart.

I don’t mean to make Andromeda sound evil in this – she was not out to destroy our family.  But she did not believe that my actions were authentic.  She felt that I was being deceitful and manipulative.  She was on guard, and hesitant to believe that it was possible for me to have changed such persistent patterns so thoroughly in such a short time.  She also had no idea how to make a marriage work that turned out to be completely different from what she had bargained for.

By this point, our marriage was a marriage in name only.  We communicated only minimally on topics of family business.  She had already been looking into getting a lawyer.  She wanted me out of the house, and, since I was unwilling to go, expected to get a court order to the effect.  It was the end; it was just a matter of time.  I had never felt so much fear, despair, and hurt.

For whatever reason, she never finished filing for divorce.  Things didn’t get better, though.  In my efforts to help Andromeda figure out what she wanted, I suggested that she spend a weekend away and alone where she could clear her mind and regain her bearings.

She returned with a better sense of what she wanted.  She also brought back a list of conditions for me, containing detailed expectations of things I could or couldn’t do if she was going to stay in the marriage.  I told her that I didn’t think marriages really worked like that, with one partner conforming to the expectations of the other.  Not only that, but the first item on her list was that I not want to be female anymore.  I didn’t (and still don’t) know how to achieve that.

I was starting to wear thin by this time.  Life had been incredibly tumultuous.  At this point it had been six months since I’d realized that I needed to make some changes to do things the right way.  In spite of successes in my own personal behavior, things had only gotten worse at home.  I was deeply discouraged.  I didn’t want to wake up in the morning anymore.  My family life was hard and contained very few joys.  I was ready to be out of the misery and stress.

I knew that despite my best efforts, I couldn’t keep my marriage and family intact if Andromeda was done.  I was doing what I felt to be the best option in my position, being as Christ-like as I could be and patiently waiting for things to get better.  It wasn’t working, though, and I was quickly running out of steam to continue it.  I knew that there were really only two options for me if I wanted to change my situation (besides doing what I was already doing) – divorce or suicide.

I didn’t see divorce as an option, primarily because it went directly contrary to my primary goal of keeping my family intact.  I also didn’t feel that it was what God wanted for us.  (The LDS church has strict teachings on divorce, essentially stating that it is rarely ever justified by God).  With divorce I was also sure to lose in other areas as well – I figured that she’d probably have primary custody of the children and they were one of the few things that were keeping me going.  I wasn’t sure how long I’d last without them.  I also recognized that while much of my distress came from my marriage, not all of it did and that removing that component wouldn’t take away any stresses related to my dissatisfaction with my body’s gender.

Life was very painful and I simply didn’t see why it was worth living anymore.  My current situation was exhausting me and divorce seemed damning; suicide seemed to be the only ‘good’ alternative.  As an added benefit, I figured that once I died I’d be able to ‘see’ my spirit and put to rest the question of my spiritual gender once and for all.  I typically love life and I’ve never been one to get depressed or suicidal before, but I had arrived at that point.  I was unemployed, accomplishing nothing of worth, and I was only causing Andromeda heartache by existing.  If I died, it would be a perfect guilt-free release for her and she could remarry.

I saw two downsides to dying – I was afraid it would hurt the kids and I was scared it would be painful.  Christmas was approaching, my favorite time of year.  I realized how unhappy I was with my situation.  I wanted an escape.  I decided that I’d attend the temple as a last-ditch effort for help; if I didn’t come up with a reason to keep fighting there, then I’d continue on to a nearby reservoir and drown in the freezing water.  I wrote letters to my loved ones and set my affairs in order, and then I left.

Andromeda must have realized that something was up, because she intercepted me before as I was arriving at the temple.  She was furious.  She berated me and told me to get in the van and come home.  I did.  I didn’t know at the time if she was angry to have almost lost me, or if she was more concerned about any guilt on her hands or the impact on the kids.

After that episode, things got even worse.  Andromeda didn’t trust me and I’d inadvertently put more stress on her – she now felt that she had to care for my mental health.  I saw our counselor again and he prescribed me some anti-depressants.  I tried them but they made me feel nauseous and weird, so I stopped after a few days.

I continued to be discouraged and things continued to be bad.  Andromeda is very good at not addressing issues that are stressful to her, and she put her skills to great use during this time so lots of time passed without much changing.  I didn’t come that close to suicide, again, but I was in and out of the mindset until I started to get work and have another reason to exist in my completely unsettled state.

It had taken about eight months after graduating with my 3rd degree for me to start getting employment.  These were contract positions that required me to be away for a few weeks at a time.  Neither Andromeda nor I trusted each other in the least, so I was naturally very wary to leave home for a few weeks.

Over the next four months, I was gone on work for about half of it.  During this time, I continued to try to make efforts to keep us together by communicating to my wife of my love for her and by trying to keep things running smoothly at home when I was away.  Unfortunately, things didn’t improve between us.

I was away again in late April when Andromeda informed me that once I returned and the kids’ school year ended she was going to file for a legal separation to require me move out and keep custody of the children.  I didn’t know how to handle it.  Here’s some of what I wrote in my journal when I found out:

[Andromeda] just told me that she’s planning to separate from me, legally…  I’m all alone.  I’m trying to not hurt myself … I can’t go to family.  [Andromeda]’s against me.  I’m all alone.  Where is my Heavenly Father?

Must I die?  Is that the path?  Who can I go to for help?  I’m trying to turn to God.

I didn’t hurt myself.  I just kept working.  I told my wife that I felt like this wasn’t the right way for us to do it.  I told her that I loved her, but that I would not sit idly by while all I’d been striving for was broken.  I had no intention of retaliating in hurt or anger, and I had no intention of wasting our family’s money on a lawyer to represent me.  If we came to court, I’d argue my case for myself and simply state my intentions and my desires to keep our family unbroken and at home.  She felt that Heavenly Father had told her to legally separate.  I felt that Heavenly Father wanted us to stay together and work things out.  It was my sense of God’s word against hers and that didn’t get us anywhere.

After I returned, she didn’t take her promised legal action.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t think she was making empty threats – she’d looked into lawyers, the process, and even had promises of money from her family to pay for fees.  Many of her siblings not only supported her choice, but advocated for it.

One night I said something that probably would have been better left unsaid: I asked her why she hadn’t done what she said God had told her to do in separating from me.  I didn’t ask in a snarky way, but she sensed the biting, unanswered doubt underneath about my suspicion of her ‘answer’ from God.  She got angry and left the bedroom to sleep downstairs.

I was hurt (like I always am) when she left me, and more than a little angry that it was over nothing other than a truthful observation.  It was a fair question, though one that didn’t really need to be asked.  Wanting to do the right thing I took some time to cool off and prayed to try and decide the right course of action to take.  I felt like the best thing to do was to go downstairs and tell her I loved her, but then just be with her without disturbing her to express it.  I did that and it made her even more furious.

A few days later we went to see our counselor again and it did not go well.  Andromeda had complained to him that my actions that night were disrespectful.  The session was focused on her needs that weren’t being met and I was being asked if I’d comply with her conditions.  Then, under the guise of ‘telling it how it is,’ the counselor had the audacity to say right to Andromeda (in front of me) that he didn’t think the marriage would work and that my behavior and actions were the answer she was seeking.

I was shocked.  I suddenly realized that this man was no friend, ally, or helper to me.  I had seen it coming, as the sessions had increasingly been about my wife’s needs with no thought for the one condition I sought – that she love me.  I couldn’t believe that the one person I’d entrusted all my private, personal details with, in whom I’d placed hope that he could help my marriage pull through this difficult revelation of my gender dysphoria had brushed me aside to tell my wife to get out.

I was so hurt.  I’m still hurt.  I can’t believe I wasted so much time, money, and hope on this man who I thought was out to help us.  I can’t believe I trusted him to help me.  I did not return to see him.

I knew how to be respectful.  I knew how to be like Christ.  I knew how to be loving, kind, good, and selfless.  I knew how to listen to the promptings from my Father in Heaven.  I knew that I wished I were female.  I knew that that was okay.  I knew that in spite of what my counselor or my wife professed to ‘know,’ my eternal gender, the gender of my spirit, was not known to me.  I knew it could very well be female and, indeed, probably was.  I knew that even though this was rejected by everyone one who knew of it that my Heavenly Father still loved me.  I knew that He cared.  I knew that I loved Him.  I knew that I loved my children that He’d given me.  I knew that I could put aside my desires for myself for Him and for them.  I planned to continue.

Andromeda saw little wrong with this counseling session and continued to see the counselor for a few visits but eventually stopped as well.  My regular summer work started up and things moved back into a bit of a routine.

Somehow, after all of this, things started to get better.  It happened imperceptibly and very slowly.  Rereading my journal entries from last summer show many difficulties, still.  We fought and argued, but her threats and plans to break the family stopped.  We started to have fun again together.

I think she had finally come to the same realization that I had – that regardless of what our expectations for the marriage were, we had what we had and we could either do our best to make it work or move on.  I think she also started to believe that the changes I had made were legitimate changes and not manipulation tactics.  She had finally chosen me again, knowing what she had learned about who I am.

Starting last fall and to the present, things have been much better.  Unbelievably so, in fact.  That’s not to say that we don’t have difficulties for we definitely still do.  There’s a lot of heartache in our relationship as there’s no real way to reconcile what Andromeda desires for her marriage and what I desire for our marriage.  We both have had to completely abandon our expectations for each other and for what our marriage is ‘supposed’ to be.  It’s still very difficult and I’ll write more about some of the unique challenges we face in a separate post.

But where are we today?  We’re friends again.  Lovers, even.  For the first time in 9 years, I feel like she actually loves me for me, and not just in spite of my gender identity.  She doesn’t love me for it, but she loves me without regard for it.  I’m so grateful for that.

It’s hard to imagine that just a year ago I was wondering how much longer I’d have with my kids until my wife would file for a legal separation.  Our marriage was on its death throes then.  It’s a miracle that it survived.  For all intents and purposes it should not have.  It had long been sick.

I’m grateful that we made it through.  There’s been nothing about these years that has been easy, and we’re still not out of the woods yet.  But we’re working together now and life is so much easier with a trusted companion at my side.

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