Thursday 3 November 2016

The End of Days

This is a post which I have been dreading to write for a very long time: the one where I talk about the end of my marriage.

Despite my very best efforts, my marriage has ended. And the ultimate reason is my cross-dressing. I guess by posting this I can both help myself to go through the necessary grieving process, and also help other people out there who might be contemplating similar problems.

What it feels like when your marriage is ending
My wife and I met in continental Europe in the early nineties. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was living in another country, and spoke several languages. She was artistic and adventurous, where I was scholarly and conventional. We were both students at the time, and we were both seeing someone else. But there was definite chemistry. In the days before the Internet, we wrote long letters to one another. By a series of very unlikely steps, we saw each other again. I graduated, took a job, and in my first holiday, I went to visit her. By this time, she was living in the US, and we were both single.

I persuaded her to come to the UK, which she did, and we immediately moved in together. We married in the late nineties. My family adored her. My uncle (an academic) praised how clever she was. My grandfather said she was the most beautiful bride to walk down the aisle of our local church. Many people have, over many years, complimented me on how lucky I was to be married to someone like her.

I knew all along, of course, that my gender was not completely congruent with my apparent identity. I have known this ever since I can remember. I can remember wanting a pink blanket in kindergarten and being told I had to have a blue one. But I did not tell my wife any of these things.
Grotesque: Corporal Klinger

Partly I did not tell her because of shame: I was in my mid-twenties, and I knew next to nothing about my gender. Wherever I looked, crossdressers were figures of scorn, of ridicule. They seemed grotesque, repulsive. A great example would be Corporal Klinger, the MASH character who is trying to convince everyone he is crazy by dressing as a woman, so they will throw him out of the Army (har-har, what a wheeze). My internal identity was completely different to that. She already had a name in my mind. I pictured Vivienne as being like a wild animal, trapped and roaring in an unbreakable cage. Although I didn't quite know who Vivienne was, I knew that she and Klinger had nothing in common.

The other reason I didn't tell my wife was that I believed that being married to her would cure me. My trans feelings largely disappeared when I was with her, and I believed that I could choose to put crossdressing aside permanently. ("When I became a man, I put away childish things"). This was (I now realise) a very naïve belief, but nonetheless a fervent one. I was trying very hard not to be trans.

Of course it didn't last. About three years into the marriage, I broke down in tears, and told her my secret: that sometimes I like to dress in women's clothing. She was utterly shocked and horrified. That was the inflection point, the point which marked the start of the downward slope which has led to the end of the marriage.

At first things didn't really change. I purged. That didn't last. In all fairness, my wife tried to have a look at crossdressing, and see what it's about. One time we even went to a transvestite ball (I was in male mode) and she spoke to the other people to hear their stories. She was fascinated, sympathetic, charming. She made a very powerful impression on the people there. But as we came out, it was as if the door slammed. We got in the car to drive home. She didn't want to talk about it; didn't want to acknowledge it. Sitting in the darkness, I realised that she was probably shocked, digesting the implications of all of this. But she would come around. In a few days, we would be able to talk about it. But we never have; not one word from that day to this.
Never mentioned: crossdressing

And then there was the Dolly incident. My wife went to Manchester with her friend for a girly weekend. Unknown to them, their hotel was hosting an extravagant transvestite event in the ballroom. It was big, brash, loud and undeniable. My wife and her friend, both very attractive women, were cajoled to join the fun, and they did: laughing and dancing the night away with glamorous trannies. The following day, they got talking at breakfast to a few of them, and my wife said she was amazed by how normal they seemed: ordinary, pleasant guys. One of them, "Dolly", gave my wife his website details. She checked his website a day or so after coming home (without telling me) and was horrified to see pictures of him pouting in lingerie with his penis on display.

This one individual didn't intend to harm me, but did so very severely. What was he thinking? That she would be aroused? That she would think it was cool? Instead, she formed the very solid (and hard to dislodge) impression, that crossdressers, even the nice ones, even the "normal" ones, are not just after glamorous frocks, drinking and dancing, but are perverts behind closed doors. Thanks, Dolly.

It took me a while to realise how my wife has the ability to compartmentalise things in her life. It is as if she can take the idea of Vivienne, and all the trappings, all the accoutrements, and put them in a box, which is never acknowledged, never opened.

My wife came from a non-Western culture, where the behaviour of both men and women is rigidly proscribed. Even though she has lived in the West for decades, there are certain things which, to her, were not negotiable, and one of those things was that her husband mustn't wear a frock. It was even OK for other people to do that, as long as it wasn't her husband. She expected an alpha-male: indestructible, unshakeable, always in control. Never uncertain. Never vulnerable. Never tearful. Such a man would make her feel safe. That seems not wholly unreasonable, but there are two problems with it. The first is that I am not that man. I am not him today, and I have never been him. The second problem is that such a man doesn't actually exist.
Trapped: Vivienne

So she put Vivienne into that box, sealed the lid tightly, and pretended that Vivienne didn't exist. But it seemed that the harder my wife tried to suppress Vivienne, the harder Vivienne demanded to be expressed, to be heard, to be acknowledged. I searched for ways to explore Vivienne's identity without threatening my marriage. I joined the Beaumont Society, in the hope of opening a dialogue with like-minded people, but (as I say in my article) that didn't help much. I explored dressing, and had one or two makeovers. Eventually I started this blog.

What I wanted, most of all (and still do, I suppose) was simply acceptance. I wanted to be able to express this tender, vulnerable side of myself to the person who mattered most to me in the world. Vivienne wasn't just about the clothing; she was about the roles and expectations placed upon me because I happened to be born a boy. I wanted to have conversations with my wife about it, not strangers on the Internet. I wanted to dress at home, not in makeover shops in other cities. I wanted to be accepted for who I am, not for who she (and in fairness, everyone else during my upbringing) told me I ought to be. I wanted to enjoy being myself, being whole.

Instead, she insisted that this side of me was disgusting, unbearable. It must never be spoken of, never acknowledged, never accepted, never tolerated. But gradually that disgust, that poison, began to leak out of the box. It began to be aimed at aspects of me which were not associated with Vivienne. My wife began to gradually shut me out, to express John Gottman's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: the evocative name he gave to the behaviours which start to appear when the death-knell of a relationship is ringing loud and clear. We were four for four. And it was utter agony for me.

It didn't matter that I put rigid boundaries around my dressing. Four episodes a year, or less, and always, always in complete secrecy. We could not go shopping to a department store without her fearing that I was looking at the female mannequins and picturing myself in their clothing. She came to view Vivienne as the other woman, the one who came first in my affections.

It didn't matter that the other aspects of our lives were good: I had a good job and provided a good standard of living; we lived in a lovely house and had lovely kids and lovely friends. I didn't have any other obnoxious habits: gambling, drinking, drugs. That was all outweighed by the fact that I was not the alpha male that she thought she married.
Corrosive to relationships: fear

I see now that she was motivated by fear. Fear that I was going to start having sex with men. For the record, this was never my plan, and still isn't. Fear that I was going to start taking hormones and having surgery. Again, this was never the plan, and it still isn't. Fear that I was going to completely come out, and start showing up at the school parents' evening in a skirt and heels, where I would be a figure of contempt and ridicule (no matter how polite they might be to my face), and a cause for the kids to be mocked or bullied. Fear that other people would look down upon her: what on Earth possessed you to marry that freak?

The antidote to fear is communication, and this was another sticking point: she just would not communicate. The prospect, the existence of Vivienne, was so terrifying, so repugnant to her, that she could not have an ordinary conversation about it. I would talk, and she would not listen. I would listen, and she would not talk. It wasn't just that she didn't talk to me. She didn't talk to anyone: didn't confide in a close friend. Her fears were grinding around inside her, destroying her on the inside. On the outside, she began to shun me openly. The intimacy dried up years ago. To describe what happened, I can't do better than the words of Yoda:
"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering".
But we still pretended, to the outside world, that everything was fine. For myself, I did everything I possibly could to keep the show on the road. I moved us here to New Zealand. But coming here permanently, we brought Vivienne, and all the other problems, right along with us.

Fabulous but unworn: shoes
In among all the agony were glimpses of hope. Just occasionally, she would buy me girly gifts, such as this pair of fabulous wedge heels. As soon as I opened the box, I was excited and I wanted to try them on. But the look of disgust on her face, as I did so, made me instantly take them off, and I have never worn them since. I think she was really trying to make it work. But in one sense, these glimpses of hope (she bought me the shoes; she must hope I liked them) were actually worse than nothing at all, because the false hope, and the let-down afterward, were especially difficult to bear.

I started to take antidepressants. They were not a solution, but they helped me cope with the daily grinding agony of my life. I am still on them. And I took us to counselling. Good counselling, with a highly-recommended professional psychologist, who saw us for two years, together and separately. But even with his help, we were unable to negotiate, to compromise. My intake of alcohol and comfort food jumped sharply upwards.

In order to illustrate my despair and agony at my situation, I often used the phrase burning to death to describe how I was feeling. I was trying to show how desperately miserable I was in my life: I was desperate to change, to move, to get out of where I was. But, in a very real way, I was also being consumed. Each time we had an argument; each time she stonewalled my feelings, I lost a bit more energy, a bit more commitment. I knew I could not hold on much longer. I knew that one day, the last bit of energy would be gone, and the marriage would be dead.

It didn't matter. My wife was unable to change. And I don't mean this harshly. I realise now that, whether she chose to or not, she could not change her feelings. As for me, I had played my last card. I had nothing left to offer.

I remember the exact moment I realised that the marriage was over. For years, there had been two paths in front of me: the path to stay and try to fix things (which was painful, and exhausting) and the path to leave and start again (which was painful, and exhausting). But always, when I looked at those two paths, the path to leave always seemed the more painful. But one day, the see-saw just tipped the other way, and it has never tipped back. I realised, with sudden clarity: I was never going to be happy if I stayed in this marriage. The realisation was terrible but inescapable.
I can't heeeeeear you!

When I told my wife it was over, she was astonished. Where did this come from? she wanted to know. Didn't you hear me when I said I was burning to death? I replied. But it turns out she didn't get it: she couldn't grasp it. She had denied it, pushed it away, in the same way she did with Vivienne: it's too painful to contemplate, so I will pretend it doesn't exist.

Since then, her anger has gone from being red hot to being blue hot, like a blowtorch. The thing she feared most, that her husband would leave, has come to pass. She cannot--yet--accept that she helped to bring this about. She cannot accept one iota of responsibility for what happened. It's all my fault; that's her truth. And it's OK.

I have called this post The End of Days, because it really feels like that from my point of view. I am losing my lovely home, and I now live in a small rental house. I will get shared custody of my children. That cosy image I once had, of having a nice job, a nice wife, a nice house, and nice kids, and being happy, has turned out to be an empty dream. And unfortunately that dream ends here.

This blog has been profoundly healing for me in so many ways. It has helped me to crystallise my feelings about myself, and my gender, and my identity. Although it's long, this article is only a drop in the bucket compared to thirty-odd volumes of hand-written journals. That banner at the top of the screen? That's one of my journals, and one of my collection of fountain pens. I write every day, when I get the chance, and I have used those journals to explore every possible avenue, every possible way, to keep the marriage on the road, to keep myself sane until the kids got a bit older, to conceptualise my wife's behaviour in different, more manageable ways. I know I am leaving this marriage having tried my absolute best to save it, using every resource I possess.

I also offer these experiences to you, my readers, in case some of you are in a similar position, and these insights help to crystallise your position.

I know that all is not lost; that there will be a new chapter in my life soon. But I don't know what it will look like, and that uncertainty is a fresh kind of agony for me. Where will I live? What will I look like? What will I wear? What will happen to the kids? What will happen to my wife? What role will Vivienne play in my life? I have no answers to any of this, and discussion will need to wait for another day, and another blog post. Meanwhile, let's close the book.


Katie Robbins wrote a powerful and thought-provoking article, with a similar theme, which you can read here. And hers is a lot shorter!


  1. So sad to read this. When you fill up one journal, it's time to open another and start writing again. Keep your balance, keep your focus, fall back on your friends ... never give up.


  2. For what it's worth, I'm sorry to hear about the breakdown of your marriage. It cannot have been easy for either of you and it must have been an awful decision to make. Perhaps, with time, your wife may come to accept that it was the right thing for both of you.

    I think it highlights why many trans* folk don't come out to their partners. Yes, we lie and hide, and that's through fear. Fear of losing the person we love. Not that it makes it right. It's how some people manage to cope. Me? I feel slight guilt in saying I'm one of the lucky ones, so there is hope, but it could just have easily gone terribly wrong too. You just don't know....

    Good luck for the future.

    1. Thanks Lynn. There is no need to feel guilt for being one of the lucky ones!

  3. You have my heartfelt sympathy.

  4. Vivienne, I'm truly sorry for the pain you and your wife both are going through. So very very painful. You know my views. You know that I think there was another route. But regardless of our different views, I feel your pain. I am sorry that your wife refused to listen. I'm sorry that she was not willing to work with you to save the marriage. I'm sorry that you have to go through such a difficult time. You didn't choose to have these feelings. You don't deserve what your wife has put you through. Whatever her views on crossdressing, she could at least have kept talking and communicating. I'm here not to criticize you, but to offer my condolences, and to pray for you both. If by some chance, you want to still try again to give up crossdressing while still having peace and through that, to save the marriage somehow (sounds like it is too late for that though), then I'm here to help. But otherwise, know that even though we have different views, I care for you and what you are going through. You will always find a listening ear in me whenever you want to talk, albeit in this clunky online way. I hope that you will take this message as caring. I truly am sorry for what you are experiencing.

    But regardless of what you do next, let me pray for you.

    "Father, be with my friend. Comfort him in these terrible trials he is going through. Heal up the pain in his heart. Give him and his wife both hearts of forgiveness towards one another. Be with their children, comfort them, let them feel loved and valued. Give them hope, give them confidence for the future. Let them feel and know your love for them. Guide my friend, and guide his wife, as they figure out what to do next, and how to resolve this horribly difficult situation. Make level paths for their feet. Provide for their needs, provide homes, provide for their financial needs. I'm not sure if they believe in you or not Lord, but regardless, fill them with your peace and draw them closer to you through this trial. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

    1. Thank you very much for your kind wishes and prayers, Thorin. I really appreciate them.

  5. Vivienne I also married in the late 1990's and my marriage ended 8 years ago. I am here to tell you that there is life after and perhaps even a better one after this. You cannot live constrained in a box and thought of by your spouse (or even yourself) as some sort of aberration because you are not. You like many of us have gender dysphoria and it is never going to go away but must be managed. It can done gracefully and with respect and need not involve rude behavior. Vivienne is part of who you are and you have clearly accepted that which is good.

    As happy as your marriage might have been at one time it cannot be fully if one of the partners is suffocating under the pressure that one must be cured of being transgender. For this reason I will never be with anyone again who does not respect or accept this part of my being.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel because I have travelled there and my life is better than it has ever been. Just give yourself the time to grieve and then ultimately heal...

  6. I'm so sorry to hear the news. I think Lynn makes a good point in that there are many who don't come out to their partners...and this is why. Mine knows and tolerates. We have a healthy relationship but, unfortunately, transitioning will not be a part of it, keeping me status quo.

    1. Hi Calie. I think in any functional relationship, there needs to be compromise. That means you don't get everything you want, and neither does your wife, but each of you gets enough to cope and get by. When you use the word "tolerate", it implies that your wife is uncomfortable, but is prepared to accept things up to a point, rather than sacrifice the relationship. The position of that point needs to be re-negotiated all the time, and talked about, so that both parties feel secure.

      Thanks for posting your comments.


  7. You have my smypathy and support. It is sad that two people who clearly love each other cannot reach an understanding that where there is love all else is possible and that the vows we take at the time of marriage, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer and more than idle words.
    I wish you the best. As this unfolds keep your wife and children in your heart and mind.

    1. Thanks Pat. I realised more than a decade ago that this was a colossal problem in our marriage, but I wanted to be true to my vows, and I believed that, with determination and perseverance, we would find a way through. I was wrong, it seems, but at least I gave it my absolute best shot.

      Despite my wife's constant anger, I am still trying to be kind to her, and I have the needs of the kids uppermost in my mind.


  8. You alluded that this was coming but since reading your last blog I have been upset knowing your breakup has actually arrived. I agree with Pat above and I think what shocks a lot of your readers is they understand and empathise with your situation. I realise I or many of us could find ourselves as you are.
    I can offer you no advice, but hope you can gain some solace from knowing we care for how you fare. I hope you remain close to your children.
    Geraldine O'Brien

    1. Thanks Geraldine. I think there are a lot of people out there, similarly torn. I need to express this part of myself, but I know that will exact a terrible cost on my marriage and my family. I put down my experience for people on both sides: the wife who secretly hopes her husband's feelings will eventually go away (they won't) and the husband who secretly hopes his wife will eventually accept his dressing (she won't). I suspect for many, many couples, the marriage continues only because there are secrets and lies, but to my mind at least, this isn't a healthy thing in the long term.

      Secrets and lies, of course, are not confined to marriages where one is trans!

      I really appreciate your support though.


  9. So sorry to hear your news, Vivienne. I'm confident that you'll come through this crisis and emerge an ever stronger person at the end. D.

  10. I am so sorry to hear this, and I feel for you.

    But it is hard to see that you had much of a choice. If the alternative is to block of this essential part of you, you would basically condemn yourself to another kind of loneliness, the kind where you are hiding your true self among those who are supposed to be your friends.

    Hang in there!

    1. Thanks Jack. I wonder how many others are living that exact scenario, the one where their identity or feelings are stifled, in order to keep the peace, or because the alternatives are all worse?


  11. Dear Vivienne,

    You know how sorry I am for you. And I was glad to hear that you're doing okay. But I always feel so much when I hear about relationships dissolving over ones revelation (and quite possibly, newfound realization) that they are transgender. Yes, it's a shock that has to be overcome. And transphobia too. Regardless, it was with you all along and aware or not it is an important part of you that she fell in love with.

    Unfortunately I may be on the same path with my wife, or should I say diverging paths. We may yet overcome this challenge and I am trying hard but the genie can't be returned to the bottle nor would I want it to. I am so much happier and content in my own skin. At times like these we really need to take care of ourselves and each other.

    Your friend,


    1. Oh, Emma. I really hope you manage to find a sustainable way through.


  12. Vivienne,The consensus is that at most levels 2016 was a bummer. A complete waste of time.
    May Christmas actually be a joy to you and to your kids and family, even at this late stage and may 2017 put the present one to shame.
    Understanding by our families may be a little optimistic but let's hope for some generosity and acceptance.
    This would soothe a lot of trans folk but also a large proportion of the world who have received some severe shocks this year.
    So whether you are somewhere on the trans curve, or our families, or just anxious, let's have each other's backs.Nothing else would seem to work.
    Thanks for your posts this year.

    1. Thanks for your lovely thoughts Geraldine. Let's all hope that 2017 is an improvement!

      Hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebration.


  13. I'm so sorry I did not read your post earlier, Vivienne. There's no accounting for an intransigent wife. I've heard your story too many times before although perhaps not as painful a one as yours. Time will heal the hurts, just not the memory. You will recover. I just hope there is no damage in your relationship with your children.

    There are accepting wives and Kim's story on our Yahoo group is an excellent example. Do what we all do, take one day at a time and plan for a better tomorrow. Although some may disagree, there can not be true love without understanding and compromise. I've always believed that things happen for a reason so I hope that means positive change for you. You've achieved some degree of freedom now so I hope that you will explore your Vivienne side more fully. It will always be with you. But whatever direction you go, know that we I and all your friends on our Yahoo group are there for you. Hugs....Tasi

  14. It is terrible that the division of ourselves into our male and female characteristics causes so many far reaching consequences in our entire lives. I read your very sad account of the end of your marriage and felt considerable sympathy for both yourself and your wife. She was presented with something so new and undermining.Of course, she was presented with it as a grown and seemingly happily married woman while you had been presented with it as a developing child.Indeed, one thing that unties all trans gendered people is that shocking realization that we are beyond the category, 'beyond the pale' is an entirely appropriate term, the wild lands on controlled and unknown. I can see for your wife to find herself in that place and to me misled by a selfish egotistical act she must have been very confused and upset. The whole issue is one of acknowledgement and the reality of our divided self. I have quite a lot to say on this but for now it has been a pleasure to be in touch.

    1. Many thanks for posting your comments, Helena.

      I think there were also powerful cultural reasons why my wife couldn't come to terms with the existence of Vivienne. I think each of us is a product of our upbringing; we either embrace what we are told, or reject it. Either way, it shapes us.

      I am coming much closer to acknowledging and embracing my divided self; what I seek, of course, is unity of person and spirit.


  15. Oh Vivienne, I'm just now coming back online after a long hiatus and I see I wasn't around for your darkest days. I know this was coming since we discussed it in email, but I still wish I had been around to offer encouragement or at least a shoulder to cry on (do you mind? that's SILK you're sobbing into!)

    At least it sounds like you're comfortable in your own skin and no longer need to lie to yourself about who you really are, so that counts for a lot.

    1. Hi Ralph,

      It's lovely to hear from you, as always. I know you have had issues of your own to deal with too. Thankfully your silk is safe; for the moment, at least, the crying seems to be done with.

      I am increasingly comfortable in my own skin, and I am definitely achieving a better sense of who I am, and where I am going. Definitely no more hiding or pretending to myself!


  16. Gosh, I could be reading about my own marriage, only I'm the wife. Sorry to hear it's over but also I think you're sensible. My husband and I should have done that years ago. Intimacy has long gone and all that's left is anger and resentment and resignation. I will never consider crossdressing a healthy condition after living this. I can't believe this has become my life and I wonder often how it is that I was so unlucky as to hit this lottery. Like your wife I was a beautiful young woman once with many prospects - and now here I am.

    Thing is, it's not just what others think, though, crossdressing is an entirely unfair social taboo to dump on an unsuspecting spouse. (Seriously, why do men think it's okay to hide this from us so we literally have no choice whether we want it in our life?) But no, it's not just the social issues, though they are immense - it's how it misrepresents us. I didn't choose to marry a cross dresser. That decision was made for me. I married into a lie and that pisses me off. I'm pissed off that the man calling himself my husband is happy wearing wigs and dresses when he met me in jeans and tee shirt. I would NEVER have dated him in the former, but I didn't get that choice. Your wife didn't either. That's why your marriage is over. You lied and consequently created an incompatible relationship for both of you.

    It wasn't her fault and you know it.

    That said, I wish you luck in the future and I enjoy reading your thoughts, but this has changed me forever. I was once light and even curious about the crossdressers I passed in the street. They didn't bother me and I found it harmless. Not so anymore. It is a heavy, narcissistic, consuming and confusing condition and I only hope those burdened with it can find better ways to cope than lying and deceiving their way into peoples lives. If I could make it a law that no crossdresser be allowed to lie to a prospective partner again, I would. This is how strong my anger goes. How does any couple move past that? I guess they don't.

    I only hope this 'woman' inside you is worth losing the woman who stood next to you, but I guess ultimately you never had a choice and in my experience, the crossdressing man is a very difficult person to love and live with. Somewhere along the way, long before I knew him, a part of my husband fragmented off and developed, almost like a childish wish, into this 'woman', this alter ego. Why? Who knows - maybe he just missed his mother. Whatever the reason, the true damage done by this fragmenting is that his ability for intimacy is now entwined in this alter ego and as long as a spouse also desires 'her', and accepts 'her' (an often unlikely situation) he can in turn be intimate. Otherwise, he seems entirely incapable of it. It is quite the psychological train wreck and quite sad really, but those are my observations on all this.

    Thanks for listening.

    1. Thanks for dropping by to post your comments. Are you the same person who left a long comment on "Frightening the Horses"? I wonder if you would sign your posts with some sort of name (doesn't have to be real) just as a way of distinguishing yourself from other anonymous posters?

      There is a lot of pain in your post, and I am so sorry you find yourself in this dreadful situation. Your anger and sadness and bitterness comes through very strongly and is completely understandable. You are welcome to post your thoughts and feelings here.

      "Why do men think it's okay to hide this from us so we literally have no choice whether we want it in our life?" I can only answer for myself, but as you read in the article above, for it was a mix of fear, shame, self-loathing, desire to be "cured", and optimism (borne of naivete) that it could be conquered. It wasn't selfish; it wasn't cynical; it wasn't deliberately cruel or misleading. I am reasonably sure that your husband did not intend to inflict this much pain on you; certainly this is true in my case.

      Though I have searched my innermost thoughts and feelings, I cannot explain why I am the way I am. It certainly isn't "like a childish wish", and in my case at least, it's nothing to do with my mother. It has been present since my earliest memories, and I am certain that it cannot be prevented, let alone cured. I did not wish this on myself (and in fact I have tried very hard to wish it away from myself, but without success). Being this way is not a choice; it is not something over which I have any control. I was, nonetheless, willing to try to negotiate boundaries around it, and to make compromises for the sake of my ex-wife and our kids. But no amount of compromise, short of never dressing, never talking about dressing, and never feeling like dressing, would have worked for her. And I knew I was not capable of that. It just took me a good few years to be certain of it. Was it worth "losing the woman who stood next to me"? It became worth it, when I realised I could never truly be myself, and be loved unconditionally for who I am, if I stayed married.

      Always happy to listen.


    2. Actually, that was my first post!

      And I do understand where you're coming from and that this isn't a choice etc. I see that with my husband. At least, it wasn't a conscious choice as he was too young for that. It just happened to him for whatever reason and now we're both living with the fall out.

      Thing is, we communicate better than how you've described you and your wife. I don't hold it in, at all lol. So at least there's that. I'm not sure it helps a whole lot as we like what we like and if that compatibility dynamic is altered as it was with us, then what can you do? I can't change being a masculine-man attracted woman any more than my husband can change being a femininely driven crossdresser. We're a bad match and would have been better with other people. I know you know that now and rightly want someone who loves all of you. That will be possible if she only ever knows ALL of you from day one and not just parts revealed over time.

      Best case - you might want to meet women dressed as Vivienne - but that will ironically take some balls given that rejection will be common. But in there somewhere will be a woman who won't think twice about any of this and I know you, and all of us here, deserve that kind of respect and love.

      Oh well, it's not all bad. One thing I've learned in all this is how damn strong I can be and how I won't allow my own sense of self and needs to be compromised any more. Perhaps your wife will also come away with the same?

      Here's hoping. And thanks for listening again.

      Chatty Wife x

    3. Dear Chatty, I'm so sorry to read your post as it echoes what my wife feels too. I'm very much like Vivienne, I tried so hard all my life to deny my feelings out of shame, embarrassment, and as she said, a naivety.

      My wife (now she is ex although we talk often and still miss and love each other) accused me of deception. I guess there is some truth to that although I did confess before we married, she completely rejected this part of me and had me promise that I'd dispose of all clothes, we would never talk about it again, and I would never crossdress again. My promise was sincere but I failed, multiple times.

      I've conducted a lot of research, met therapists, and so forth over the past 3 years. If it's any consolation (and understandably it may not be) the science is concluding that we are born transgender. And with that we are simply examples of normal human diversity. It's not a fetish or a disease, it's just the way we are. I wish I'd known that 20+ years ago when my wife and I were dating but I could not have: the knowledge is developing rapidly now and was very poor even ten years ago.

      Regardless of all that I really am sorry to hear what you and your husband have gone through, and will be going through.

    4. Hi Chatty Wife.

      I can't help feeling that if I had been allowed to grow up as a sensitive boy who was allowed to express vulnerability and the desire to be pretty from time to time, none of this would have happened. Instead (and it's no fault of theirs) my family tried to raise me to be the "big brave soldier", which was their effort to try to force me into the "male" role which I found so uncomfortable.

      Had they been able to accept me, to recognise that although I wasn't very boyish, that didn't matter to my worth as a human, then I would perhaps have grown up proud of myself rather than ashamed. I would perhaps have been happy to be true to myself from the get-go, and my ex-wife would have had the chance to decide whether to accept the true me, or not.

      As with my well-intentioned family, my wife was raised to believe that men behave a certain way, while women behave another way. Never the twain shall meet. Unfortunately, this was a lie she was told, and also believed, just as my family believed the lie they were also told.

      If somehow we could all have been told the truth (and some versions of that truth are beginning to be told), then we would all have been free to make the right choices from the outset, instead of all of us pretending. From my perspective, that is the root cause of the problem.

      I have resolved not to hide this aspect of myself from any future partner. Thankfully I am now seeing someone who is accepting of Vivienne. I told her on the second date, and she was surprised but unfazed. And she has met Vivienne several times since. I think there are some women who can appreciate a man who isn't traditionally masculine.

      I think my ex-wife is still struggling to deal with some things. I think, although I had tried to signal how near the end I was, she didn't get it, and I was some distance ahead of her psychologically when it came to ending the relationship. But I think we have both come away having discovered things about ourselves-- and one another. I wish we didn't have to discover these things the hard way! I am pleased at least you are both communicating: I think communication is the key to working through these sorts of problems.


  17. I'm so sorry to hear about your situation, hon, and hope that time will help you to find happiness, even if it cannot heal all wounds.

    Unless someone has been in our heels, they cannot begin to imagine how hard it can be mentally. Like yourself, I thought marriage would cure me, I purged, and I tried to be a good husband. I fought it every day for years. The night I finally told my wife was the most emotionally tragic of my life. I remember sobbing uncontrollably, sure that our marriage was over. As it turned out, she was more upset about me keeping such a big secret than she was about dressing, but she freely admitted she likely wouldn't have been able to deal with it before we got married.

    In our case, we have been able to find a happy compromise and keep things compartmentalized - although I am guilty of pushing things and letting 'Sally' bleed through too often. It is still a source of tension at times, kind of like it's an easy button for her to push when she's struggling with something of her own, but there are also nights where she is willing to entertain a girls' night out for dinner and a show. Like any other aspect of our marriage, it's a give-and-take, and I am thankful every day that I found somebody who could learn to understand and accept me.

    1. Hi Sally. Thanks for your comments.

      I think it's difficult for both partners in a marriage of this kind. When I told my ex-wife for the first time, I also broke down in tears. That point marked the beginning of the end of our marriage-- it was all downhill from there. I am pleased that you have managed to hold it together and to find some compromise together. I can also see how it would be an easy button to push whenever there is some other conflict. But a girls' night out for dinner and a show seems like it's completely worth it!


  18. I have just read your moving story. CDing has been a 'part of me', though never wanting to be female, dress openly, etc. It HAS been a response to emotional pain and loneliness for a long time, and for me always had a fetishistic side (which created even deeper shame over why I did it). I first dabbled, just a bit, in late teens. Then for nearly 20 years it just wasn't there, I never gave it a thought, even in dress stores with girlfriends, or seeing them dress in the morning, nothing... Then in my mid 30s, wham. Serious emotional turbulence and a chance access to some lingerie triggered it. It went away again, but I guess the 'once you start you cannot stop' thing had me. Convinced it was temporary and would go away, I did not tell my wife before we married. In fact it did not reappear for several years. But faced with emotional issues all of my making, I used another response, looking for comfort outside my marriage. I was found out, and hated the pain and hurt caused. CDing emerged as a kind of 'safe' response to emotional strife, seeking solace, a kind of ready, non-questioning companionship. It came and went, but I was always ashamed of it, and was convinced I would beat it one day, soon... I kept it totally hidden, no-one knew. I only admitted it recently, after 28 years married, when finally I was caught out. Shame and guilt caused me to hide it, and pushed me to finally beat, but not in time to fully repair myself and put a tight seal around this 'other me'. I was almost two people, one who does not CD, husband, father; the other who does CD, on occasion, always alone. It was a relief to tell her in the end. Her response was, 'CDing is not an issue, the fact you never told me is'. The body blow to her already shaky trust, overladen with me concealing this all the way through, is destroying our marriage. My fear of losing the one I love drove me to hide it, and the hiding of it is causing me to lose her, my family life, my home and community. 'The end of days' is right, and I can feel your pain. It is almost impossible to bear. Looking back, CDing has been a curse, and yes, an addiction. It has affected everything, even though I thought it was safely boxed away. Facing this truth, the 'end of days' caused entirely by your own acts, is awful. I really feel your pain and can only offer empathetic support, if that is any comfort at all.

    1. Thank you for your long and heartfelt post.

      I am so sorry that you find yourself here in this situation. The stress of having to force crossdressing aside is enormous, and the daily burden of shame and guilt it provokes is extremely wearying. For some people, it is definitely a curse, and for some, it is definitely an addiction (see my post "The Story So Far" for more of my thoughts on this).

      I don't know you, of course, but having admitted your dressing to your wife, and her realising it doesn't mean you were having an affair or otherwise harming your marriage, might mean there is still a chance for rebuilding. Especially if you explain that it was shame and guilt which made you hide it from her, not malice or manipulation. Good counselling could possibly help.

      In any case, I wish you the very best. I am always happy to talk further about things like this. Please feel free to continue the dialogue, but please choose a name (doesn't need to be real) so that you can distinguish yourself among other anonymous commenters.

  19. I really appreciate your kind and thoughtful reply. This is a very hard place to be, and I constantly beat myself over the head now, with thoughts of Why did I risk all that I love? What is it that drives us to suddenly set all that aside and risk everything? What kind of 'love' is that? I know these are thoughts in my wife's mind every day too, why would he risk all that he says he 'loves'? She is so hurt, just wants to wall me off and move into a space she can control and feel secure in. I do not blame her. God willing a crack might open and we can begin to explore a possible future together, to restore our once wonderful and solid family life. Go well Vivienne, talking is good, sharing is too. Thanks for your blog.

    1. Hi Rake.

      Thanks for your post. "What is it that drives us to suddenly set all that aside and risk everything? What kind of love is that?"

      I think the answer is that we are told a lie when we get married; I certainly was. The lie is: this spouse of yours will be able to fulfil your every need and requirement in a partner until one of you dies. Not only that, but if you feel a need that lies outwith the marriage, you are a bad person for feeling it.

      We tell ourselves (and each other) this lie all the time, and it reinforces itself over and over. The truth is completely different. First, everyone has needs which cannot be met (even partially) by their spouse. This doesn't make us bad people, only people. Second, people's needs (and their abilities to provide the needs of others) change with time, sometimes unpredictably.

      My ex-wife had a need to be married to a rock-solid strong man, who was always in charge, always in control, and never uncertain, weak or vulnerable, and definitely never wanting to be pretty. I couldn't meet this need, but the more I tried to tell her, the more she insisted that it was my role, my job, to be that person for her. And she thought that I was that man when we married.

      I would say that the fact that you want to dress once in a while doesn't mean you don't love your wife, and it doesn't mean that your feelings are wrong. Instead it means you have suppressed this need all your life.

      On the other hand, I can understand how threatening this could appear from your wife's point of view. "Walling you off" is exactly what my wife did to me, very deliberately, over many years, until we had no meaningful contact left.

      There is only one solution, which is communication, boundaries and mutual compromise. Unfortunately the solution doesn't work for everyone. But perhaps it can work for you.

      I hope you will let me know how things unfold.

  20. Hello, I stumbled upon this after you linked it in a quora comment.

    I am really sorry that you were mistreated. However, your post has given me a lot of insight.

    My last relationship, one that I still hold dear to my heart, was somewhat similar. When I met my partner, I fell for their charm and loved their masculine traits. A few months into our relationship, they came out to me as a trans woman. At the time, I was very shocked because I did not know what that meant for our relationship. They begged me to stay and so I did. They insisted that they would not transition because they feared societal ridicule.

    They returned to their military responsibilities the next week. Fortunately, I sought counseling to help me digest the news. Previously, I accepted trans identities in my friends, classmates, etc. But this was different. After much consideration, I knew I needed to confront my transphobia and prioritize this relationship.

    My partner and I communicated about it decently well. However, I would communicate about the lack of effort on their part and my need for more affection. They would listen, but not work on that aspect.

    Towards the end of our relationship, they opened about finally wanting to transition and I accepted it. I told them I would help them pick out makeup.

    Unfortunately, they were unable to compromise for me... I was applying to out of state graduate programs and they would not even entertain the idea of moving closer to me. They also refused to show me affection through my preferred love languages. They always made it seem like it was my fault that I felt unloved. Consistently, I felt that the only way to stay in their life was for me to compromise and never them.

    We broke up because I knew they wanted to end things but lacked the courage to just do it. So I pushed them to break up with me. Since then, they have found a trans partner that most likely understands them far better than I ever could. We do not talk to each other, they immediately cut me out of their life. And almost a year later, I still think of them everyday and love them dearly.

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by to post your lovely comments. I am always pleased when Quorans read my work here in my blog.

      You touch on several themes. An ex-partner who wanted things all their own way. I know that feeling!

      Also a trans person who served in the military. I talk about this in my post entitled “Big Brave Soldier”.

      But it seems as if the relationship could have survived if your ex-partner has been prepared to meet your own needs as well as their own. A common narrative is “as soon as I found out my husband was trans, I couldn’t continue the relationship”. But other women seem to be able to cope with the transition provided their own needs are also met: this is where your stumbling block was.

      From my perspective, if my ex had been able to compromise, our marriage could have survived. In the end, it was this which broke us. It sounds as if it could be the same for you.


  21. Noi donne eterosessuali ricerchiamo un partner sano di mente che ci completi dal punto di vista emotivo e sessuale. Questo concetto semplice pare che voi crossdresser non lo capiate o non lo volete capire. La verità è che siete dei bugiardi e dei truffatori.

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      Google gives this translation of your words: “We heterosexual women are looking for a sane partner who can complement us emotionally and sexually. This simple concept seems that you crossdressers do not understand it or you do not want to understand it. The truth is that you are liars and scammers.”

      I think this comment is unfair. There are many reasons why people hide parts of their true selves. These reasons are not always malicious.

      You may believe that Italy doesn’t have men who crossdress. You are wrong. There is a discussion of gay and cross dressing Italian men here:

  22. Lo so che in Italia ci sono uomini che si travestono. Purtroppo ne ho sposato uno . Se potessi tornare indietro non lo rifarei mai . Sento di aver sprecato la mia vita con una persona che non suo pensiero è sempre lì, al travestimento, tutto il resto non ha la stessa importanza. Non capisco perché minacci il suicidio se dico di lasciarlo, forse è solo l ennesima bugia è una forma di manipolazione. Vedo che l egoismo, le bugie e la manipolazione sono comportamenti comuni a molti crossdresser. Prima di essere uomini o donne siamo tutti persone, anche noi mogli, è abbiamo bisogno tutti di rispetto

    1. "I know that in Italy there are men who disguise themselves. Unfortunately I married one. If I could go back, I would never do it again. I feel I have wasted my life with a person who did not deserve me. His thought is always there, in disguise, everything else does not have the same importance. I do not understand why he threatens suicide if I talk about leaving him, maybe it's just another lie or a form of manipulation. I see that selfishness, lies and manipulation are common behaviors of many crossdressers. Before we are men or women we are all people, even we wives, we all need respect."

      I am sorry that things are so painful. I can hear the anger in your words. I wish things had turned out differently for you and your husband. You are right that we are all people, and we all need respect.

  23. God bless you with discernment.
    I'll pray for you.

  24. Vivienne I just read this thread. It was years ago but only what seems like moments ago for me. My marriage did not break up but it has been so rocky. God bless you and give you strength. You are an amazing person!

  25. I stumbled along to your site, and eventually this page. Your story mirror's mine. I loved my (ex) wife dearly (I still do) but my confession of cross dressing was the death of our marriage We were divorced in 2014 after 23 years of marriage. She instigated it, listing my crossdressing as 'unreasonable behavior'. Some of the things she said to me were so hurtful, so cutting That our marriage had been a waste of time. That she wasted her life. She took to alcohol and it was apparently my fault. We have 2 beautiful children. Now young adults. They chose to stay with me. We had a nice house, plenty of money etc etc. I have not spoken yo my ex wife for 2 years now, but I think of her everyday I can't help but think, what is it about crossdressing that would drive someone to literally throw all that we had built together away. Is there absolutely no room for compromise or understanding to salvage everything else including the love that we clearly had. Divorce is like an earthquake in the lives of everyone even remotely near the epicentre. It effects the children, and ultimately any grandchildren. My ex wives relationship with our children is strained. And foelr what? An inability to even make any effort to understand, accept and compromise upon what is actually a wholly unharmful activity ?crossdressing actually hurts nobody. Yest my wife would often use the phrase "look what you have done to me" as if it's a choice. She even said she would have preferred it if I had an affair!!lets think about both those statements. She never saw me dressed, so I had done nothing to her. This had been a "condition" I have had since as far as I can remember certainly 4 or 5 years old.. Secondly people who have affairs have a vhoiv. They choose to do so. Crossdressing is an impulse and a need that's a bit like air, water or food for those of us that are unfortunate enough to have been burdened with the need. I still find it painful (4 years later) that my crossdressing is the "reason" my marriage broke down. Or was it my secrecy or my ex wife's attitude or interlorance? At the end of the day I wish I had never confessed. I wish I had told her before we got married (and then probably wouldn't have) I live every day with the guilt that there is a person whom I love dearly, but hates me, and genuinely believes I have "wasted her life" , out there. I feel sorry for the fact that her relationship with her own children is Strained. Since the divorce I have lost both my parents. I went to both funerals with my children, but my ex wife should have been there. I now wonder about future fam8events, weddings, christenings, birth of grandchildren etc. My ex hatred for me is so strong we can not exist in the same space. All over some clothes and a compulsion I have no control over. Sad.

    1. Dear anonymous poster,

      I am so sorry to hear this. Your pain and heartbreak come through very clearly.

      Clearly in both our cases there was no room for compromise; we both had a spouse who would rather throw away a loving husband, a nice standard of living, and a harmonious family than tolerate life with a crossdresser. Also in both our cases, our exes are telling the tale that somehow it's all our fault.

      In my case, I don't love my ex-wife at all. I regret very much that things turned out the way they did, and I still wish it hadn't gone this way. But my love for her has gone; ground down slowly, one little bit at a time, over many years.

      On the other hand, there is some freedom to be had after divorce. You can now find your own way in life. It's not easy to pick up the pieces, and it's not easy to choose a path to walk. I am still trying to figure it all out myself. But I remain optimistic that it can be done.

      And I am sending you my very best wishes.

  26. I came across your blog. My husband is a cross dresser and came out recently. I read up about it and realised it was not his fault or in his control. So I told him I support him and for a few evenings he dressed up and it was interesting. Last week I thought about my needs and said for our sexual relationship to remain intact can we have balance? He can cross dress till we make love. At that point I need my man back as I am heterosexual.. I also asked for some evenings when we could not dress up.... That I need balance. He was really hurt, began to shake and then he shut me out. Then said he can't continue cross dressing. I said please don't stop it's not healthy for us. But he said he does not want to cd. I suggested counseling but he said he can't talk to a stranger. I really want him to continue to cd but with my boundaries in place. He does not want to talk about this and he is really miserable without being able to be himself. Please advise. I love him and want to learn how to tell him I am fine but also need my space in this. He did say that he felt my response was a no, that it was either a yes or a no. Nothing in between... I repeated what I was okay with and what I needed in turn but he started to shake every time I spoke. Not sure how this was painful and what to do. There was no telling our shooting but only a simple conversation which really seems to have put him into a shell... Which I don't want. He won't talk. What to do?

    A cd wife who wants to be supportive but it's not succeeding

    1. Hi Sang,
      Thanks for your honest and painful post.

      I think most crossdressing men would be delighted to have a wife who is willing to accept crossdressing in some form.

      A healthy relationship requires compromise, which means that your needs must also be met. It seems reasonable (more than reasonable!) for you to point out where your boundaries are, and for you to work together to find a place where you both feel comfortable, or at least acceptable. A healthy relationship doesn't work in terms of "yes or no; nothing in between".

      The fact that this approach didn't work with him is alarming. My new partner has met Vivienne several times. At first, I didn't quite believe that she was OK with it. Having been so long with my ex-wife's disapproval, I couldn't quite accept that anyone would accept me for who I am. Perhaps your husband is still working through that guilt and shame, and this may take a little time.

      He may have already decided that his own objectives lie so far beyond your boundaries that he cannot cope, and to dress within your boundaries feels like being tantalised. For you to express any boundary at all may have felt like a "no" to him-- even though it clearly wasn't one.

      Or it may possibly be that he has already violated those boundaries in some way. That anger and guilt within himself might be what made him shake, and it might also prompt him to try to purge from dressing. That "shell" might indicate that he knows he has done something terrible and is trying to hide it from you--and maybe even himself. (I do hope this isn't the case, but it's definitely a theory which fits the facts).

      I'm very happy to talk further if you like.


  27. Vivienne, you are so brave and honest!