I am deeply empathetic. I also love deeply. It is the hopeless romantic inside me that has always been there no matter my gender. However, the ability to love wholeheartedly comes with a price.
Today marks three years since I began my transition—three years since I told my wife I was having “gender issues.” I am a much more complete and happier person that I was at the start of this journey. I am a better parent. I am a better friend. I wish I could be a better partner.
I have written extensively in this space about my relationship with my wife. We have moved from an extremely hostile and adversarial place to one of mutual friendship and effective co-mothers. We continue to live together and raise our children, mainly bound by necessity, as neither of us have the financial support to live on our own. We no longer fight about my transition, and she supports me even when I talk of life-altering surgeries. I continue to support her efforts to advance in her career path. While we are not perfect, we have always done fairly well supporting each other. We make a good pair, but ultimately, we are doomed for failure.
As recently as two weeks ago, she reiterated her desire for a divorce. She is not happy being with me because I cannot provide for her needs. Primarily, that comes down to the fact that she is not attracted to women, and by extension, me. She did not marry a woman; she is not a lesbian. She would rather be alone than in a sexless marriage. As much as it hurts to think about, her reasoning is sound. If she is not attracted to me, how can I be a good partner for her?
Further, she states she is not able to fulfill all of my needs. That is a little harder for me to accept because I am not really sure what my needs are these days. We have been together over 11 years and married almost nine years. Despite all of the major changes and tumultuous times, I still love her. I love her deeply and with all of my heart. Can she fulfill all of my needs? I do not know.
There are so many things that remind me of what we had. Music, movies, memories. Our children. I reminisce about our happier times (we did have them!). I miss the shared jokes, the intimacy, the cuddling. I miss the “I love you”s, the hugs, the shared dreaming. I always contended that despite my transition, I was essentially the same person. My ability to love, empathize, and support remained unchanged. These are the parts of me she truly loved. I was never that physically attractive as a man. My main selling points were what was beneath the surface: intelligence and heart. Estrogen has not taken those things away. I am still smart and full of love. I think that is what makes the concept of divorce so challenging to me. I believe I have a lot to offer—the same things I offered at the beginning.
What has changed is my physical appearance and how I present to the world. Those are not minor things. I understand that. I just wish that love was enough. I wish I was enough for her.
I cry when I think of the special moments we have shared. I cry when I watch characters in TV and movies resolve the challenges in the relationships to come together again. I frequently draw parallels between fictional stories and my own. That makes me sad because I love my wife, my children, and my marriage. The problem is that I feel myself shifting back into a mindset where I think I might be able to attain the impossible: Keeping my marriage. That is a dangerous realm to live in, though, because as long as she does not want me, it does not matter how much I want to stay. Marriage and relationships take two, and without both of us invested, there is no relationship.
In those moments I snap back to reality, I think about the possibility of dating. Part of me is anxious to meet someone who will accept me as a woman and be attracted to me for all parts of me. At the same time, I am reluctant to dip my toe in that pool because I cannot fully detach myself from the memories. I just love and care too much. That would be an attractive quality for anyone—or so I thought.
If I cannot overcome resolve this stagnant situation and stop looking into the mirror of the past, life will move on without me, and I will be unprepared for the future. My wife is only about a year from a major career move, which could include a location move. Our finances our stretched super thin. We will be forced to make big decisions sooner than later regarding our futures, and as much as I would like that future to be shared, I must get my head out of the clouds and prepare for a separated life. It makes me cry just thinking about that, though.
I love my wife. I love my children. I love my family. I wish love was enough.