In Search of Financial and Emotional Stability

My wife wants out.  That is not news.  However, we can barely afford a cup of coffee, let alone be financially independent of one another—especially with two children to protect.  There is good news on that front, though, but how we get from here to there is a big question mark.

For the last 3 1/2 years, our family has been effectively running on two part-time jobs.  While my wife is in her dream career, she does not make enough money.  I work retail.  Scheduling and the fact that I barely make $1 more as a supervisor than a cashier means I am underpaid and have a less than full-time workload.  With two children and no money for daycare, we have been able to craft our schedules so that the children are always with a parent (when not in school).  However, the arrangement has never been ideal for either of us and does not generate the money required to float a family of four.

For years, the family has operated on a negative cash flow.  We were able to do this because when my mom died, I became a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, stock options, and a 401(k).  That gave us six figures in the bank account and the opportunity to move to a safer neighborhood.  We had our second child and guaranteed our older child would be able to attend the top-rated public school in the district.  I was able to stretch that money for years, but now it has run out, and the family is crisis mode.  Bills are past due; rent is frequently late; our credit cards are maxed and closed.  At the same time, we do not qualify for many government assistance benefits because we are in that gray zone:  We make too much to be poor, but we are too poor to pay all of our expenses.

While all of this happening, the quality of life in our home has deteriorated.  The children do not get to do as much as they used to (things cost money we don’t have!).  We stand in food lines to acquire donated food our kids do not necessarily want to eat.  Stress levels are high; nerves are frayed.  My wife wants out of the house more than ever.  She is unhappy.  Not that she exactly knows what she wants, but she knows it is not me.  Still, without financial stability, leaving really is not an option right now.  If we can’t keep one house afloat, how are we going to finance two separate households?

There is some hope, though.  Early in the year, she received a significant raise.  Now, I am on the verge of acquiring a government job that would be full-time and double my current salary.  I have a tentative job offer pending background checks (which I have no reason to fail), so paid training should start in late May.  That means I should see a paycheck in June that could start taking us to a place that is not underwater.  This is all great news, except for the fact that getting from here to June will require some magic.  We are lucky to have three figures in the bank account these days.  Filling the gas tank is an exercise in fear.

Family Pressure

Lately, my wife’s family has been applying pressure.  They offered to extend us a loan that would get our bills current and float us until the tide changes.  However, the deal comes with significant strings.

First, the loan would be formalized legally, binding both my wife and I to repay the loan.  While that seems kosher on the surface, I believe that puts me at great risk.  The family would never forgive my half of the loan but, of course, may be willing to look the other way when it comes to my wife at some point in the future.  They are upset with me because my transition has caused my wife such pain.  Being legally bound to a family that seemingly despises me seem like a bad idea.

The second condition:  My wife would need to set up her own personal bank account.  While community property laws and martial conduct exceptions could allow me to claim a portion of any money held in a private account while she continues to access joint funds, I really do not want to have go down that road during a divorce proceeding.  Our relationship was built on honesty, but her family is encouraging her—actually requiring her—to keep funds for herself that would not necessarily benefit the family as a whole.  This way, they can funnel her money while keeping me from directly being benefited by it.  This stipulation is an end around to hurt me and help her with no deference to how our family fares in the end.

The third condition of any loan from her family would require us to begin actively separating ourselves from one another.  Now, while separate accounts and divorce proceedings are very likely in our future, I object to her family using financial leverage to dictate how and when we choose to dissolve the marriage.  If they want to help the four of us get out of a financial emergency, then we thank the family for the help.  However, this entire deal is odious and offensive to me.  It legally binds me to being indebted to a family that no longer wants anything to do with me and provides them power over my decisions.  At the same time, my wife may be afforded waivers and leniency where I will never see any.  The whole deal is unbalanced, manipulative, and unreasonable.

In response, I have tabled the family’s questionable offer.  Instead, I am looking at all ways that I might be able to raise funds to bridge the gap between now and June.  To that end, a friend of mine has offered a no-strings-attached loan, that while not covering all of our projected needs, at least gets us current on bills and keeps the lights on.  No signing on a dotted line.  No power grab.  My friend’s offer comes because she cares about my well-being and that of the family, not because she has a secret agenda at play.  I thank her for her help.  We are still projected to be short, but at least this is a start.  I continue to find other ways to make this work out without having to succumb to the family’s loan.

Beyond the Marriage

My wife has told me she thinks I have rejected the offer because I am trying to keep us together.  While there may have been a time that would have been true, she could not be further from the truth.  In an ideal world, she would stay with me, realizing that I am still largely the same person she fell in love with all those years ago.  She would see that I have a lot to offer—love, support, even romance if she wanted it.  She actively worries about what life will be like without me.  At the same time, she still wants out.  I have my own worries and fear about life beyond the marriage.  However, I have already taken the step of grieving our union at least once.  I have cried, screamed, and fought against my heart telling me to stay.  Her continued pulling away from me has made it easier (again, easier not easy) to pull away from her.  The more she makes individual decisions, keeps gifted money to herself, does not communicate the basics of what is going on in her life, and hides emotions & feelings, the more I do not want to be with her, either.  I was raised to live openly and honestly, to share feelings even when they are uncomfortable, to talk things over in times of need and celebrate in times of victory.  But there is little joy here.  Romance is non-existent.  Hugs are few and far between.  What is there to hold on to?  What is there to save and keep together if one or both of us is no longer invested?

For quite awhile, she has been pulling away from me, and I have not stood in her way, as much as it hurts me to watch happen.  However, I am not sitting on the sidelines trying to keep us together as she conjectures.  My focus this year has been to improve myself both personally and socially.  To that end, I have found this new job.  I am sharing my story a little more actively in an effort to possibly advocate more in the future.  I am working to keep emotionally balanced despite the stress and drama that surrounds me.  While still providing plenty of attention and love to the children, I am also taking more time for myself.  I am making more friends and going out a little more often (on the cheap, of course!).  I think about the future—my future and the future of the kids.

The upcoming job will first and foremost help stabilize the family’s financial problems.  Its secondary purpose will be to establish my individual financial stability in the long run.  I hope to achieve this goal without need for her family’s interference.  We will separate when it is appropriate for us on our own (hopefully, amicable) terms.  If her family wants to help her then, by all means, I would expect that from them.  That is what family does.  However, if I can not be in debt to them, then more power to me.

Beyond the money, I have interest in moving on.  For the first time in years, my libido is non-zero.  I have interest in not only making more friends, but even possibly in dating.  I want someone who loves me for me, not for what I used to be.  I want to realize that maybe I am more beautiful than I think, that being transgender is not a romantic death sentence, and that the fact that I have children could actually be an endearing quality instead a deal breaker.  I have feared that being 40, trans, and a mother of two could get in my way.  That might not be the case after all.  My personality and my kindness are features.  If I embrace the compliments I regularly receive, my sense of self will be improved, which in turn makes me more marketable.  Gender confirmation surgery would not be bad, either.

There is a long way to go to get there.  First, what is left of our family comes first.  I will do everything in my power to protect the children and myself from harm.  I will find things to sell.  I will drive Uber.  I will work multiple jobs with little sleep.  I will not be played, and I am certainly not trying to figure out how to keep my wife and I together.  That ship has sadly sailed.  As Morgan Freeman said in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I choose to hope, to dream, and to live.  Time to inspire myself in the same way I have inspired others.  Now, to figure out how to safely get to June and beyond…

Advertisements

Dreaming of Recaptured Wedding Bliss

The dreamer in me appreciates the idealism, joy, and love I witnessed at the wedding I attended yesterday.  I cannot help but think back to my own wedding nearly nine years ago, and how I want to recapture the love of that day.

I have vivid memories of the intricate details of my wedding on a warm August day that began with my wife and I going to a Toys R Us for the express purpose of buying a whiffle ball & bat for pictures.  I had mani/pedis and my hair done with the bridal party, and I even waxed my eyebrows for the first time.  I remember being at the park, and spying on our friends & family, as we ran five minutes late for the ceremony and my bride got ready in another room.  I walked down the aisle with my mom, because even though our wedding occurred pre-transition, I still wanted to walk down the aisle like a bride.  I even had my own music.  During the ceremony, our unity candle would not light because of the wind (we had contingency ceremony text for that possibility), and the laying on of hands we added to our ceremony was a special touch.  I was given keys to my wife’s aunt’s house in Florida in case we wanted to use the house on the honeymoon—you know, the one my wife did not know we were taking until we were at the airport later in the week.  Our cake was lopsided; our song was “At Last.”  We took pictures of the bridal party on a baseball diamond with the whiffle ball and bat we had purchased in the morning.  And as we traveled home after a long party, I remember our truck breaking down on the freeway, and us awkwardly opening gifts as we waited for the tow truck to arrive.  The details are clear in my partially photographic mind.  The day was truly special.  A framed picture from that day still hangs prominently in our living room.

We were truly in love.  My wife and I vowed to be newlyweds for five years after our wedding.  We were going to beat the odds and not fall out of love no matter the challenges.  We would hold on to everything we held dear about each other.

The thought was nice.

About a year after our wedding, the newlywed bliss ended around the time my wife became pregnant with our first child.  She had an incredibly difficult pregnancy complete with neverending morning sickness and dehydration.  During labor, she had a tear that needed emergency fixing.  Breastfeeding was a problem, as the baby did not want to consistently latch.  The stresses built up, as did our debt.  Reality set in, and the challenges really started to hit us.  The repercussions of those challenges and how we dealt with them are still felt in small parts today.  A second child, careers shifts, and now my transition, and we are on the brink of disaster as a married couple.  Neither of us wear our wedding rings anymore.

While we are in a wildly different place than we were nine years ago, some things do not change.  The idealistic love I have—that I yearn so deeply for—still fills my heart.  I still love and want to be loved as wholeheartedly as I loved and was loved on my wedding day.  Watching our friends get married yesterday made me both ecstatic and sad.  I am so incredibly happy for the them.  One half of the couple told me she was have the most amazing day of her life, and I was happy with her.  Then, I watched the couple dance, kiss, and gaze into each other’s eyes, just as I did with my wife on our wedding day.  That pureness—that joy—cannot be replicated.  I cannot express how much I miss those moments and wish they could be mine again.

Yesterday when I left for work, my wife told me that she loved me.  I had not heard those words from her in a long time, and they immediately made me smile, even if she could not see my reaction.  I do not know why she said it in that moment.  I did not ask her.  I can only presume she meant it honestly and to make me feel good.  I miss the days when that was a regular thing.  A kiss before we separated.  An “I love you” out the door.  An “I missed you” when we reconnected.  Now, we don’t even dance together at our friends’ wedding.  There used to be days when we would dance in the living room without any music.

Love exists between us.  It will never fully erase itself, but it will never be like it was on our wedding day.  I am a woman now, and that is not what she married.  I do not know how to move on.  I want to find the love of that day all over again.  I want another chance to be newlyweds for five years.  Instead, I do not even know if we will celebrate our anniversary in any meaningful way.

I hold on to the past; I must love in the future.  Someday, I want to reconnect with that wedding bliss—that total and complete joy—and to do it in a wedding dress.  Since that will not come in a re-commitment ceremony, I must find a way to open myself up to another.  I have so much love still to give.  I hope there is someone out there willing to receive my love and offer their undying love in return.

Congratulations to my friends.  I am truly happy for the two of you—even if I am simultaneously jealous of what you have right now.