It is undeniable that a partner's transvestism is a factor in the breakdown of some relationships. But it is equally a fact that many TVs are and remain happily married, or in long-term relationships, with partners who know about their transvestism and have worked out ways of coping with it.
So what are the problems associated with transvestism which cause so many relationship breakdowns?
One major problem is the issue of trust between partners. As I explained in "Out of the Closet", some TVs enter long-term relationships, or marry, without telling their partners that they are TV - often because they believe that marriage and a family life will "cure" them of the urge to dress, and they sincerely intend to stop doing it - only to find that life without dressing leaves them stressed, frustrated and deeply unhappy. If a wife or partner then discovers, some years down the line, that the man she thought she knew and understood has a secret life as a "woman" which she knew absolutely nothing about, it's only natural that she should feel shocked and hurt, and that the trust she had in her partner should be damaged, sometimes irreparably.
Even if trust is not an issue, some women may find it very hard to accept and cope with their partner's transvestism - perhaps because they are worried that other people might find out and will judge or gossip about or laugh at them or their partners, or because it affects their own confidence in their femininity and attractiveness, or simply that the idea of their partner in a dress and make-up disgusts and horrifies them. If there are children, they may also worry about the possible effect on them, and whether they will be damaged by having a transgendered parent.
And there's also, of course, the question of sexuality. If the TV husband or partner is 100% heterosexual, as many of them are, this may not be a problem. But the partners of those who are what for want of a better description I will call bisexual - those who when dressed are attracted to men or to other TVs (see the article in this section on Transvestites & Sexuality) - may find themselves dealing with someone who either has begun to experiment sexually, or who would like to.
So what are your options?
First, let me make it clear that nobody but you and your partner can decide what's the right thing for you and your relationship. Every relationship is different, just as every individual is different, and what works for one couple isn't necessarily going to work for another. So I won't be offering any magic prescriptions for dealing with your problems and living happily ever after. But if you have decisions to make, I'd strongly recommend that you and your partner sit down together and discuss your issues calmly, honestly and openly. Don't try to make any decisions when you're feeling shocked, distressed, angry or hurt - wait until you're both calm, relaxed and can have some time and private space to talk about the way you both feel.
When you do talk, be very honest about your feelings, and - most importantly - allow him to do the same thing. Try not to get upset or dismissive - how can he open up and talk honestly if everything he says is met with tears, sarcasm or anger? Please remember also that your partner has been TV for what is probably most of his life and will almost certainly continue to be TV, no matter how hard you try to make him stop. An ultimatum is not going to work in this situation - he cannot stop being what he is, and if you try to force him to do so you will just be prolonging the misery for both of you.
If, after talking with - and listening to - your partner, you genuinely feel that you can't live with his transvestism, you do, of course, have the option of ending the relationship. If you feel you have to do this, please don't feel that you've failed - this situation is not your fault. We all have our own priorities, things that matter deeply to us and things that don't, and you know better than anybody else what yours are. But try not to blame your partner either - he cannot help being what he is, he didn't choose to be TV and his transvestism may have been the source of a great deal of distress and confusion for him. It would be very unfair and unkind to blame him or to seek revenge for a situation that is in reality nobody's fault, so do try to respect his feelings and his right to your discretion and continuing consideration.
If, on the other hand, you want to continue in the relationship, knowing that he is a TV and will remain a TV, you need to decide exactly how much involvement in this side of his life you can cope with. It may be that, although you want to stay together, you don't feel that you will ever be comfortable with seeing him dressed or even talking about it. If that's the case, tell him so - you have every right to feel that way, and he needs to be aware of your feelings and to respect them. But he will continue to want to dress on occasion, and perhaps to want to meet and socialise with other TVs, online or in person, so you'll need to make sure that he has the opportunity to do so - perhaps by accepting that he can have "tranny time" when you're away, or out for a day or an afternoon. Negotiation is the key here - you'll both need to make some compromises to ensure that both of you have your needs met as far as possible.
Alternatively, you may be willing to be more involved in his transvestism - or you may come to be so as you grow more used to the idea. You may even be intrigued by it. If so, by all means tell him so - he'll probably be delighted by your interest. Don't try to rush things, or allow him to do so - take it at your own pace, and don't go beyond what you feel entirely comfortable with. You may be willing to see him dressed, for instance, or to have TV friends round for a drink - dressed or in drab, whichever you feel you can handle - but not to go out with him dressed. This is fine - set your limits according to what feels right for you, and don't let him push you any further than you're happy to go at any given time. You're entitled to expect him to respect your boundaries - a partner's transvestism does take a bit of getting used to!
Another area where you may want to set limits is the bedroom. Some straight TVs enjoy dressing to play "lesbian" sex games with their wives or partners. If you're happy to go along with this and enjoy it, that's fine. But if you don't like it, or it makes you uncomfortable, then you shouldn't feel obliged to do it.
If you have children, and you are concerned about the possible effects of his transvestism on them, than you'll need to talk with your partner and agree between you whether, and if so how much, you want to tell them. Teenagers, especially teenage girls who have a good relationship generally with their father, may be much more understanding and accepting than you think they will be. I know several TV fathers of teenage daughters who have told me that their girls are completely relaxed about their transvestism and have even borrowed their make-up on occasion! Just one word of caution - if you do want to tell an older child, it's probably best not to do so around the time of puberty, when the child will be having to deal with their own emotional and hormonal turmoil. With younger children you may prefer not to confuse them, or expose them or yourself and your partner to the risk that they will innocently tell somebody else about their father's dressing. But this is usually the only risk you will be taking - a TV is no more sexually "perverted", or likely to take an unhealthy interest in underage children, than any other man.
The whole issue become much more complicated when your TV partner is bisexual. It's true that some TVs (but by no means all of them) do at some stage realise that their sexuality is not straightforwardly heterosexual. Some of these TVs, on recognising this or admitting it to themselves, want to experiment sexually with men, or with other TVs. If they're single and unattached, they are obviously in a position to do so without too much difficulty. But if they are married, or in a serious relationship, when they first start to have the urge to spread their sexual wings a little, the results may be very problematic indeed.
It is, unfortunately, not unknown for TVs of this type to meet men, whether they be presenting as men or other TVs, for sex without their partner's knowledge. If and when the wife or partner discovers that this has been happening, she almost always feels deeply hurt, angry and betrayed - and with very good reason.
I have heard TVs attempt to excuse this sort of behaviour by saying "But it wasn't really adultery - it wasn't another woman" or "But it wasn't 'me' doing it - it was my 'female' self". This is nonsense. No matter how hard a TV tries to rationalise it or dress it up, if he has been having sex with someone else - of whatever gender or sexual orientation - behind his partner's back, he has made a deliberate and conscious choice to commit adultery. He may or may not have had what he considers valid reasons for doing so, but the fact remains that he, and nobody else, has made that choice of his own free will.
There are also heterosexual, or mainly heterosexual, TVs whose wives/partners are not sympathetic to their transvestism, or who won't go along with their fantasies of "lesbian" sex, who may seek out more cooperative female sexual partners. In this case the rationalisation is the old classic "My wife doesn't understand me", and everything in the above paragraph is equally applicable.
If, when you and your partner entered into a relationship, it was agreed between the two of you that your relationship would be monogamous, you have the right to expect that agreement to be honoured. If monogamy in your relationship is important to you, and at some point down the line your partner wants to explore his sexuality with other people - as my own husband did - the only honourable course of action for him to take is to tell you how he feels and attempt to negotiate a new basis for your relationship, or to leave the relationship altogether.
One possible way of dealing with this situation, if you want your relationship to continue, is for the two of you to agree to have an "open" or polyamorous marriage, in which both of you are free to have other sexual partners if you wish to, but with the other partner's full knowledge and consent. This can work very well - my husband and I have such a marriage, and it's a very happy one - but I am very much aware that it's not a solution that would work for every couple. It demands a great deal of mutual respect and trust, a high level of honesty between partners, an ability to make compromises, genuine concern and consideration for one another's feelings and a willingness to take a relatively unconventional approach to relationships, and to life in general. If you and your partner can't manage that - and not everyone can - then I wouldn't advise trying it.
As I said above, we are all different, and what's deeply important to one person may not matter very much to another. Monogamy isn't something that's of huge importance to everyone - it isn't to me - but it may be to you, and if it is you have every right to feel that way and to expect your partner to respect that.
If you can cope with his transvestism, but not with the thought of him exploring his sexuality with other people, then make that very clear to him. As with everything else to do with transvestism, you should never feel obliged to tolerate something you feel is wrong, or that you are uncomfortable with. He can't help being TV, but sexual misbehaviour and deceit are issues that he does have control over, and you don't have to put up with it!
© Transpartners 2008