What makes husbands and wives of transgender spouses stay in the marriage?
This has been rotating in my head for several days. I mulled over the question in my mind this evening while walking the dog and gave it all of my attention. No interruptions. Nothing.
Here is a glimpse into my internal brainstorm. (I am by no means an expert on these matters. This is just a writing of internal thoughts that are not meant to be taken as facts nor judgments.)
Do some couples not love each other enough?
-Yes & No. Yes, some people are in relationships with partners that they really don’t love and, when they face transition, the cis spouse deems the struggle not worth the pain. And no, for most love is without the ability to be measured and therefore cannot be ‘enough’ or ‘too much’.
I looked into this a bit further online found a few scholarly studies.
The easiest one for me to consume was “Thematic Analysis of the Experiences of Wives Who Stay with Husbands who Transition Male-to-Female” by Bischof, Warnaar, Barajas, and Dhaliwal of Western Michigan University (2011).
The paper uses several cases of MTF partners and their wives from Virginia Erhardt’s 2007 book Head over Heels: Wives Who Stay with Cross-Dressers and Transsexuals to expose why some cis wives stay in the relationship. It was a very interesting read.
While it comes to no conclusion on why wives stay, the study exposes that factors in the couple’s relationship like how the gender variance was presented or discovered, sensitivity of the MTF partner, and the pace of transition (among others) could directly affect the outcome of the relationship. It makes sense. A relationship full of compassion and respect for each party will probably result in the wife staying in the marriage.
But what makes me stay?
I am here everyday with my wife and daughter because they are what makes my life complete.
And when I’ve had a rough day and the ball of stress is getting tight in my throat, I picture my happy place: my goal. Me, Michelle, and our daughter standing together overlooking the Grand Canyon around sunset. The sky is an orange-red color. I am holding Michelle’s hand and she squeezes it hard. She knows what this means to me. And we stand in silence for a few seconds until we decide that boredom has won and we’d rather be eating.
That is why I stay.