A few days ago, I received an email from another wife of an AGP. With a few exceptions, her story reads very similarly to mine. She sent me an email, telling her story and asking three specific questions. (This are edited a bit...) Did I ever consider divorce? How could I have sex again with him so soon after my discover? And how did I find a therapist in a rural area?
This is my response to her...
In response to your questions...divorce...yes, it more than crossed my mind. In fact, the first day or two, I would have sworn that was were we were going -- and it was so scary. How was I going to support two kids? Not only had I lost my husband, I had lost my best friend - and I couldn't talk to anybody else about it! I think it was when I offered William the option of "living together with him doing his thing and me doing my own thing" and he said "no" that made me think that we had a chance of making it. That was a couple of days after my discovery. I have told William that lying to me will take us down that path again, although I did amend it to tell him that if he faltered, he'd be checking himself into a sex addiction clinic to deal with his issues if he wanted us to stay together.
Sex...in some strange way, it was my way of controlling the situation. And at the same time, re-affirming myself as a woman. He hadn't wanted me in so long, it was a little powerful to be wanted again. We are still having sex 3-4 times a week - as opposed to our one "quarterly" of before. Some piece of me worries that if he's not wanting to have sex with me, it's because he's finding satisfaction somewhere else. I'm slowly relaxing about it, but I'm also aware that it's when I relax my guard that he's the most likely to stray. As I wrote in my blog...I trust his love for me, but I don't trust his ability to resist his urges.
Therapist...actually our therapist doesn't know a whole lot of detail about William. He was unaware of autogynephilia until we had mentioned it. He knows that William cross-dresses for sex and he knows that there was sexual anorexia. And he knows that we had lots of issues to deal with! We didn't go in asking to "fix" William, though. We started off by saying that we wanted him to help us deal with this inside our marriage - to incorporate it into our lives - so he focused completely on our communication and relationship. His goal was to get us to the point where we could talk about what was happening in our marriage in a productive manner. I found him by googling "gay and lesbian" and "marriage counselor" hoping that he would at least be open-minded. The one we found has interests in both, although his primary focus is marriage counseling.
Outside of counseling, I found my most help in looking at AGP as a sex addiction rather than a fetish. The book "Your Sexually Addicted Spouse - How Partners Cope and Heal" by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means was extremely helpful as it gave me permission to be angry. To feel betrayed. To feel EXACTLY how I was feeling. Getting that support was helpful in allowing me to move on. Sex addiction was also something that "clicked" with William. It changed his perspective on what he was feeling - and how I was reacting. - and made it easier to communicate. I HIGHLY recommend picking it up. The authors also have a webpage/forum that I found helpful.
I think that thinking of this as a sex addiction somehow makes it less personal to me. And I understand that an addict can really, really want to control themselves, but there are times when the urges become over-powering. It takes away that "if you loved me, you'd stop" piece and makes it "if you love me, you will work to try to control this - and ask for help if you can't" - takes the pressure off just a bit.
Check out the website "www.sexualcontrol.com - it is also a wonderful online resource.
Knowing that I am not alone helps me as well.
I thought about what I had written...and NOT written overnight and sent this the following morning...
I wanted to add something...most addicts try abstaining as the primary way to control their addictions. Because I do believe that AGP is biologically based (somewhere on the gender spectrum), I'm not sure that abstaining is realistic. I also knew that William didn't really want to stop - he only wanted to make me happy - and that's not going to give him the "umph" necessary to truly stop forever. So we have decided to "control" it. I personally am okay with the cross-dressing piece of this. And role-reversal during sex is all right also - but not every time. We incorporate his "fantasy" into our sex life once a week or so. But I get him as a man also. Masturbation is forbidden, period. Sex outside of US is cheating, period. Even if it with himself. Fantasies are the gray area. I don't think that he can help them popping into his mind, but he certainly can choose to NOT lay there and fantasize for some time.
We talk about this - a lot. Like you, I am a talker - but one thing I learned in therapy is that William does not hear me as clearly as I speak - which was a real shock. AGP's don't communicate "normally", so learning to communicate with him has been key. Everything I said, he took as "against him" - an affirmation of his unworthiness. It didn't "fit" - my William has always been so confident, so masculine, but the incredibly poor self-esteem is part of everything that he was hiding. And he is as good at hiding the insecurity as he is the behaviors...
She wrote me back expressing several concerns that she had about her own relationship. Again, this was my response to her...
William has always been about masturbation as well. He says that it is still really, really hard to abstain . Saturday afternoons are the most difficult for him. My fear is that this will always be an issue for him - can he hold out against his urges for the rest of his life? He tells me that he has not strayed...but he also admits that he's not 100% sure that he will tell me if he does. How do I know if he is telling me the truth? I don't. I still worry. I still get freaked out whenever he is home alone. I still worry about where this is going (escalation). I still feel a little hurt feeling in my chest when he dresses - that I'm not enough for him. That he can't just stop now that we are so much better together. But the reality is - he can't. The hurt is much smaller now than it was, but sometimes it swells up again.
I call him when things being to "swirl inside" - talking to him about it helps. Just last week, we talked about I don't understand how could he NOT be gay when he wants to (sorry for the bluntness!) "suck dick" and "be penetrated." His response "I don't know either - that's what makes it so confusing for me as well. It would be so much easier if I was just gay! But I don't find men attractive, I find women attractive" (Jack Molay posted his blog with the comment about AGP's liking "shemale porn" right after our conversation - "light bulb moment!")
The thing is: William doesn't know where this is going either. The escalation piece of this scares him as well (although now he feels like he DOES have a certain amount of control over it.) I feel certain now that he's not going to go all the way to transition - more because it would freak his family out and he couldn't handle disappointing his parents. He also hates, hates, hates confrontation, so I doubt public cross-dressing would be somewhere he would go. But these conclusions came after a few months of therapy. I DO believe that if I hadn't found out last September, he would have eventually met another man (as a woman) and had sex. Somehow, in his mind, I think he would have justified that as "not cheating" because it wasn't with another woman. He does not deny this.
I guess that the difference between now and right after my discovery is that we have both recommitted to our relationship. We have made our relationship a separate entity from us and we are both making efforts to do what is in the best interest of the relationship. It took me awhile to accept the idea that he had to learn to trust me as well as me learning to trust him. We both still feel exposed a bit and there are still "egg-shell" subjects. The third party marriage counseling helped enormously. Our therapist was able to rephrase things in such a way that William was able to grasp what I was saying. I thought I was being clear as a bell, but somehow, he still wasn't getting it. There are still times when I have preface what I am saying to him with "I know that I'm sounding angry, but it's really hurt talking, not anger." (learned from therapy) We have learned that verbally acknowledging that the subject is "egg-shell" in the beginning of the conversation makes it a bit easier to talk about.
Based on William's and my experience, I don't think that bridges are ever burned. But either of you can make the choice to NOT go forward together. It's a lot of work to incorporate this into a relationship. And I personally believe that you will have to incorporate this because he can't give up the transgender part of this, it's biologically part of his brain make-up. He most certainly CAN, however, make the choice to give up the addictive behaviors that can be part of AGP. Masturbation is NOT part of a healthy relationship, period. It's addictive behavior that doesn not belong in a marriage. Escalation is also part of sex addiction - in fact, it's a key component to the diagnosis.
I guess my advice to you would be to find out if both of you are willing to put forth the effort to make your relationship work. Seriously. For real, this time. If he's not willing to put in the work, then your efforts are not going to make the difference. If he is interested, point him to my blog and to Jack Molay's. Talk to him about the sexual addictive side of AGP. I printed out a bunch of stuff from the sexualcontrol.com website and gave them to William to read. I took the spouse quiz on there and gave it to him also. And asked him to take the other one. Once he saw that his behaviors were really "addictive", he realized that he had more than a fetish. I strongly recommend that you find a counselor to help you communicate. One who is local and that you can see weekly as you try to work through this. Or even sexualcontrol.com who will do Internet or telephone therapy - I almost did that ourselves. The third party really helped keep our communication grounded and on track - it stopped the "unproductive escalation" that we had at home. And as I threatened William, there are several in-patient sex addiction clinics that will be in our list of options if he ever strays again.
It's a hard road - and not easy. But as William has said - it's so much better now than before - for both of us. If you are thinking that there is a chance - then there is one. It's not over until it's OVER.