Marriage can't work! (Or can it?)
A transsexual's perspective

Marriage simply cannot work! People change too much for a long term relationship to be possible. I was thinking about how much I have changed: over the last 10 years, as cross-dressing became a bigger and bigger part of my life; and over the last year, as I realized I am transsexual and I transitioned to living full time as a woman. I may be an extreme case--not everybody changes this much! But people do change, so how can a relationship possibly last?

A marriage (or any other long term relationship--I'll just call it "marriage" for simplicity) works--when it works--because two people want to share their lives. Oh, some marriages may be based on other factors, like economic security or social status. But I think the kind of marriage most of us desire is one in which we like our mates so much that we want to spend most of our time with them, share our dreams and goals with them, and work together to build happy lives. That certainly sounds wonderful to me! It's very difficult to find a person who is so compatible, and lovable, and fabulous enough to build that sort of a marriage with. And that person has to feel the same way about me; that makes it twice (or 10 times?) as tough! But somehow it does happen. It happens a lot--at least once for most of us.

So then, against the odds, we find that person and get married. What happens next? Sex. Okay, but after that? Sooner or later, we change. That's a good thing, right? It is important for people to grow, mature, and learn. What's more, the marriage itself is a great catalyst for personal growth. Hopefully I got married because I wanted to change, to go from being a single person to part of a couple, from caring primarily for myself to caring equally for another. Often the wedding is followed shortly (sometimes less than 9 months--how does that happen?) with starting a family, and goddess knows that changes us even more.

As we grow into our married lives and possibly our new family responsibilities, we had better change if we are to play those new roles successfully. Hopefully most of our changes should be positive--should make us better persons. But of course the relationship faces a challenge. We are no longer the persons we were when our spouses married us. What are the chances that they still find us to be compatible, to be lovable, to be fabulous? And they change as well. Do we love the person they have become? It's even worse than that. There are two new personalities involved: Does the new you happen to love the new me, and does the new me happen to love the new you?

Yet another factor exacerbates the situation further. Perhaps the new me's and new you's are "better" persons than the old ones, judging by qualities such as maturity, tolerance, generosity, etc. The earlier persons may in fact have been immature, irresponsible jerks. (I know I was!) But they are the ones who made the decision to commit to this relationship in the first place. What are the chances that such jerks made smart choices?

By the way, you may be bothered by my blithe assertion that people change. "I havenít changed," you may feel, "I merely discovered what was truly inside me all along, and brought it out." That is certainly a valid viewpoint; one which I, in fact, embrace about myself. But despite remaining fundamentally the same at my core, certainly my outward demeanor has changed. The way I present myself has changed. The way I relate to people has changed. The models I try to live up to have radically changed. These are all changes that affect my relationships in major ways, and they are the changes I am referring to here.

So by my thinking, here most marriages are some years down the road, with two more or less random people thrown together as if by chance into a critical and highly stressful situation. It sounds hopeless. How is it that marriages ever work?

One way to sustain a relationship when the parties change is to suppress the change. This can work for a while, but not for the long term. For example, my last serious relationship was with a wonderful person who I will call Julie. Julie was the love of my life. When we first started going out, I explained that I was a cross-dresser. I told Julie that she did not have to share this with me if she did not want to, and that was exactly her choice. So I kept my cross-dressing activities private. As cross-dressing became a more and more important part of my life, I still did not share it with Julie. Eventually I had changed, I had become a person with a serious cross-dressing life and identity. But the relationship was still between Julie and a person who was not a serious cross-dresser. This worked for a while, but it was stressful for me to try to maintain the persona of the the non-cross-dresser when I was with Julie. And it was stressful for Julie to try to maintain blissful ignorance of my other life. We split up after living together for 6 years.

So how can a marriage ever work? I got an idea by thinking about arranged marriages such as are common in many cultures around the world. In an arranged marriage, two people, usually young people, who may be strangers or barely acquainted are matched up and married off. Usually the arrangements are made by the victims'--uh, I mean spouses'--families, and may have a secondary or even primary motive of furthering business, social, or political agendas. Statistics show that these arranged marriages have a better record of success than our Western love-based marriages. How can this be?

Some may argue that the definition of a successful marriage is different in the two cases. Sure, the couple in the arranged marriage may stay married, but it isn't a "marriage" in the same sense as we're used to. It is merely an economically convenient living arrangement. The spouses don't love each other. In fact, it imay be expected that both parties will have their real lovers outside the marriage.

I do not believe this idea of a sham (by our definition) marriage is the explanation. I have friends and acquaintances who are in arranged marriages, or close to couples who are, and they are very loving, intimate, close relationships. In fact, some of these marriages seem dearer than the more conventional marriages of many of my Western friends. Something else is going on here.

The flaw in my arguments about people changing is this. I treated change as random, that people fly off in all directions and become randomly different people. But thatís not what happens. Our changes can be directed and controlled to some degree, just as gardener can train the growth of a bonsai plant or a beautiful topiary shrub. If two people can grow and change in compatible ways, then there is hope for sustaining the relationship.

I think that is exactly what happens in successful arranged marriages. The couple has common goals and visions of a life and a family they strongly desire to build, and they direct their growth along that path. In this way they become more compatible and more in love as time goes on, not less. They may even have a strange advantage in not having started from a strongly compatible base, because they know from the beginning that they must work to direct their growth together. They cannot drift along under the illusion that things will always stay the same and be great. The Western couple in their self-selected, non-arranged marriage needs to overcome this illusion. If they too have a strong common vision of their future and work together to achieve it, they too can make the marriage a long term success. Children may often provide the focus of that common long-term vision.

There is another important factor in the successful arranged marriage. That is that the couple has the potential for compatibility within themselves from the start. A tiny cactus plant and a deciduous sapling can be planted in the same soil, but no amount of watering and pruning can succeed in them achieving healthy growth together. In the case of the arranged marriage, there is often a strong cultural component that assures a certain degree of compatibility between the couple. Hopefully the families making the arrangements also use their judgement to pre-select individuals likely to be compatible. Our Western custom of young people self-selecting their mates seems to be a singularly bad system in this regard! (Do you still like any of the bands you listened to when you were 18?)

That's about as far as my thinking about marriage goes at this point. What is my conclusion? I am not in a long term relationship right now, but I want to be again some day. Not just now, but some day. When I am, I would like it to last. For that to happen, I need to be true to my true self, and find a mate who can accept my whole self. We don't have to spend all out time together or share every one of our activities, but we have to be able to share our entire selves. Also, we have to recognize the fact that we will both experience growth and change. We have to have a common vision for the future we wish to build together, and make a commitment to channel our growth together in that direction. Whew, thatís asking a lot! But that, my dear friends, seems to be the recipe for a successful marriage.

Lannie Rose

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