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
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
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
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
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
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
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.