This post is really an extension on the previous post “The Closet” and was inspired by the comment from Felicity that, if you’re living with a partner that it was important to let them know.
This is such a difficult subject and there really is no right answer, except the one that’s right for your own particular situation. However, it did get me thinking about the “why’s and wherefore’s” of if and when to tell a partner, so this post is kind of an extension of the previous one.
Personally, I am of the view that you shouldn’t tell someone just because others think you should. I do understand the opinions of others that this shouldn’t be kept from partners, particularly in a marriage, but I still feel there are valid reasons for not doing so.
I don’t agree that your partner needs to know everything about you. In fact I have a real problem with girlfriends who want to know everything about me – why should they need to? There’s a lot of talk about trust in relationships, so why the need to know everything – that surely shows that there is actually very little trust? But that’s an argument for another forum.
Back to the subject: If you’re at the point where you feel you “must” tell your partner, you’re probably feeling pretty stressy and anxious. This is understandable because the decision is fraught with fear and danger. Your fear of potential rejection at the expense of getting this off your chest is all-too-real and you should give some serious thought to the subject before you decide to go ahead.
The horror stories are all too prevalent on the crossdressing forums – the tales of wives and girlfriends leaving or families torn apart. In truth, though, surprisingly few relationships end as result of crossdressing alone. There are a lot of cases where couples have reached an understanding that both partners can live with.
I wouldn’t recommend using the tactic that I used to tell a girlfriend. I don’t remember what we were talking about but she made some comment about knowing all there was to know about me. As you will know from my comments above, this really gets my goat so in a fit of anger I went out to the car and retrieved some photos of me dressed, went back inside and handed them to her.
Thankfully, she was okay about it. I don’t recall her being particularly angry; maybe shocked but not angry.but I realised afterwards just how stupid it was.
Telling your partner of your dressing is possibly the hardest thing you will ever do. Living with the secret is the only alternative, but you will have to suppress your needs, deny your true self and live with the risk of getting caught?
Obviously, it would be better for your own health and well-being to tell the woman you love about your crossdressing. By telling her yourself, honestly and openly, you greatly increase the chance of finding acceptance, but there’s no guarantee. And there-in lies the Catch-22.
Ask yourself some questions first
Before you can even think about telling your partner you need to consider yourself first.
It may seem silly, since you’ve lived with this side of yourself most of your life, but ask yourself why do you need to tell her?
If the answer is about YOU – i.e. you think it will ease YOUR conscience, or because it will give YOU more freedom – then this may not be the best motivation and you should reconsider your need to spill the beans. If, on the other hand, you want to tell her because you love her and trust her enough then you should start by preparing yourself for the time you come to tell your partner.
Ultimately the decision is yours and, although you may feel confident of her acceptance, please be prepared for other, worst-case, scenarios.
Also, consider if you are truly comfortable with your femme side? Have you accepted this part of who you are? If you haven’t then you can’t honestly expect someone else to.
Can you use her reactions to different people and situations to gauge how she may react to your revelations? Knowing how she feels about other fringe communities might help you decide if it will be a bad idea to share this side of yourself.
What are the pros and cons of your partner knowing?
Will they use discretion with this information? Do you know her well enough to be able to answer this question? If not, it only adds to the risk of telling her.
Finally, the biggie: could you handle it if they totally reject your femme self?
Where to start
Some crossdressers try to broach the subject in a lighter way – such as dropping hints, making jokes or leaving evidence lying around to be found. This isn’t generally a good idea because your partner’s reactions to hints or casual references really won’t tell very much; and her “discovery” of any items will almost certainly be met with confusion or misunderstanding.
The best way is to have “the talk”. Wait for a time when she is not under excessive stress and when your relationship is going well.
Ask her if she can put aside some time to sit down for a talk. Assure her that she is more important to you than any issue you may have, but that you need her support and encouragement to proceed. When you come to sit down with her, don’t do it in your femme clothes and don’t bring pictures to show her. If things go okay you will have plenty of time for that afterwards.
Before you schedule “the talk”, it would be a good idea to allow for some time preparing. You should do your homework; read as much as you can about crossdressing and gender issues, and seriously think about your own situation and what crossdressing means to you.
You might want to prepare some notes for reference during your talk.
You can pretty much guarantee that your partner will have a LOT of questions and the least you can do is to be ready to answer them. This is why I said you should learn to accept yourself as a crossdresser and be comfortable discussing your own feelings and desires.
If talking about these issues cause you embarrassment, you cannot seriously expect to make her comfortable with it.
Joining a social group or online discussion forum and talking with other crossdressers may help you get over your shyness and can be good practice for the big day.
If you tell her and expect her not to be able to share and bounce her feelings off someone else, then all you are doing is forcing another person into the closet with you. So be prepared with some websites / forums that she can reference or join herself so that she has somewhere to go for help.
What you say is entirely up to you, but be honest and answer any questions as best you can.
If possible, let her direct the conversation and don’t bombard her with information until she has absorbed what you have already told her. The point of the exercise is to help her understand you, not for you to unburden yourself – if this is what you need, then a therapist would be better.
Above all, listen to her!
Most problems around crossdressing come from the beliefs and assumptions she holds about it and the fears she has. The more you learn about those, the better you will be able to assist her in overcoming them. As I mentioned above assemble some educational materials for her in the form of web links, articles, and books. Do not force them on her, but make them available if she is willing to look at them.
Try to make your partner aware of the positive aspects of your crossdressing, whatever they may be in your case. Help her understand that your best qualities come from your feminine side – things like your sensitivity, tenderness, empathy, helpfulness, and patience.
Explain to her how expressing your femininity helps you feel relaxed, happy and fulfilled but suppressing it causes stress, anxiety and irritability.
For most women a full transformation is harder to accept than dressing in, say, lingerie. This is probably due to the fact that seeing you looking like a woman may be uncomfortable for her because she finds it difficult to disassociate this with wanting to become a woman.
You will need to understand this and offer to take small steps when introducing your partner to your femme self.
Whilst it’s generally not a good idea to go into such a discussion with preconceived ideas of what can be accomplished, you should be prepared to talk about limits and boundaries if they come up. Don’t argue over the limits that she insists on at this stage. If she is willing to accept less than you need or had hoped for, there should be time for negotiation later.
Her boundaries may well change as time progresses and as she learns more and becomes more comfortable with your dressing.
For now, try to agree to any wishes she may express, whatever they may be. She might not express the desire to see you dressed or she may agree to your dressing but doesn’t want you to leave the house when dressed. She may only accept you dressing in certain items of clothing but not others – at least you have a place to start.
Thank her for any acceptance she shows you. Tell her how much you love her and how relieved you are that you no longer have to hide your true self.
Full acceptance will rarely come immediately, but telling your partner about your crossdressing in a loving and sensitive way is the first step toward that goal.
How will she react?
If I could answer that I’d be rich.
No two women are the same, but common reactions are shock and confusion when she first finds out. Depending on how long you have kept your dressing hidden from her, she may feel some anger that you did not tell her before, possibly even hurt that you did not trust her enough to confide in her. Women appreciate absolute honesty, so it’s often the hiding or lying that is more painful for her to cope with than the knowledge that her partner is a crossdresser.
There is little you can do about this, other than apologise sincerely and attempt to explain why you did not tell her before. It might make it easier if you can help her to understand that you did not tell her because you were afraid of losing her, and that you believed your desire to dress would go away.
Also, explain that this has been a private part of yourself for most of your life and that you’ve kept it secret from everyone.
Some women will immediately want to know everything and will ask you a thousand and one questions; some may be so overwhelmed that they will be unable to sort out her thoughts or articulate what she is feeling. She may need some time to formulate a coherent response, so be prepared to be patient and allow her time to think. Do not press her for immediate acceptance.
Also, keep in mind most females probably have no real idea what it means to be a crossdresser – many will equate it with being gay or wanting to become a woman full-time.
If she does tell you that she understands and still loves you, tell her how much that means to you.
It’s important that you don’t overestimate her degree of acceptance based on her initial response. There may be occasions when a partner may give the impression that she is comfortable with your crossdressing when, in fact, she is not. She might be concerned about you and does not want you to feel rejected; maybe she has her own fears of rejection. Or it could be as simple as her feeling stunned or emotionally drained and is looking for an easy end to the conversation whilst avoiding an argument.
Some women may go into a sulk hoping that you will notice that something’s amiss and give her some attention.
Delayed reactions are very common.
Dealing with reactions
Whatever you do, don’t tell her and then go off in a sulk if she doesn’t respond the way you would like her to.
Until you are absolutely sure of her true feelings it will be impossible to move forward. Don’t show her pictures, and definitely don’t dress in front of her, until she tells you she is ready for that. Certainly don’t start buying new clothes, wigs, and makeup either.
This is a crucial point in your relationship and, if at all possible, it would probably be a good idea to put your dressing on hold while she comes to terms with it. A little patience will go a long way in avoiding the “backlash” that sometimes follows initial acceptance.
Keep talking to her and loving her. The thing she will need the most, however she takes it, is lots of attention and TLC. Keep giving her reassurances that you are still the same person she knows and loves. Let her know that your relationship will not be affected by your dressing and that you have no plans to leave her.
You should, however, be very clear about the fact that you cannot give this up; that It’s not a “hobby” and there’s no “cure”.
Some women may enter a state of denial about their partner’s crossdressing. They will normally spend the rest of their lives trying to wish it away, or even demand that it stop. They think that if they refuse to tolerate it, it will disappear.
Such attitudes are a great barrier to progress, and I really don’t want to advocate any kind of antagonistic behaviour but if this is her attitude then you need to be firm. There’s no sense in you being unhappy for the rest of your life, so don’t make any rash promises about giving up dressing – you know you won’t be able to keep them. And definitely don’t apologise for your crossdressing.
You don’t deserve to be made to feel ashamed – dressing in women’s clothes is as harmless as anything and you don’t need excuses or explanations for it.