Those who have been following my transition here have been exposed to the evolving nature of my marriage; I share these intimate details because loving a person in transition comes with more peaks and pitfalls than most can really predict. This is the story of what I hope is the last major pitfall in my marriage.
About six months ago my wife and I agreed to have an open (Polyamorous) marriage. In the beginning this was absolutely self serving. I had been struggling with addressing a sexuality that had been closeted within the confines of a heterosexual existence; sexuality that I felt was stolen from me, sexuality that I needed to connect with. I was terrified, at that time, what this would mean to my wife. Little did I know that since my Gender Reassignment she too had become lost within her own sexuality. Since my wife vehemently identifies as a heterosexual, it was as if I’d stolen her identity in order to find mine. This was absolutely not fair to her. By the time I’d broached this subject she was desiring to once again feel the touch of a man; something I could no longer offer. So, to my surprise, she was completely accepting of becoming Poly when I eventually admitted that was what I was needing.
With her permission, I almost immediately began seeking my “other.” In the Poly world, an “other” is someone who you can care deeply for, have dates, and intimate relations with. But that individual (or individuals) also know that you are already paired with a primary partner, and there is no expectation of permanent commitment. To date this quest to find that other has been completely unfulfilling for me.
…as things slowly did begin to turn in her favor, I began silently seething with jealousy.
Sure I found a handful of men who were strictly interested in sex, but that’s outside of my mental capacity. I have very Demisexual leanings, and thus require to have a deeper connection with an individual before I am willing to couple sexually. My quest to find this person is significantly hindered by the simple fact that I am Transgender. This does not, and did not surprise me.
I repeatedly found women who were swiping right on my profile, and I resisted much temptation to engage them. My logic being; my wife is a woman, and I don’t want her to feel like I am seeking something from someone who is just as capable to address this woman’s need for pleasure as she is. Only through later dialog with my wife did it occur to me that because she doesn’t have the same voracity for women that lesbian and bisexual women have, this meant that she was still unable to fulfill a role that I thought she could. So I began responding to women who had shown interest in me.
Over the course of this openness, my wife held back. She joined some Poly groups, but nothing was really clicking. This was actually a relief for me. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I had hoped that this was the way it was going to remain. But as things slowly did begin to turn in her favor, I began silently seething with jealousy. As a completely stunning cisgender woman, I knew she would soon find someone to couple with. Moreover, as a ciswoman, she would have no trouble finding partners who would gladly take her on dates; something that was what I wanted more than anything for myself. This curned more feelings of anger, and jealousy; she would have what she needed, but I would be left behind still pining to satiate my own unfulfilled needs.
…I screamed at her time and again that she “Didn’t love me.”
It wasn’t long before I began drinking heavily again. I returned to the belligerent hulk that she knew long before I transitioned. The one who knew that scary changes were afoot; one who couldn’t reconcile those changes against — what they felt — was an inevitability of losing the most precious human she ever knew to a man that her wife couldn’t possibly know as intimately.
In that green-eyed Hyde character I screamed at her time and again that she “Didn’t love me.” I caused property damage by punching doors and walls; even punching a hole through our bedroom wall. This tendency was a latent and learned trait I carried on from witnessing my own father’s behaviour more than 35 years ago. In retrospect, this makes me wonder what feelings he was unable to process which lead to such violence.
I fought, screamed, raged, and ideated. Ultimately, I pushed this beautiful person to the point where she could not be pushed anymore.
In one episode I nearly destroyed her cell phone, in another I turned the rage inward; seeking to end my own life I hung myself — she cut me down. I subsequently followed that attempt with an almost immediate attempt to electrocute myself. Days afterward, I tried again by filling the whole bathtub with water and submerging a live wire into the tub. I was shocked, for sure, but I was more shocked that I did not die.
I fought, screamed, raged, and ideated. Ultimately, I pushed this beautiful person to the point where she could not be pushed anymore. I’ve subsequently learned that people I would have prefered counsel me, chose to offer her a quick means of off-loading our home to expedite her exit from my life. While I understand their protective nature and desire to free her from an emotionally abusive spouse; I’m baffled how someone I deemed so caring jumped to help my wife escape this shitshow, instead of taking to time to understand why it was happening in the first place. My side of the story might not be the one with merit, but it’s still relative to understanding why I was becoming so unhinged.
My love for her is so deep that if she isn’t with me, I didn’t see the point in living at all.
There is no denying that I have a bad relationship with alcohol. I lean on it a lot in social situations because I’ve always felt anxious around strangers, and large crowds. This is exactly why it’s typically considered a social lubricant. But oddly enough, even when I have attended AA meetings, I find the very social nature and repeated talk of drinking to be a trigger to drink. I also have spoken to my counselor regarding the control alcohol had on me. It’s not like I hadn’t been trying to reign it in; and I’m still a long way from the 10 liters of wine per week that I had been consuming prior to my transition.
Outside of that, I was wrought with the notion that this woman I love would find an “other,” and it wouldn’t be long before I would become her “other,” or perhaps nothing at all. That fear was the burning napalm to my drinking problem, and my desperate attempts to end my existence only manifested when drunk; that needed to change.
The prevailing source of all my fears is my perception of monogamy. The concept itself might seem fleshed out in the “nuclear families” that are widely regarded in conservative circles, but monogamy is often flawed.
Rest assured, there is nothing deeper to this story than the thought that I absolutely want my wife in my world for the rest of my life. Now that we’re here — in a situation that my transition helped create — I am terrified that I will lose her. The supreme and disgusting irony of this drunken rage is that this was what was actually going to lead to this loss. My attempts to end my life were a desperate attempt to alleviate myself of the pain that she would eventually leave me. My love for her is so deep that if she isn’t with me, I didn’t see the point in living at all.
It is only now that, as we stand on the precipice of what would be the end of a fourteen year marriage, that I have taken steps to understand exactly what it means to be in a Polyamorous marriage. This is something I thought I understood but clearly knew nothing about; or it’s deeper intra/extra personal concepts.
The prevailing source of all my fears is my perception of monogamy. The concept itself might seem fleshed out in the “nuclear families” that are widely regarded in conservative circles, but monogamy is often flawed. It relies on a belief that we are capable of being all things to one specific person. That’s a tremendous amount of pressure to put on anyone, so why do we offload that burden on those we love the most?
Spouses often have their own proclivities that they work through in secret and never dare share with their significant other because they feel they will be rejected for those proclivities.
As evidence that the concept of monogamy is flawed, just look to divorce statistics. How many people cheat on their spouses, and why did that happen in the first place? Pairing often begins in an innocent time in our lives when we do this thing, not necessarily because it feels right, but because it’s what society has conditioned us to do. The act of marriage rarely considers the two involved as individuals who have very private and personalized desires; desires which may or may not be compatible with those of their spouse. Marrying young can have more negative repercussions because (such as my case), one spouse could be hiding deeply in a closet built of shame; a closet which is often reinforced by the same religions that push monogamy as the only means of survival.
Spouses often have their own proclivities that they work through in secret and never dare share with their significant other because they feel they will be rejected for those proclivities. This can lead to hate, anger, resentment, and climatically, a quest for fulfillment outside of that marriage. Ultimately this creates a tissue of lies by which many a marriage is destined to end.
While it is wrong to expect one’s spouse to be everything they need in a partner, it’s also wrong to hold back our truths, fantasies, and desires from that person. It becomes essential then, that for the preservation of the marriage, an open dialog needs to be had about the individual needs of each person. Some bridges can be crossed between the couple; others cannot. This is the point where it may become necessary to have a serious discussion about Polyamory.
I was too wrapped up in this concept as necessary for my own evolution that when my wife began pursuing it (even though I gave her permission to do so), I felt it constituted a betrayal. I hadn’t shaken the concept of monogamy, even though we’d set out on a non-monogamous path. This was my failing.
Of course I have had many failings along this course. Not doing the research is one of them, but also not holding faith in my wife’s declaration that she will always return home to me. The latter of which was reinforced by marital problems that took place a decade before; problems that hadn’t been repeated since, but yet still haunted my psyche.
I decided to try and up-right this listing ship.
Allowing my alcoholism to be used as a crutch to prevent more intimate conversations regarding what we both needed from each other and our “others” was probably my largest failing. Moreover, (my) complaints of missing intimacy were met with a recurring statement that she didn’t want to be intimate with someone who was drunk. This became a cyclical problem. I would accuse her of withholding intimacy, and when nothing changed after a (usually brief) period of sobriety, I would go back to drinking in an attempt to distract from the intimacy I desperately needed from the woman I love. Like a dog chasing its own tail, I was never going to catch this thing that I craved so much without changing the behaviours that caused the problem in the first place.
It wasn’t until just days ago that I decided to try and up-right this listing ship. I downloaded two great books on Polyamory, “Opening Up” by Tristan Taormino, and “The Ethical Slut” by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton. I would listen to these audiobooks as I made half-day long drives for work. What I learned about being Poly blew me away.
…I was finally calm.
I wasn’t even through all of them when I had to call my wife from the road. “I get it now. I’m not jealous anymore, and I want you to be able to experience everything you need.” In Polyamory this is best described by the word “Compersion.” Loosely defined, this is the happiness or pleasure one derives from knowing that their significant other is having their needs met; compersion is the antithesis of jealousy. In counseling I had heard her speak of the happiness she would have when I found an “other” who could meet my needs. Now that I understood this, what right would I have to deny her the very thing she desires for me?
Like a lightning bolt my jealousy dissolved, I was finally calm. I told her I wanted to have a frank conversation when I got home about how we could go about achieving our own compersion. I told her, we also need to strip away barriers about the desires that we’d never dared to admit to one another prior to embarking on this journey. This would be an honest conversation that we should have had more than a decade ago. It’s actually a conversation that anyone contemplating marriage should have before they even step up to the altar.
When I returned home, and we had this conversation; she sat there in front of me grinning from ear-to-ear like a kid on Christmas morning. It was a gift we gave each other, and one we will continue to give one another as we meet others who will respectfully fill the emotional gaps that we are unable to fill for each other.
I am riddled with remorse for all the hurt I’ve brought to my wife in a pursuit that even I didn’t understand when I chose it. I want nothing more than to experience compersion by seeing her have happy and loving relationships with those who can give her what I can’t.
For me to best demonstrate my love for her, I had no choice but to stop trying to be more than I am. I had to give her freedom to go find herself. I had to let go. No hang-ups, No Jealousy, No Rage, or Anger.
A love constrained, is simply not love.
Kira Wertz (she/her) is a married Transgender woman who openly identifies as pansexual. She is a top writer in LGBTQ for Medium, Editor of The Transition Transmission, and Professional Truck Driver. Kira is a strong advocate for Transgender rights, especially the rights of Transgender youth; she is a public speaker and panelist, and can often be found helping her local Transgender community. You can connect with Kira on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.