How to make the most of my trial separation?
April 16, 2017 10:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm transitioning as a trans woman. My fiancee is rather dependent on me, and I've never been a single woman. We've agreed to a trial separation this summer vacation (we go to the same college and share an apartment). We agreed I can date others during this period. How can I make the most of this, and hopefully know more confidently if she's the one, or if we should break up?

Dramatis personae: Me, a 28 year old trans woman. I've only been in two relationships, both with women. My fiancee, a 26 year old cis woman. We've been together six years and engaged for about a year with no wedding planned at all, and we cohabitate near our university.

So long story short, I figured out I was "really trans" relatively recently after having discomfort with maleness my whole life, and I'm now at five months HRT. I love how I look in the mirror, I feel happier, and I emotionally relate to others in a way that's brand new to me. For the first time in my adult life, I feel a desire to socialize and be a person.

I went into transition, and thought my fiancee would not put up with it. She was at first very concerned, and tried to talk me out of transitioning and HRT. She came around, and I think it helps that she's bi and very pro-trans rights. I was deeply afraid my fiancee wouldn't like my changing body, but she likes my breasts and new curves.

However, I was surprised to find myself wondering if I've outgrown our relationship. I have strong feelings for my fiancee, but I worry they might be platonic. Our dates had become really repetitive (walks around the nearby malls, mostly), her sex drive waned to the point I still tend to want it more than her on spironolactone, and she's become rather emotionally dependent. I was very emotionally numb pre-transition, and I think I became her crutch, as I could listen to her feelings and just offer a calm, rational response. Now, I care about her, but it hurts and it's frustrating to hear her anxieties, and know I can't do much to help her. I always loved making her happy, and I think that was what lead me to propose to her without thinking it through (she really wanted a proposal, and I saw no reason to break up at the time). At its worst, I need to hold her until she cries herself to sleep because of a hypochondriac episode (she tends to think her throat will close up apropos of nothing). She's also gained a lot of weight, which she blames for her poor sex drive and her GERD which gives her throat sensations that trigger her hypochondria.

She used to have better coping skills, and a more active sex drive, and want more variety in life. And I worry I'm a crutch that enables her being this way.

And in my life, I realize I don't understand myself much as a woman or as an individual, and that sometimes I feel very much like a guy with my fiancee, perhaps just out of familiarity from pre-transition. And I also feel A LOT like a guy with her sexually, since she strongly prefers to only have missionary, penis-in-vagina sex with me on top. To me, this is a bit uncomfortable, and I'm worried about my future abilities to get erections, or if I'll even want to do penetration or keep my dick at all, and if she'd be willing to experiment to find something we like after that. Further, I've started to realize I'm bi to some degree (like, I notice cute guys when I didn't before and male attention makes me giddy in a new way). And I feel really jealous when trans friends online go on first dates, and I realize it's them going out with people who know them as their true genders.

So my fiancee and I have an agreement that we'll have a trial separation during the summer break. I'll be staying with my mother (fiancee has an internship near our apartment). I'd like to go on dates with men and women and figure out who I am and what I want in a relationship.

But I'm really sexually and socially inexperienced. I set up an OKCupid, although I dunno what to do with it, and I set it to filter out straight men (since I assume many of them would blindly message or fave an account without reading I'm trans in the description). And I guess I could try Tinder or that Coffee and Bagel app. And I think I'd rather have dates than hookups, although I'm not ruling sex out. I have no familiarity with gay or lesbian bars, and I barely know plain bar etiquette, like how to close a tab and so on.

So, what's a baby-trans to do? How can I safely experiment in my timeframe? Am I foolish to think I can better understand myself with short term flings? I'm in the central New Jersey area if that helps.

This is a sock puppet, so I'll try to clarify where I wrote this poorly. I have a lot of feelings leading me to this, so I ended up typing more than I meant to
posted by MuppetNavy to Human Relations (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I read your post, it doesn't matter to me that you're trans woman transitioning nor what your orientation is. What stands out for me is that you really don't seem to like your fiancee very much. I think you should encourage her to get medical and therapy help for her anxiety, whether you stay, go, separate or date around. It seems like the compassionate thing to do. It might make sense to just then take some time to see how you feel on your own. If you're really keen to start dating and so on, it suggests to me that you really moved on from your fiancee a long time ago. Perhaps you could look at how to use this separation to consciously uncouple, so that you each can move into the best situation going forward...even if you end up together again later or if you don't.
posted by shockpoppet at 11:22 PM on April 16, 2017 [25 favorites]

I also wonder, given what you've said here, why you and your fiancée are embarked on a trial separation instead of breaking up. It sounds like there are several decisive dealbreakers in this relationship, from your perspective and also like you don't enjoy much about the relationship -- are there other reasons for believing that, despite this, the relationship could be happy and fulfilling for both of you? Or is this another thing, like your proposal, where she wanted something -- a trial separation, not a breakup -- and you went along with it "to make her happy"?

If it's the latter, I think your first priority must be to decide what you want and to communicate that honestly to your fiancée. It's not fair if you are saying "trial separation" to her and are basically sure you will not want to marry her, ever, in your own head. It may feel kind, and like you are watching out for her happiness, but it really isn't -- it's just avoiding conflict now at the risk of a much worse and messier situation between you later down the line, when you start to date someone seriously or realise you just want to be single for a while and your fiancée is still taking the temperature of your relationship to see if the trial is over yet.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:35 PM on April 16, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think you'll be fine. You might want to set her up with some social activities if you and she are into that; she's likely to just sit around hoping you'll come back, and it sounds like you might not.
posted by amtho at 11:47 PM on April 16, 2017

I think you need to break up. I also think you need to not date for a while - definitely not date if there is any hint of "testing this person to see if this other person is The One." It's just an unhealthy dynamic and mindset. Comparing people to other people - rather than figuring out if This Person Here has the qualities you most like - is Don't go there.

Break up. Figure out who you are in relation to other people without the pressure of sex or a Relationship on it. At least for a while. How long has it been since you've been single as an adult? And I think you've never been in a place where you can be you, a woman who is not in a relationship, right? Do it.
posted by rtha at 11:48 PM on April 16, 2017 [17 favorites]

Although the specifics of your situation are different, this strongly reminds me of a This American Life episode where an engaged couple agrees to an open separation period. it sounds like a crack in the door, AKA your first step outside this longterm relationship, not a healing move.
posted by pepper bird at 4:30 AM on April 17, 2017

If you're interested, I think it's Act I of this ep: What I Did For Love
posted by pepper bird at 4:33 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really don't see anything here that indicates you want to stay with your fiancee. What's she going to do while you're out exploring your sexuality and potential dates? Sit around hoping you'll come back to her? It seems you are just with her out of habit by this stage. You want to grow and explore this exciting time in your life, and from the way you're writing about her its clear you think of her as a hindrance to this process rather than as a partner with whom you can journey together.

You say you worry she's using you as a crutch- it seems to me you're using HER as a crutch, to have something familiar and comfortable as a back-up plan to make you feel safer while you're out exploring being a woman in the world. That's understandable, but it's not really fair on her. I'd let her go for both of your sake's.

Once you're single I wouldn't chuck yourself in to dating initially. Be by yourself and really with yourself for a bit. Figure out who you are without that being dependent on a relationship with someone else.
posted by mymbleth at 4:49 AM on April 17, 2017 [23 favorites]

It's not fair to your fiance to be kept on a tether while you explore your options using her as a safety net. End this relationship so that you face whatever comes next honestly and fully, and so she can start her next chapter too.

I've never been a single woman

It's time to become one. Figuring out who to date is important, but this is the time to figure out who to be.
posted by headnsouth at 4:54 AM on April 17, 2017 [20 favorites]

Another person adding to the chorus of just break up. This is already not the right relationship for both of you. It's especially not the right one now that you're transitioning and exploring who you are as a woman. If you had a long, happy, healthy, fulfilling marriage and possibly kids, I'd recommend trying to stay in your marriage while you transition, but that's not the case. You have a somewhat dysfunctional relationship: poor sexual connection, unhealthy dependence/codependence patterns, and you feeling locked into some masculine gender roles despite your fiancé's general support of your transition.

Transition is an important part of your life and requires your full attention. Don't try and drag this relationship along behind you as you go through it. Allow yourself to freely complete your transition to womanhood and allow your fiancé to find her right match as well. Both of you could benefit greatly from being single women after spending almost all of your adulthood so far as a couple.
posted by quince at 6:25 AM on April 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

It really sounds like she is your crutch, too.

"...know them as their true genders..."

Please break up because that sentiment is the knife in the heart of any trust or intimacy that exists in the relationship. You don't feel she knows you after 6 years. Be kind, but do break up.
posted by jbenben at 7:31 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Looks like there's a big consensus I should break up.

To me, I'm afraid to do it because I consider her and her family great friends, and would hate to lose them, and I don't want to hurt her. But I do know I want to be with someone who would go running and on hikes with me, who would be more eager to help me figure myself out sexually, and all that. Other trans people have mentioned they're still good friends with their ex-spouses, or have a sort of open-relationship or poly thing working with their spouse as a platonic partner, but I'm worried she doesn't have the emotional maturity for that.

When a male friend of a friend invited me to his housewarming party, I told my fiancee about it. I was so excited to be included in something, and frankly a little mushy over male attention even if it almost certainly wasn't flirting. She heard the giddiness in my voice, and said in a soft, angry voice, "I'm gonna hurt that boy." I don't know what to do with that, or where to go from there.

Maybe I should be single for a while. This is all very confusing, and the way our relationship worked, I don't really have many friends. She had this weird fear that if she included me in parties with her theater friends and so on, that I'd feel out of place as a person with mild Asperger's and in the comp sci field rather than theater, and would often get anxious alone, so I kind of just got used to staying at the apartment with her to work or surf the internet.

A complicating factor is that I'm one semester away from my bachelor's degree in comp sci. I lost a lot of years of my life to depression that was probably exacerbated by dysphoria, so I'm 28 and don't have a real job. And to pay for our apartment, my fiancee's parents and my mom help with the rent. That's part of why I went for "trial" separation, aside from wanting to not 100% break it off when I don't think our relationship is toxic, just stagnant and mediocre.
posted by MuppetNavy at 8:31 AM on April 17, 2017

Stagnant and mediocre is absolutely not a happy relationship to be in. Being tethered to someone because of rent is not the foundation of a loving supportive relationship. I'm adding to the consensus of break up and figure out who you are and how to be a whole person rather than holding both of you back.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 8:45 AM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Other trans people have mentioned they're still good friends with their ex-spouses, or have a sort of open-relationship or poly thing working with their spouse as a platonic partner, but I'm worried she doesn't have the emotional maturity for that.

This sounds really condescending. Not wanting your monogamous, romantic/sexual relationship to shift to an open or platonic one isn't a matter of emotional maturity.

The things you're describing in your follow-up seem to be very focused on you - you don't want to lose the home your fiancee's parents are subsidizing, you don't have many friends, you don't want to lose her family, you don't like your fiancee's response to you receiving male attention, you want her to be your platonic 'figuring yourself out' partner ... I don't know how to say this gently, but it sounds to me like acting really selfishly towards your fiancee.

Is this the kind of woman you want to be? I think you're going to look back on this time with a lot more satisfaction and pride if you stop using this woman as a safety net. Breaking up for real seems like the best thing for both of you.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:47 AM on April 17, 2017 [37 favorites]

I guess that's fair. I'm mostly afraid of hurting her, and she acts like she'd be hopeless without me.
posted by MuppetNavy at 9:19 AM on April 17, 2017

Maybe the answer is that even though my fiancee acted like it is, a trial separation isn't really more kind. Maybe, unless she shows a real commitment to change, I should just break up 100% once the semester is over (she has finals and poor coping skills).
posted by MuppetNavy at 9:29 AM on April 17, 2017

I can't help but put myself in her shoes as I read this, and it reads as cruel. You've called her emotionally immature, she has poor coping skills, she's rather dependent on you, etc. - but by your own admission, you have your own social flaws (you don't have many friends because she doesn't invite you to her friends' parties? How is that her fault?). You're stringing her along as you come home giddy and mushy about attention from some guy. You're so excited about all kinds of fun but I don't see an iota of empathy for her and the ways that can be painful in a previously monogamous relationship anywhere in there. You proposed but you don't seem to look forward to a life together at all.

Please break up with her - kindly. And maybe accept some responsibility in this too - your outward identity and relationships are changing, you're outgrowing this relationship, you want to experiment, it sounds like this is all fantastic for you (and you seem happier so that's pretty awesome, no sarcasm intended). But she's not ending what you had because of her failures as a person, so don't spin it that way. It's really mean, tbh.

Also, in those ex-spouse stories or whatever - not everyone has that. Not everyone wants that. Please respect it if she wants a clean break - there is nothing immature about wanting space from someone you used to date, especially (but not only) if that someone hurts you. Go read breakup askmes or watch Celeste and Jesse Forever or something if you want stories about how staying friends doesn't always work out, even if no malice is intended. Your relationship is going to change and you don't get to dictate the terms of that alone.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:49 AM on April 17, 2017 [18 favorites]

I talked to her about this thread, and she's still really of the conviction that she wants a trial separation. No breakup. She wants time to focus on finding a therapist, reconnecting with old college friends.

I'm okay with losing her if I know she'll be happy and well for it. But she leans on me so much, it scares me to picture her without me. I get that's bad.
posted by MuppetNavy at 10:00 AM on April 17, 2017

I kind of didn't really think the future was a thing when she asked me to propose. I kind of assumed the future wasn't really a thing as a way to deal with the numbness, and fears about aging as a man.

It's come back as I transition, and maybe I'm just coming to terms with that I won't kill myself at 25 like I went through high school assuming. I'm 28 and still here.

I'm new to feelings, and wanting more​ than one person who is everything (sole friend, romantic partner, roommate, etc). And I think having that kind of isolated and intense relationship lead to this situation, where I feel like a live in therapist some days.

I love her because she's funny and cute, and when she was healthier, she liked to go with me to museums and so on. She even went on the occasional light hike. And she was interested in my work, and told me all kinds of interesting things about theater. And her sex drive was higher. And she found value in me when I gave up on myself. My one friend other than her, who introduced us, says I'm an asshole for considering a breakup, but I can't picture marrying her and never wondering what would being single feel like.

Lately, she gets so anxious. She'll cough and start crying because she thinks it's some kind​ of allergic reaction, and she'll be dead. And I think it's got her somewhat agoraphobic, since she doesn't like being outdoors too much since she could get hurt and theoretically medical help would take a while. And my hugging her and talking her down doesn't seem to help nearly as much as it used to. I feel so useless.
posted by MuppetNavy at 10:17 AM on April 17, 2017

I don't think I want polyamory myself. While I missed sex when we were down to every two or three months, I didn't want to love multiple people. I don't have the social skills or experience for it myself.

I guess I mostly just don't want to cut someone I loved and still love loose. But I feel I'm part of what helps her put off calling therapist and dealing with crippling anxieties.
posted by MuppetNavy at 10:20 AM on April 17, 2017

What does she have to change? She sounds incredibly supportive of you. I suggest whatever you do, you cultivate a kinder-less-superior type of perspective on this person who is emotionally and financially supporting you. I'm not sure viewing her as "immature" is the right view on someone who is giving you so much, whether you end up together or not...

No one has to be vilified or the "bad guy" for this to only be working for you on a platonic and practical level, but not on a romantic intimate level. I guess it would be less egregious if she and her family were not paying part of the living expenses, and I suggest you straighten out the finances so that her family is not in part financially supporting you.
posted by jbenben at 10:24 AM on April 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

Maybe, unless she shows a real commitment to change, I should just break up 100% once the semester is over

What change on her part would alter the fact that you want to go on dates with men and women and figure out who you are and what you want in a relationship? What change of hers would make you stop feeling giddy over male attention?

I would strongly urge you not to present this as a situation where she needs to change in order to keep you. Yes, it sounds like she has some things she needs to work on for her own well-being, but even if she did the work, that isn't going to change the things that you legitimately need - and these are things that aren't going to go away just because she no longer worries about her throat closing up. From what you've written, it sounds like in order for you to be truly happy in this relationship, she would have to bonsai herself into this platonic support figure while you go off having new dates and experiences. Nothing you've written suggests that what you want is to figure out this relationship and how to nurture/grow it as part of your own growth and transition.

Even with your latest follow-up, this limbo sounds damaging. It sounds like you're dangling this possibility in front of her that "if only she would fix herself" you'd be willing to stay with her ... but again, from what you've written that truly doesn't sound like what you want. There are a whole lot of "safety net" benefits to you for letting this relationship drag out, but as far as she goes, it sounds like you're just prolonging the pain.

You say you don't want to leave because she leans on you, but I hope you'll honestly reflect on how much of that is rationalization, and absolve yourself of this misguided responsibility. She got along before you and she'll get along once the two of you are apart - don't hurt her further by convincing both of you that she "needs" you to survive.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:28 AM on April 17, 2017 [20 favorites]

Get out. For both of your sakes. It won't be easy, and it will be painful. But it needs to happen.

If you come back together in the future, awesome. But now, you need to work on you. She needs to work on her. This is clearly not working for you as a couple.
posted by TWTBoy at 10:33 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you trying to make the case that her anxieties are the reason that she "needs" you? No. Anxiety needs help - often professional help - and you can help her get that, you can assist, but you alone cannot and will not solve her anxiety for her. I'm sure separation would/will be tough, and you can do what you can to set her up with a better support system out of love, but it's not a reason to keep a troubled relationship alive.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:44 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's her Medicaid card. I'm not sure I can schedule appointments for her.
posted by MuppetNavy at 11:13 AM on April 17, 2017

She doesn't need me. She just really really wants me to stay.
posted by MuppetNavy at 11:14 AM on April 17, 2017

I mean, I showed her the Medicaid website, which therapists take it, and so on, but ultimately, she needs to make the call, I think.
posted by MuppetNavy at 11:15 AM on April 17, 2017

Also, I agreed to this separation two weeks ago. I really just wanted to know how I could figure myself out quickly and safely while she got therapy and took some life steps she procrastinated.

I really think she can get the executive function and courage to go to therapy and so on. But with me, she turns to me and gives up so quickly. We know this is sick. We miss how we were when her anxiety was under control.

I talked to her again. She still agrees a separation sounds best.
posted by MuppetNavy at 11:20 AM on April 17, 2017

I talked to her about this thread, and she's still really of the conviction that she wants a trial separation. No breakup

It's not up to her. I am positive she knows this. She is not going to decide for you that you should leave her. You have every right and reason to break up, but not to make her buy in and share the responsibility for it -- that's the only silver lining of being dumped, is you get to be unhappy because somebody left you, not guilty because you left somebody.

(not that you have to feel guilty. but if you do, it just means you're sorry you hurt her, not that it's the wrong decision.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:21 AM on April 17, 2017 [12 favorites]

[Heya, MuppetNavy, this has gotten pretty live-bloggy in a way that isn't really in the Ask MetaFilter mold; I know this is a difficult situation but please throttle back the degree of responsiveness in here a lot and focus more on just the ask-your-question, let-folks-answer thing and keep updates to the more usual occasional-substantial-clarifications form.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd unfilter straight men from OKCupid, as you can clarify with them that you're trans (if it feels right). I'd look into what the general dating/social scene is by your new living arrangement.

Most importantly, I'd focus on finding and being comfortable with yourself, and let your (possibly former?) fiancee work on her own mental health issues. That isn't your problem to solve, and you can't make it be.
posted by RainyJay at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2017

You know that it's basically unheard of for a breakup to be bilateral? You are expecting her to say "sure honey, let's break it off! I'm going to be totally fine without you! Go be free!".... That is not going to happen. From someone who got basically passive-aggressioned into being the dumper because my gf didn't have the guts to call it a day herself... Don't do that. Breakups suck and she will be sad, but ultimately you don't have to be responsible for how she handles herself once it happens. That doesn't make you an asshole, it makes you realistic about the future of this dead relationship. Being an asshole would be stringing her along until you fall head over heels with some guy and swan off because the excitement overclouds your lingering affection for her.
posted by mymbleth at 12:24 PM on April 17, 2017 [12 favorites]

I really just wanted to know how I could figure myself out quickly and safely while she got therapy and took some life steps she procrastinated.

This isn't how figuring yourself out works. It's also not how therapy works.

Just how long is this temporary separation supposed to be? Because if it's less than like, 2 years, it's not enough time to do the things you want it to do. You and your fiancee both seem to have really big, life-altering things in front of you, and you will likely both be working on those things for many years if not the literal rest of your lives.

You're very excited and thrilled and hopeful and therefore you are tremendously impatient and you want your new better life right now. And you are also likely somewhat scared about the uncertainty that is in front of you, and want to hold on to something familiar and stable (so does your fiancee). Which is all very normal and understandable. But seriously, you are already broken up with your fiancee, just neither of you will admit it. And you are not being kind to her.

The fact that she has seen (? or knows about?) this thread and still wants a trial separation doesn't mean it's a good sound plan that she actually super-duper likes, it just means that she is afraid enough to let herself be treated very poorly in the hopes of avoiding more fear and pain.

Be kind to her. Let her go.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:38 PM on April 17, 2017 [13 favorites]

First of all congratulations on taking the huge step of living your truth. Between hormonal changes and having to socially navigate openly living as a woman it's a tough time to make final relationship decisions. I think the same with your partner - I seem to be in the minority but I think a trial separation is fine. You've been upfront about the reasons. It probably is the first step of a breakup but that may be okay for both of you. Just be kind as you explore: keep your dates out of your shared space and be kind to your partner.
posted by biggreenplant at 5:28 PM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

So okay, you've gotten a lot of people telling you to leave, and even trying to convince you that you secretly want to just leave, and I don't necessarily even think that's bad advice. But as someone who's been who you are (I'm trans, my partner and I are both mentally ill in ways that limit our day-to-day lives), I've also got some thoughts on things to try if you sincerely don't want to leave just yet. They're going to be hard, and they might not work, but they might be worth trying.

Thing one: You both need way, way, way more support than you're getting.

Being the cis partner of someone who's transitioning is a wild fucking ride. It's really hard. It's hard even if you're bi, and even if you're politically pro-trans. If your partner was closeted before she's going to have to deal with being out. She's going to be the target of a lot of microaggressions that people are too nice or too politically-correct to aim at you — good liberals who know they shouldn't ask us about our genitals or criticize our appearance to our face will totally say that shit to our partners — and she has to figure out how to deal with that. She's probably got a lot of implicit transphobia that she still has to work through, because all of us, trans or cis have a lot of implicit transphobia; and she might also have a bunch of guilt or shame about discovering that she still needs to work through that stuff. Any plans that you two made together have gotten thrown up in the air and might or might not still be valid when the dust settles.

Being the (relatively) mentally healthy partner of someone whose mental illness is worsening is also really fucking hard. People are giving you a hard time for worrying that you're a crutch. But honestly, it's a natural fear. I know I've worried that, and everyone else I know whose partner is seriously mentally ill has worried that. Convincing yourself that your partner's mental illness isn't your fault is hard. Learning to accept and support them whether or not they recover is hard. Figuring out when to push and when to step back is hard. Standing up for your own needs even when your partner is struggling, and doing it in a way that's compassionate but not martyr-y, is hard. Figuring out how to explain your life to friends is hard. All of these things are hard even when the mental illness in question is something relatively common like depression, but get even harder when it's something rarer or less widely-understood.

You're talking about ways that your partner needs to change. But look, the hard truth is that she might not. She might do everything right and still be mentally ill, because that's how mental illness works. She's honestly probably already doing the best she can, because most people are doing the best they can most of the time.

What you both need here, if you actually want the relationship to work, is not internal change but more outside support. Whether or not your partner is willing to seek help yet for her own mental illness, it will probably do her a lot of good to connect with a support group for cis partners of trans people. (YOU CAN'T FORCE HER TO DO THAT, and you shouldn't refuse to get support for yourself just because she refuses to get support for herself — but you can at least suggest it.) And in addition to whatever therapy you're getting around your transition, you need to talk to someone about the struggles you're having as the partner of a mentally ill person. If you're already discussing those struggles with your therapist, you probably need more support above and beyond that. There are support groups IRL and online for families of the mentally ill. Join one.

Thing two: It can take time to make sex good again after you transition. (Honestly, this is something that online trans groups can kind of hide sometimes — people post a ton about how blissful their sex life is now that they're on hormones, and don't always post about how confusing and scary it is to have your body's sexual responses change on you, or how unnerving it is to have your partner's sexual responses change.) It can take time to make sex good again after someone's had a bad spell with their mental health. Sometimes there's enough going on in your lives that good sex is just not going to happen for a while, but that doesn't mean it's over forever.

Thing three: It's really easy, when you're trans and closeted, to give up on making yourself happy and overfocus on making someone else happy. I think trans women who date women are especially prone to this. You can't imagine yourself as a woman who deserves love and support, so you find another woman and put her well-being on a pedestal and give her the love and support you're denying yourself.

It is not your job to make your partner happy. That's true if you stay together and it's true if you don't. Your job is to be kind and honest, and to be emotionally present if you do stay together. Sometimes that will help your partner be happy. Sometimes it will at least make her less sad than she would have been otherwise. Sometimes it just won't help at all. That doesn't make you a failure, and it doesn't make you a bad person. But if you're used to substituting someone else's happiness for your own, it can be really fucking painful for you to experience. One way or another, if you want to have healthy relationships someday, with this woman or anyone else, you really need to work on that.

So I don't know. If you want to break up, break up, and accept that that will make her sad and you can't fix it, and accept that you also need to work on a bunch of shit before you can have a happy relationship with anyone. If you actually sincerely want to stay together, you still need to accept that you need to work on a bunch of shit, and you need to seek out better support.

I agree with everyone else that you really, really, really shouldn't expect a trial separation where you date or fuck other people to help clarify anything for you or her, no matter how you go about it.

(And good luck, and congratulations, and let me know if you want to talk more.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:38 AM on April 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

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