I was recently asked by a CD how he should tell his wife on a mailing list I’m on, & since this is definitely one my most “Frequently Asked Questions” I thought I’d post the ’10 Guidelines For Telling Your Wife or Girlfriend” here. It always makes me so happy to know a CD wants to tell his wife. I know the urge is a little bit selfish on the part of the CDer, but it’s also a great sign of the respect & love he has for his wife.
After that, there is no simple answer. There is no guarantee she’ll deal well with the new info, or accept you. That said, I still think it’s worth it.
The things I’ve learned in doing the research are that:
1) The sooner a man tells his wife the better. Before marriage is best, but still – the sooner the better.
2) Know what your CDing means to you, so you can talk to her about it in some intelligent, sensitive way. If after you tell her, every answer afterward is “I don’t know” she’ll freak out. Be prepared for the ‘Are you gay?’ and ‘Do you want to be a woman?’ questions, & don’t get upset when she asks them.
3) Does she know gay & lesbian people? Any close friends or family members? Does she have any firsthand experience of discrimination or feeling ‘different’? How does she feel about being a woman, herself (ie is she a feminist, traditionally feminine, tomboyish, etc?) But keep in mind her general open-mindedness or political liberalness might go right out the window on this issue.
4) I’d recommend not hitting her with all of it at once – that is, tell her a story about yourself as a kid, putting on your mom’s nylons or whatever your first childhood experience was. Make sure you bring this up in a quiet time between you, conversationally, & you give her time to tell some childhood stories of her own. (In general, the ‘announcement’ method isn’t very good, it has to be more of a conversation, as unconfrontational as it can be.) Or, you can say you’ve been thinking about doing some female character for Halloween (please not a hooker or slut! Wonder Woman, an Amazon, some cool woman or heroine is usually better!) & see how she reacts. If she wants to play Charlie Chaplin to your Louise Brooks… you know she can ‘play’.
That doesn’t mean you can stop there. She needs to know the whole of it. I’m just saying it might be a good conversation starter. Eventually you will have to explain why you didn’t tell her sooner, apologize for not having done so, and be clear that you understand you screwed up.
5) This one’s personal: letting your fear & vulnerability about how scared you are of her acceptance worked like a charm in our case! All women differ, though – sometimes a woman might freak out if you come off as too feminine, or ‘soft’ – it depends on her. If she thinks it’s great you can cry at sad movies, then she might appreciate how much it means to you/hard hard it is for you to tell her. Not in a ‘woe is me’ kind of way – but just so she knows you’re sharing something about yourself that you wouldn’t trust most people to know.
6) After you tell her, don’t bring it up again until SHE does. In the meantime, read some books about women (not glamor magazines, biographies of famous women, or gender theory, or whatever. I just read “Am I A Woman?” by Cynthia Eller & recommend that.)
7) If she is accepting, make sure it’s fun for her and not all about you! Let her take the lead in figuring out how it can be. That is, if you suggest she be Charlie Chaplin for Halloween, she’ll just feel bad – but if she decides to, it might be totally empowering for her! Alternately, I’ve now heard of three happy younger couples who all went, for their first Halloween together, as “starlets.” You both get to glam up & feel sexy –
8) If she’s freaked out by it, drop the subject & wait wait wait to bring it up again. Don’t wait forever, but do give her time to sort out her own emotions about it. Be sensitive – if she seems like she needs to talk, ask her if she wants to. But don’t start the conversation with “So have you made up your mind about my crossdressing?” but more with something like “Do you have any questions?” Don’t assume crossdressing is what she wants to talk about. She may be wanting to discuss your little problem with leaving your dirty clothes outside the hamper.
9) Know your wife, make sure you keep up all the other romantic things you do for/with her. Bring her flowers, buy her gifts, & be less inhibited about telling her how much she means to you. Don’t lay it on too thick – just tell her how you feel about her, honestly. You CDs are all romantics, imho, so let it out!! Re-emphasize your non-CD life together, even if she is totally accepting! (as I like to put it, I don’t mind having a girlfriend, too, but I still always want my husband!)
10) Listen until your ears bleed. You have “known” a CD all your life – but this is probably the first time she’s met one! So it will take her time to get the idea wrapped around her head. In fact, when you first tell her, what you’re telling her may not even ‘register’ at some level. She won’t have any idea in the beginning that this is a permanent thing. Expect phases of anger, sadness, fury,disappointment. Try to remember that if you, as a CD, sometimes wish you weren’t a CD, she’ll have similar feelings.
P.S. If the husband needs to stay in the closet, so that she can’t tell anyone either, make sure she knows there are other wives of CDs who she can get to know & let off some steam with.