Is It Because of the Transition or Is It Abusive?
By U. A. Nigro
Since beginning this journey with my wife, I have added a few things to that list. An activist, an LGBTQ+ educator, a writer, a peer counselor, and a community organizer. I have taken to this new work like a duck to water, and I enjoy every minute of the craziness. I have also been fortunate enough to have met some of the most amazing people along the way and have become a part of their journey. Having the capacity to help other people navigate their way through transition has been astounding, and the rewards have been tremendous. This was never part of my life’s plan, but I am extremely glad to be here.
“THERE WAS A PART OF MY BRAIN THAT KNEW I WAS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP, BUT MY STUBBORNNESS KEPT ME THERE FOR OVER TEN YEARS.”
Being human as we are, we all search to find that one special connection. A person who is well suited to our personality to form a romantic relationship with. It is in our nature to want to be loved and to love someone else. When I had met my wife 20 something years ago, we were just kids, but she knew from then that one day we would marry. She knew right away that I was the person for her. I wish I had shared her certainty then; however, we went our separate ways. I married a year and a half later and had my first child. There was a part of my brain that knew I was in an abusive relationship, but my stubbornness kept me there for over ten years. Friends and family alike tried to tell me that this was not the right man for me. That made me work harder to prove them wrong and not look like the failure that I felt like inside. Abuse has a way of breaking you down. I was lucky enough to find a support group for battered women, and they built me back up and gave me my strength back.
I was so mentally abused and beaten down that I didn’t even realize how low I had sunk into depression. He was an alcoholic with trust issues, so I was not allowed to work outside of the home. My job was taking care of him, the house, and the kids. With the exception of when he was on a scheduled furlough, then I could get a job close to home. This way he could easily check up on me. You begin to believe all of the horrible things that your partner says to you, and you sink deeper. “You’re a slob, you are useless, you’re a liar and a cheat, you make me angry, this is all your fault, you put me in a bad mood, you don’t know how to do anything right, your stupid!” and the list goes on. The real tragedy is that I started to believe all the awful things he said to me, and I thought for sure that this was all my fault. With three kids age ten and under I made a safety plan with the help of my support group and I escaped my abusive relationship.
“IF YOU ARE A LOVING AND SUPPORTIVE MEMBER IN YOUR PARTNER’S TRANSITION THEN YOU ARE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT.”
The time I spent in that support group was so empowering. I learned so much from the counselors and women alike, I will forever be indebted to them all. To finally be validated, and have someone tell me that I am not imagining things was as if I were given new life. One of the first materials given to me was the “power and control wheel.” Which can be accessed at www.ncdsv.org (The National Center of Domestic and Sexual Violence.) If you wonder if someone you know is being abusive, I urge you to take a look at it. I have seen this kind of abuse in the transgender community as well. However, I have heard the abused partner all too often blame it on the transition instead of the person transitioning. Yes there will be bumps in the road of transition, but their anger and rage are not your fault! If you are a loving and supportive member in your partner’s transition then you are doing everything right.
Transitioning is not easy on a transgender person or the family who loves them. It is an enormous undertaking which requires compassion and understanding. There is no real “how to” guide for transition, for the simple fact that each and every person is unique. However, there is never a valid reason to be abusive. Mistreating another person is wrong. We deserve the same love and respect we show to others. Finding your true and authentic identity can be a self-absorbing time in someone’s life, but it should not make them lash out at their partner. Remember communication is one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship and everyone deserves to know what a healthy relationship feels like. I was fortunate to have reconnected with my wife after years of being apart, and I am glad to say that our relationship is something close to phenomenal.