I teach dance at night and on Saturday afternoons during the school year. My wife works multiple jobs and our three girls are always going in three different directions on any given day. Some days all I get is a half an hour to spend with my wife while she gets ready for work and I get ready for bed. The time we spend together as a family is so very important. As the girls get older and move out, that time will dwindle. Just as important, is the alone time my wife and I spend with one another. Reconnecting after a workweek of insanity is crucial to our relationship.
For this reason, I look forward to our weekends together, especially this time of year when my schedule lightens and I have Saturdays off. Whether we make plans to see a movie, go shopping, spend the day at the beach or go out at night to a club for some live music and dancing, I love the time spent with my other half, a night at home with a good movie, a bottle of wine, some snuggling on the couch or family game night. This time spent together talking, laughing, and sharing, is likely to have an effect on the success of our marriage. Sharing experiences and making memories are important in any relationship. However just when I think it’s safe to relax and unwind, the other woman in my marriage rears her ugly head, dysphoria.
“I JUST WANT DYSPHORIA TO GO AWAY, BUT I AM LEFT FEELING HELPLESS”
She is malicious, spiteful, and unpleasant to deal with. She lies and deceives my wife, making her feel like less of a woman. She intrudes into our lives and interrupts our plans. She destroys holidays, parties, and get-togethers. She morphs the image my wife sees starring back at her in the mirror. Her cruel, hurtful ways make my wife sad and feeling depressed which as a result, brings her to tears. I am full of rage and sadness for my wife all at the same time. The hours she steals from my family and I we can never replace. I just want dysphoria to go away, but I am left feeling helpless. Watching the love of my life suffer is unbearable. We have lived with her for a long time, but didn’t know her name. What I do know is that she is an albatross I cannot seem to shake. She has moved into our house and made herself comfortable. It seems I need to find a way to live with her.
I know that there is nothing I can do to make my wife’s dysphoria go away. I do however try to help her get through each episode with patience, love, and gentleness. This did not happen over night. It was something I had to learn to do. The more I learned about dysphoria, the more I understood it and its effects on my wife. So here are some things I do as her wife and partner to help her cope with dysphoria. They all don’t work all the time, but I use them as a springboard from which to jump from.
1- I ask her if there is anything I can do to help her. Sometimes by me helping her with her hair, it gives her a chance to sit, relax and breath. Other times I help with outfit choices. Learning which colors complement others takes time.
2- When she declines my help, I give her some space. I leave the room and check back in with her in ten to fifteen minutes. I think it gives her time to realign her thoughts.
3- I remind her that what she is seeing is false. She does not look like a man or (insert any other negative comment here.) It is the dysphoria playing tricks her mind.
4- I complement her on what looks good that day. Sometimes it’s her outfit choice. Other days it could be that her make-up or hair that looks really great.
5- Sometimes I just sit and listen to her. We all need to vent every now and then. People suffering with dysphoria may need to do so more than others.
6- Other times I just hold her. A simple hug can speak a thousand words. When she doesn’t feel strong enough to keep going, I remind her that together we can get through anything.
7- Positive reinforcement. After spending a few decades as the opposite gender it takes time to learn how the other gender does things. So to hear that you are on the right track is very important. Saying you look beautiful today or you look handsome today also goes a long way.
8- Suggesting that she does something girly often makes her feel more like a woman. I ask my wife to make me lunch or get me a drink. She enjoys the feeling of being in charge of the kitchen and taking care of me (Or the opposite for a trans man).
9- Make some kind distraction. Get their mind off of the things that they are harping on. Leave the room where the big mirror is and go somewhere else. Talk about a new book you are reading or a movie you want to see.
10- Always tell them every day that you love them and as hard as it can be some days, that you are with them on this journey to live an authentic life.