I am not a typical guy. I never have been. But I am happy as a guy and I am sexually attracted to females. I have convinced myself that my partner would be an exception, but when I begin thinking about being sexually active after the transition, I’m not so sure. I am overall accepting but transromantic and pansexual don’t fit. Can you help me? — In Love with a FTM
As I’m sure you know, there are different kinds of love. There’s the love we feel for our children and family, the love we feel for our pets, the love we feel for friends, the love we feel for McDonalds egg sandwiches after a night of hard drinking, and then there’s romantic love. Romantic love is different than all the rest in that in includes the element of romance and sexual attraction. It’s physical, in addition to being emotional. Or, at the very least, it certainly builds on a strong foundation of physical intimacy.
If you’re with a partner you are no longer sexually attracted to, whether her appearance has changed so much over time or your personal taste has changed or she is no longer a she, your relationship will naturally change, and so does your love. It shifts from intimate/romantic love to something else — maybe something more closely resembling deep friendship or family love. Can you still build a life with someone you are no longer sexually attracted to? Of course. It happens all the time. You can even have a happy life with someone you aren’t attracted to. You can travel together and make a home and have pets and throw dinner parties. You can do a lot of the same things a typical couple can do, but with some big exceptions.
Your job is to decide whether those big exceptions are sacrifices worth making to maintain the companionship of your partner. Is her/his presence in your life worth giving up a sex life and biological children? And if not, is there a way you can keep her/him in your life without giving up those things? What if, as the type of love you share shifts, your relationship shifted to? What if, instead of being lovers — which you can’t very well be if you aren’t mutually attracted to one another — you became dear friends? Is that something you two are even capable of or does your shared history make such a relationship too painful? Maybe staying together in any sense only reminds you of what could have been. Or… maybe your connection is a comfort you both can hold on to and rely on as you weather the changes in your life.
These are questions only you can answer — you and your partner. But what I can say is that whatever you decide is acceptable. You’re under no obligation to stay with someone who so drastically changes the reality you’ve known if it’s a reality you’re unable to adapt to. But as someone who cares about this person, you do have a moral obligation to treat him/her with respect and to continue being honest about your feelings and your limitations.
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Christy January 2, 2013, 9:17 am
Are you/is your partner on board with a non-monogamous sex life? You can still build a life together, just sleep with other people.
Also, does he want to have genital reconstruction surgery (GRS)? Is he comfortable with sex that includes his vagina, if not?
Personally, as a gay woman, if I had a partner who was transitioning with GRS, I couldn’t do it. I’m gay in large part because I think penises are gross. Like, I want nothing to do with one of them. Sorry, dudes.
Anna January 2, 2013, 10:20 am
I feel like my life would be so much less complicated if I thought penises were gross.
TaraMonster January 2, 2013, 10:56 am
TaraMonster January 2, 2013, 10:59 am
Actually, I take that back. My life would be less complicated if I didn’t want to have sex all the time! TMI? Maybe I should be celibate for a while… ugh… I sense a forum post coming on.
Anna January 2, 2013, 11:11 am
No actually that made me feel better about wanting sex all the time. I thought I was severely abnormal.
Emma January 3, 2013, 2:32 pm
Trust me… that doesn’t make anything less complicated. :/
LW January 2, 2013, 5:54 pm
I would not be comfortable sleeping with someone else. Even if I have to give up everything (I won’t have to) it would still be worth it in the end. I love him/her to be honest my emotional state is not the best right now. The one and only thing I care about and love is her so she is keeping me together. I can think clearly and rationally. I will never leave. I don’t care how hard things get. She/he will be the same person that I fell so desperately in love with.
katie January 2, 2013, 6:59 pm
i just want to point out -“The one and only thing I care about and love is her so she is keeping me together” and “I can think clearly and rationally” are absolutely opposing statements. people who can think rationally and clearly do not think that one person is the only thing they care about and love.
i can tell you are going through a rough time, and i feel for you, but i really think that you should step back from this. at the very least let her transition without you and let yourself get a real, rational grasp on what is happening without the emotions of a relationship getting in the way. i dont think that what you are thinking about doing is impossible- but the way that you are talking, it will be.
LW January 2, 2013, 8:05 pm
You are right. The whole thing is stressful and no I am not emotionally stable but my beliefs will not change. I have lost many nights of sleep thinking about it. I am not very close to my family so this is the only thing I have to hold on to right now. I respect everyone’s opinion on here and time will tell. I can still give it everything I have and hope for the best. I guess I am hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
katie January 2, 2013, 9:36 pm
why wouldnt you beliefs change? beliefs change all the time! and, not to offend, but the belief that some is you everything forever and ever and you will love them until the end of time isnt really a good belief to have- its not healthy. and it almost never pans out, trust me.
your not allowing yourself any other option but to stay in this stressful terrible situation that is causing you to not sleep and write into advice columnists. there ARE other options- there are tons and tons of paths that this situation could lead you down- but the kicker is that you have to actively CHOOSE the path to go down. if you choose the path of the sexless relationship with no chance for children the way you intended or the “typical lifestyle” you wanted because you are going to martyr your life in the name of love and the only person you believe to have in your life, thats fine- but thats a choice. there are so many other choices that could end up with you BOTH much, much happier and healthier, and with the life you always wanted.
just remember, you have the power. you can change this, you can say no, you can decide this is not what you want. and you can then go out and find another woman who wants kids and the same “typical lifestyle” and maybe you will get that life. that happens all the time. people break up all the time- just go read the forums for 10 minutes. and everyone lives to tell the tale. its not the end of the world, its really not. and believing that it is the end of the world is a very bad place to be in. so above all, not matter what you choose, i would get out of that mindset. a breakup will not end your life. you can fall out of love with someone and live through it. you can live a good life without thinking that one person is your be-all-end-all to life. trust me, its a much better place to be.
bittergaymark January 3, 2013, 12:50 am
Staying with someone out of sheer desperation isn’t exactly a path to happiness…
Desiree January 2, 2013, 7:55 pm
katie is absolutely right, LW. “The one and only thing I care about and love is her so she is keeping me together.” That is not healthy no matter what the other circumstances of the relationship are. If that is how you feel right now, then you aren’t in a good place to be making life-long permanent decisions. Which is okay, because as other people have noted, you don’t have to 100% commit to any one decision right now. But your current emotional state does not sound sustainable, which I hope you realize soon.
spark January 2, 2013, 9:27 am
If you are asking these questions, I do not think this woman is the one for you. She wants to become a man, but you’re seeking a woman/wife/mother in your partner. Don’t give up too much–it’s hard to let go now, but I think one day you will regret giving up so much.
Fabelle January 2, 2013, 9:40 am
Unfortunately, I don’t see this working out unless some agreement to open the relationship is made. And even THAT would bring new challenges—on top of a relationship that’s already been shaken up.
No matter how open-minded & dedicated to your partner you are, it sounds like the compromise needed in order to make this work is just too much. Relationships aren’t really about “giving up anything” to make the other happy. You’re both in this together.
With that said, I’m bi & I don’t think I’d stay with my S/O if he transitioned. I’m attracted to women, yes, but I fell in love with my partner as a man. I also wouldn’t stay with my partner if—for whatever reason—the relationship became long distance. Love is a strong bond, but you need to be aware of what lifestyle changes your relationship can realistically handle.
Desiree January 2, 2013, 10:27 am
Totally agree with you on the long distance thing. In my fiance’s and my profession, it’s pretty common to spend a year or two training at a far-flung location, but I have told him that it is unlikely that I will accept any change that separates us for a year or more. I know others who have done it successfully, even after marriage and kids, but it’s not for me.
LW January 2, 2013, 5:58 pm
I see your point and I respect that. I know it wouldn’t be selfish for me to leave or ask her to change her mind but I can’t. I have lost a few very important people in my life but if I can help it I won’t lose anymore
Christy January 2, 2013, 10:26 pm
It would be selfish to ask him to change his mind. It’s not something you can just change your mind on.
And honestly, if you want to stay together, you should probably stop misgendering him.
Liquid Luck January 3, 2013, 12:13 pm
“And honestly, if you want to stay together, you should probably stop misgendering him.”
This. LW, you need to stop thinking of “her” as your “girlfriend” because, physical transition or not, your BOYFRIEND is a gay MAN. The fact that you refuse to refer to him as such leads me to believe that you really do not understand what he is going through and how much your relationship will actually change. Not to mention how hugely disrespectful it is (especially to him) to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of his feelings about his own gender.
JK January 2, 2013, 9:52 am
Variations on this letter always make me sad. Both for the person trapped in the wrong body, and for the partner having to come to terms with it. Since I admittedly haven´t got a clue about relationshipslike this, I´d like to focus on another point in your letter: “I would honestly give up anything I could think of just to make him happy. I’ve given up the idea of biological children (I have always wanted some), and a typical lifestyle.”
I´m afraid that giving up things you´ve always wanted will lead to resentment down the road. In an ideal world we can find the person that wants the same things we do, or both people in a relationship will compromise a little. When one person is having to do all the compromise is where resentment comes in.
All I can really think to recommend is therapy, both for you yourself LW, and maybe couples counseling (especially if you can find a therapist with experience in this type of situation).
It sounds like you have a long hard road in front of you, I hope everything goes as smoothly as possible, and that both you and your SO can find happiness, in whatever form it takes.
anonymous January 2, 2013, 10:29 am
Yes and no on this…couples can survive infertility, which is a case where one of the partners (both, actually!) have to give up on something they’ve wanted. Doesn’t make it easy, but it can happen. On the other hand, infertility is an externality rather than being self-imposed by one of the partners…making that particular choice much more difficult on the other partner. There are a ton of options available these days, what with sperm donation, surrogate mothers, etc.
JK January 2, 2013, 10:32 am
Yeah, but that´s what I said, when both partners have to give it´s different than if one partner is giving up on everything. In your example, it would be the couples that can´t have kids, where one of them wants to do IVF/adoption/whatever, while the other chooses to stay without kids (I ´m totally thinking of Charlotte and Trey from SaTC). I´m afraid I didn´tt really understand your example beyond that.
Riefer January 2, 2013, 10:43 am
It’s more comparable to one partner choosing to have a vasectomy/tubal ligation with the other’s knowledge, but without the other’s input. One person doing what they need to do to be happy, while the other is left to adjust. In the infertility case, neither person gets a say, and they’re left to deal with it together. In this situation, the partner is choosing transition over fertility, which is totally fair, but it gives the partner a level of control while the LW has no say in the matter. Not that he should get a say in this case, just that he and his partner aren’t “together” in dealing with the infertility issue.
Actually it seems similar to “this person doesn’t want kids and I do, should I marry them?”. The answer is usually “probably not”.
katie January 2, 2013, 9:55 am
i agree with fabelle- i think this is too much to work out.
every relationship, to some degree, goes through changes/compromises… one partner gets a job in a far off city and you both move to the new place, one partner gets into a car accident and loses ability to use their legs, one partner decides that they want to be vegan, ect, ect, ect… and with any of those situations, the other partner has to decide if its worth it to go along with the change. sometimes its worth it, sometimes its not worth it. if one partner decides to radically change themselves, their viewpoint, or their lifestyle, the other partner absolutely has the right to say “this is too much for me and not what i envisioned my life to be like- i cant do this”. so, WWS. decide what is worth it to you, and dont lose yourself in that process.
Amanda January 2, 2013, 10:05 am
I don’t think that the LW should give up on this relationship yet since he said that he doesn’t want to. LW, your entire relationship is in transition right now. Your partner is undergoing a very large change in his life. Have you talked to him about your feelings? You sound like a very caring person and your anxiety about sex after the transition is completely normal. I would tell your partner about everything that you are feeling and then see what they say. He is probably anxious too! Then, I would wait until the transition happens and see how you feel then. Sexual attraction is a weird thing. You may find that you are still attracted to your partner after they change because you are attracted to them as a person, independent of their gender. Or, you may no longer be attracted to them. Wait and see LW.
lemongrass January 2, 2013, 11:04 am
I don’t think that anybody should look down on you for leaving your partner if that is what you choose to do. It would be incredibly hard to maintain a relationship through a transition like that. Hard but not impossible, there are some couples who have done so successfully. I really think that you should find a couples counsellor who specializes in gender issues to work through all of the details and emotions that must come with this. Good luck.
Desiree January 2, 2013, 11:21 am
It seems like so much for the LW to change such a key component of his sexuality. Maybe if he identified as bisexual beforehand I would see this transition as more plausible, but it seems like it would be so very difficult. Others have said above that it can work, though, so I’ll have to defer to them. For me, finding a sexual partner that I am extremely compatible with is so very important (very high on my personal non-negotiables list) that it is not something I could see myself doing, but the LW does sound very attached to his partner. It sounds like a challenging time for the both of them, and I hope it works out okay.
SweetPeaG January 2, 2013, 11:28 am
It seems to me the key phrase here is “I have convinced myself that my partner would be an exception”.
I can’t relate to this exact situation. It would honestly be a dealbreaker for me. However, I can relate to trying to convince myself that something is right for me when it is not. It never works out, in my experience. You convince yourself to get up early to workout. You convince yourself to apply for a job that seems intimidating. You convince yourself to go to a friend’s party, even though you’d rather stay in. You should not, in my humble opinion, convince yourself to spend your life with someone. That’s not the sort of thing you should have to talk yourself into.
Does your partner really want to be that, anyway? He knows you’ll most likely give up a happy sex life and/or children to be with him. That’s a pretty heavy burden to live with. I would never be happy in a life where my partner/spouse sort of wished I could be someone else.
I have to wholeheartedly agree with Wendy. I hope you can always have this very dear loved one in your life. But, I just think both of your lives will be filled with regret if you have to convince yourselves to keep the relationship as is. Being with the one you love should be the most natural thing in the world… this doesn’t seem like it is for you anymore.
temperance January 2, 2013, 11:35 am
Giving up everything you care about for a relationship seems unfair. Giving up on the traditional lifestyle you’ve wanted and children is huge, and even if you love your partner … not fair to you.
He’s going through transition. Are you prepared to be out to the world as a gay man?
Riefer January 2, 2013, 11:54 am
Wow, that’s a good point. Even if you still think of your partner as the person he used to be, everyone else will see him as a gay man, and you as well. That’s going to be another big change for you to deal with.
LW January 2, 2013, 5:47 pm
Right now. No. Just because it would make things more difficult than they need to be. And we are both fine with adopting so kids are not a big deal.
bittergaymark January 2, 2013, 11:45 am
Get out now…. Sorry, if you AREN’T into dudes, I simply don’t honestly see how this could work. If my lover suddenly wanted to be a chick, um, sadly…. No, I would NOT be able to be turned on by that… Unless, um, maybe I was ACTUALLY dating Madonna! 😉 ) Look, the gender of whom you sleep with is a pretty basic and fundamental thing… If you genuinely aren’t bicurious — much less bisexual, I think you two need to just be friends…
Caris January 2, 2013, 2:33 pm
You want kids. He/she doesn’t. That there should be enough for you two to realize that you are not compatible long term. I think you should just be friends. Plus you are not into dudes, so I don’t even know how it could possibly work out.
Lucy January 2, 2013, 3:49 pm
You don’t give your ages, so I can’t tell if/how much urgency there is around the issue of children for you. If there’s no urgency, then you don’t have to decide now. Wait through part or all of his transition and then make a decision. It’s extremely difficult to know how you’ll feel about his transition in advance.
Also, there are support groups for people in your exact situation; you should seek one out. The first one that comes to mind is the Straight Spouse Support Network, but there are others.
Liquid Luck January 2, 2013, 5:22 pm
The biggest issue I see here is that you’re doing all the compromising in this relationship, when relationships should be about (roughly) equal give and take over time. You’re willing to change your stance on wanting children, your lifestyle, and your sexual orientation (which may not even be possible for you-please consider very carefully what would happen to your relationship if you were unable to feel any sexual attraction to your partner).
Your boyfriend should absolutely live his life the way he feels most comfortable, but you should, too. These are topics that can cause any solid relationship to crumble, and always require some sacrifice from BOTH partners. If you can’t find any middle ground here, it’s very likely that you’ll end up resenting him for “forcing” you to give up so much, and he may spend the rest of his life feeling guilty about that and seeing himself as an unequal partner because of it. That doesn’t sound healthy or fair to either of you.