It is amazing, sometimes, to think about how three simple words can have such a profound effect on a person. They come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention meanings and intentions, but three words often have more power in them than the longest of books or essays. Whether you are saying “I love you” or “I hate you” three words is all it takes to convey profound meaning in the English language. I mean, analytically, it makes sense. You have the subject, the verb, and the object. True, having just two words can also have great power (I do, I will, I can), but there is something about those three word sentences that can really get a meaning across, for better or worse.
Last night my wife uttered three words that have been haunting my mind ever since. Three simple words that have been stirring within me a deep cauldron of swirling, and bubbling emotions. “I miss Robert”
That’s it. Those were the three words. “I miss Robert.” They seem so simple on the outside, don’t they? How could three simple words rob me of the sure foundation I’d been building upon? How can three words create such suffering and sadness in me? How could they steal the wind from my sails and leave me adrift on a still ocean of inner reflection?
As I sat in my stationary boat, all alone on the gleaming waters of an isolated mind, I felt a pain I’d been hiding from for months. Things with my wife had seemed so… okay. Her reactions to my recent changes in behavior, dress, and appearance hadn’t indicated any deep level of longing for the man she’d married, except for, perhaps, a sadness in her eyes. I’d fooled myself into thinking that she’d come to fully accept me as Emma and that all would be well with us, but those three words shattered that illusion, leaving me with nothing but a gnawing doubt.
To more adequately set the scene, we were laying in bed, getting ready to sleep for the night when the cat joined us (a rare occurrence when the dog is not locked in her kennel). I decided to take a picture of the cat giving my wife some snuggles, which, in turn, led to me cruising through the pictures I have saved on my phone. Many of the pictures were earlier HRT picture updates and it was interesting to see how I’d changed over the last few months. It was even more interesting to see a picture of myself from about a year ago. My hair was so short and my goatee so long. I weighed a good 25-30 pounds more than I do now in that picture as well. It was a bit jarring to see my former self; to be so blatantly reminded of that “man” I used to be.
As I was grappling with the intense emotions that came from seeing that picture, knowing that I’d never look that way again, my wife uttered her three words. She made a sort of “Oooh” sound as one does when they see a long lost friend and said, “I miss Robert.”
The words were genuine and the emotion was apparent on her face. She missed her husband, that overweight, hairy, depressed person pretending as best as they could to be the “man” they’d been raised to be. I saw the longing in her eyes for that person, for that earlier relationship, and I saw the sadness of knowing it would never be that way again. She didn’t want to hurt me, but she just couldn’t stop herself from revealing her emotions.
I tried to recover from the blow to my confidence by asking her what it was about Robert that she missed, and she couldn’t really answer. I suspect, however, that I know the answer to that question. She missed the simplicity of being married to a man. She missed the ease of just assuming I was male and having everyone else make the same assumption. She likely missed not having to be chewed out by her father because she and I hadn’t gotten around to talking to them about what was going on before someone else approached him for answers. I’m sure she missed not having the embarrassment that she feels, whether she wants to feel it or not, about being in love with a transwoman.
And so, in just three words, my wife was able to drudge up every fear, shame, and sadness I’d ever felt about my gender. I know that wasn’t her intention, and I do not feel resentment towards her for her truthful expression of legitimate emotion, but I can’t help but reel from the experience. A huge reason that I didn’t accept what I was several years ago was because I felt afraid of what it would mean for her and for my family. I recoiled from the challenge of transcending the gender binary because I didn’t want to hurt others, and seeing the sadness and suffering in her eyes brought all of those feelings back for me.
I don’t know that I’ve mentioned this previously, but my wife and I are going to see a marriage counselor today. We are going mostly because of the long running dysfunctions we’ve had as a couple, but we are also going to help my wife with the process of accepting me as Emma. Both of us had to fill out intake forms for the session last night and while I will preserve my wife’s privacy, suffice it to say that a great deal of her reasoning for wanting to see this therapist was because of my transition, whereas my desire was to find better ways of managing conflict between the two of us.
I won’t lie, reading that she wanted to talk about my transitioning was a bit of a surprise, given the degree of surface-level acceptance she has shown in recent months. Add to it the “I miss Robert” a few hours later in the evening, and hopefully you can begin to understand why I’m feeling the way I am.
Honestly, I am afraid. I am worried that going to see this marriage counselor will reveal a deep seeded rift between me and my wife, and will ultimately reveal that we cannot bridge the gap between us. I have been so content with wearing the rose tinted glasses I’ve had when it came to our continued marriage and cohabitation, that the thought of taking them off to take a good, long, hard look at our problems feels frightening. What happens if that “I miss Robert” is too big of an emotion for her to overcome? What if this relationship I’ve been clinging so desperately to ends up going away and I’m left all alone?
Not that I’m sure I’d even be interested in ever dating again, but trying to find a suitable mate when you are a transwoman is sooooo difficult, especially if you are attracted to women. If my marriage ends, I may very well be alone for the rest of my life, and I don’t know if I’m really prepared for that, especially now when things are still so new and scary.
I know inside my heart that I must hope for the best, that I must rely upon the love I feel for my wife to give her the opportunity to choose whatever it is that she feels will make her the happiest. Right now she seems willing to try to make this work between her and I, but what I’m asking of her is something so out of the ordinary, so uncommon and difficult that I’m not certain she can do it. I don’t know that I’d have the strength to accept her as a man and my husband if she told me she was trans, so for me to expect the same of her is unfair. All I can do is hope that she loves me enough to stay with me, regardless of my gender.
Well, that’s all I have for now. I know that was sort of a bummer of a post, but I just couldn’t leave all of those emotions inside without at least telling someone.