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A Relationship Checkup for the Transgender Couple

In the years before my wife came out to me as transgender, I always boasted that we had a great relationship.

We were good communicators, the best of friends, and lovers. Respectful, loving, and empathetic towards one another’s feelings. We made time to escape from life on little getaways to reconnect and rekindle. Unified, in our co-parenting ideas and views of the world around us. It was a “perfect” union between two very like-minded people.

“IT FELT AS IF THIS WALL BETWEEN US WAS GONE. A WALL I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW EXISTED AND NEVER FELT WAS THERE.”

After my wife had been honest with herself, she was able to come out to me. It felt as if this wall between us was gone. A wall I didn’t even know existed and never felt was there. Nevertheless, it was gone, and I felt closer to her than I had ever felt before. It was a foreign feeling, combining that with the fear of what life would look like through transition and beyond. A major consensus of spouses is feeling lost after their partner comes out to them. In most cases, the spouse coming out is not ready to share this news with anyone else. So add to that, the burden of secrecy and inability to share the range of emotions you are feeling.

Engaging in a relationship checkup is a great exercise to make sure you and your partner are on the same page and going in the same direction. It is a great technique to improve communication and grow your relationship. We live in a high stress and demanding world, where some days I don’t know whether I am coming or going. Often times I must text my wife with important reminders, because I forget to tell her in the hour I get to see her a day during our workweek. Most intimate relationships could really benefit from this practice. Even couples who are not sure if they will stay together after transition. If you have children together, it is super important to maintain a solid and healthy friendship. Any therapist will tell you the benefits to your children are immense.

Acquire some quiet time away from the TV, the kids, the neighbors, the Internet, and the telephone. Simply ask yourselves a few questions. Write down your answers on a separate piece of paper, then discus your answers with each other. Be honest and share from a place of love and respect. This exercise is meant to open up the lines of communication, not shut them down. Here are some sample questions, or you can make up your own.

1.My partner and I generally know what is happening in each other‘s life.
Yes No

2.We laugh together and are usually in a good mood when we are together.
Yes No

3.We can control our tempers; take a time out if necessary, and work through disagreements in healthy ways.
Yes No

4.We do not let small issues escalate into bigger ones.
Yes No

5.We regularly find time to be together, and when we do, we enjoy each other’s company.
Yes No

6.When we disagree, we find ways to meet in the middle. We both agree that “winning an argument” is not the most important part of a disagreement.
Yes No

7.Neither of us would describe ourselves as feeling lonely in this relationship.
Yes No

8.My spouse and I both respect and feel respected in this relationship.
Yes No

9.There are many more positives than negatives in our relationship.
Yes No

10.We do not keep secrets from each other.
Yes No

11.We would agree that there is a lot to be grateful for in our lives.
Yes No

12.While there has been a lot of stress in our lives lately, we have worked through it together and would both describe our relationship as stronger.
Yes No

13.We regularly check in about new issues that may come up during transition.
Yes No

14.We make it a point to show appreciation for one another.
Yes No

15.Do you feel supported in your relationship?
Yes No

When hurt and unresolved feelings are ignored, they often fester and become bigger than they were originally. A miscommunication can turn into the fight of the century. Having a bad day then going home and taking it out on your partner is toxic. Always try to maintain a balance between time spent together and time spent alone. The equal distribution of responsibilities in and out of the home are important so one partner doesn’t feel as if they are doing more than the other. Always speak to one another with respect and remember that good communication skills are paramount in a healthy relationship. Sharing space with another human is hard enough. In a situation where one of the partners is transitioning, it becomes even more complicated. When being a supportive partner, make sure they support you as well. Relationships, just like your flower garden needs food and water to grow. If you don’t maintain a regimen to take care of them, they will die. The same could be said for relationships.

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