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Cross-Dressing causes fracture in a solid longtime marriage

Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together for 11 years, married for eight. We have been through a lot together, which has served to strengthen our marriage. My husband is my Prince Charming and my happily forever after.

Recently, he has discovered that he likes wearing women's clothes. It started with him wearing women's underwear under his clothes, which didn't bother me. I even bought him a few pair I liked. It has progressed quickly.

He assures me that he isn't gay, he does not want to become a woman or want to dress in women's clothes full time. However, some of his behaviors have changed, and his wearing women's clothing has increased. When I tried discussing my concerns with him, he said I was being irrational. We fought, and I thought we had worked some things out, but he still has an attitude.

I'm terrified that this is the beginning of the end of my marriage, and I don't want to lose him. But I also don't know just how much of this I can accept or how far he wants to go. He says if I can't accept it, he will stop doing it. But we will both know that he has that desire, and I don't want to stifle something that seems to mean so much to him. I have no one I can talk to about this, Abby. Please help. -- STRUGGLING IN FLORIDA

DEAR STRUGGLING: Take the opportunity to learn all you can about cross-dressing. More men than you may think engage in it, and the majority are heterosexual. An excellent support group for cross-dressers and wives of men who need (not "like") to cross-dress is The Society for the Second Self (Tri Ess). Its website is tri-ess.org. Go there and you will find the support and answers you're looking for.

Keep the lines of communication with your husband open and honest. Only the two of you can determine how to navigate through this. For many couples, it's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

DEAR ABBY: When I was 21, I got pregnant with "Earl," a guy who had nothing to his name but a bicycle. It was three weeks after we met. Earl was 24. Two years later we split. I was working and he was a stay-at-home dad, and I couldn't stand it.

Five years later, I married a very wealthy man, moved to another country and lived a life of luxury. Thirteen years later we split. I left our small island and moved back, still well off on my own.

Earl was my rock and is a totally different man now. Sixteen years later, I have fallen head over heels for him. He has become everything I've always wanted. Our son wasn't crazy about it at first (he's 18), but now loves it. Earl's mother said she knew it would end up this way. My parents have reservations. Do you think we have a fighting chance? -- NEW EXPAT IN NEVADA

DEAR NEW EXPAT: Earl is not the person he was and, frankly, neither are you. Do the two of you have a fighting chance? Absolutely. However, before marrying anyone again, it is important that you discuss this with an attorney and have in place a signed prenuptial agreement. While it may not seem romantic, it's the intelligent thing to do.

DEAR ABBY: I have been with "Dylan" for three years, engaged for two. I have a lot of insecurities about it.

We met right after my husband's death. Dylan was the perfect guy in the beginning. Looking back, I realize there were a lot of red flags.

He spends most of his time on Facebook or talking about his high school years. He is also secretive. He acts like the world's nicest guy around others, but when we're alone, he calls me stupid and insecure. I never knew what a narcissist was before, but I believe he is one.

I built a business, which has done very well. I'm liked by everyone but him. People have told me to run. Why do I torture myself? Last week he broke my windshield because I asked him about his phone, which he is always using to text someone. I want to be happy, and I feel like a loser right now. My kids don't like him at all. Help me, please. -- UNHAPPY IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR UNHAPPY: I am concerned about you. Because you now feel that your verbally abusive fiance could become violent (Exhibit A: your broken windshield), place a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) and ask someone to help you craft an escape plan. Your next call should be to the police to file a report about that broken windshield. Your third should be to your family to find out if you and your kids can stay with one of your relatives.

It is important you get safely out of there, so do not disclose to this man any of the preparations you are making. It goes without saying that this engagement should be broken.

DEAR ABBY: I have an issue that I can't be the only one with, especially as our parents age. My mother has never been the cleanest or most sanitary of housekeepers. Everything "looks" neat and straight, but look closer and you'll realize her place is unsanitary and filthy.

When I visit, I am near tears the entire time. My husband tells me to stay in a hotel, but I don't know how to tell my mother I don't feel comfortable staying with her. I bring along my own towels and washcloths. I take us out for meals so we don't have to use her dishes.

I'm not a clean freak, and this is not my imagination. A friend of hers contacted me to tell me she was concerned about Mom because she doesn't seem to notice how dirty her house is or that her food is spoiled. I'm embarrassed for her.

I've tried to talk to my mother about this many times in the past, but she just doesn't get it. I have had her carpets shampooed and brought in professionals to do deep cleaning. How can I tell her I can't stay with her any longer? -- GROSSED-OUT DAUGHTER IN MARYLAND

DEAR DAUGHTER: Tell your mother that you love her, and you have been concerned for years about her living conditions, which is why you hired professional cleaners periodically to help her. Delivering the message that you will be staying in a hotel when you visit is the least of your problems. Clearly, she needs more help than you can give her.

I, too, am concerned about the fact she doesn't know the food in her refrigerator has spoiled, and for that reason, I'm suggesting you discuss this with a social worker in the town where your mother resides. She may need someone to check on her regularly, ensure that her kitchen and fridge are kept clean and grocery shop for her. Believe me, you and your mother both have my sympathy.

DEAR ABBY: I am thinking about asking my stepdaughter "Gwen" (37 years old with a husband and three kids) if she would like me to adopt her. I married her mother when Gwen was 2. We divorced when she was 8 or 9, so we were out of contact for about 25 years.

Gwen really dislikes her father. Her mother and I have patched things up, so much so that we've been on a couple of vacations together. Gwen has been along on both.

We have a special bond that goes back to the first time I met her. She was a terror, and her mother, grandmother and the rest of the family had basically given up on her. But we clicked. I was patient with her, and we became close. When we were together a few weeks ago on vacation, she asked if I wanted to come to Colorado, which is halfway across the country from where I live, for her daughter's 3rd birthday party. I'm going.

I love her dearly and always have. I missed her terribly during the years her mother and I barely communicated. I was able to see my kids, but not her. Now I feel that closeness again, and I want to officially adopt her as I should have back when she was 2. What do you think, Abby? -- LOVING HER IN LOUISIANA

DEAR LOVING HER: Do not make such an important decision on impulse. Be prudent and let this renewed relationship with your ex and her daughter play out a while longer before making any decisions. Then, if you still feel the same, talk to your ex about what you have in mind. If she reacts positively, discuss it with Gwen. But I urge you to use caution because your ex may consider herself and her daughter to be a package deal and expect you to "adopt" her, too. It goes without saying that this should be discussed with your lawyer because the fact that Gwen still has a father may complicate matters.

DEAR ABBY: The sisters in my family are very close. Today we live independently and alone in different cities. After we retire, three of the four of us plan to live together in a new location. Our dilemma: The fourth sister marches to a different drummer.

Our lifestyles are very different -- completely opposite, in fact. We love her and enjoy being with her at family gatherings and doing things together. Yet we feel strongly that because she has little initiative and a "dependent" personality, she shouldn't live with us, so we haven't included her in our plans.

We know the news will upset her, and we don't want to cause hurt feelings, but we feel strongly about this. We have tried to figure out how we could make it work, but always end up knowing it won't. The only option we can think of would be that she could move to wherever we are and find a place of her own, but we're not sure she has the means to make it happen. Can you help us figure out the most compassionate way to share the news with her? -- FORWARD THINKING

DEAR FORWARD THINKING: The most compassionate way to venture into this minefield would be to ask your sister what her plans are once she retires. If she says she plans to live with you, she should be told it won't happen and why, so she can make other arrangements for herself. While the conversation may not be pleasant, it is necessary, and it should take place sooner rather than later.