Cross Dressing Partner

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q:: I’ve been seeing this man for about 4 years. The biggest part of the first two years, we lived miles apart. He would “come home” on week ends. Eventually he found a position closer to home, and we moved in together and we had a baby. After we had lived together for close to a year, I found out that he is a cross dresser or fetishist. He doesn’t seem to have a desire to “pass” or anything like that. He just dresses in these leather outfits and lingerie then masturbates. When I found out initially, I was horrified. Then after a period of time, I thought I could adjust to it. I mean, I rationalized, we have sex together, and he doesn’t have to be dressed to perform. However. as the months have gone by, I’ve noticed that his sex drive is very low, and the sexual encounters between us became more and more infrequent. I asked him about it and he said that he is just tired from work or we didn’t have time. He NEVER initiates sex. He apparently has sex by himself quite frequently, every other day.. In comparison, he can go over a month without having sex with me. If I ASK him to have sex…then he will. I can’t help but wonder how long this will go on. Is this something that will change?..Would counseling help him? I just don’t understand it! Does this mean he is asexual or has an attraction to his fetish objects that out weighs his attraction to me? Because sometimes I feel like my real value to him is to be his friend, be a good mother to our baby, whom we both adore, go to social functions together, stuff like that, but that is the extent of his need for me. ANY help or insight would be appreciated.

A: This must be a very hard adjustment to make. The main problem I see is that your partner didn’t share his preferences with you before you got so deeply involved. At the least, that wasn’t fair. Now you have a child together which makes it much tougher for you to think about your options. The good news is that you really are friends, you both adore your baby, you enjoy each other’s company, and when you do have sex, it is satisfying to you both. Lots and lots of couples don’t have such a good relationship. Please don’t lose sight of how special your friendship and your mutual love for your baby really is. But you are certainly on different page sexually.

I admire your willingness to try to adapt. You were smart not to just freak out and lose the positive parts of this relationship. Good for you. You’ve probably also done a little research. In case not, I can reassure you that cross dressing usually does not mean that a man doesn’t like sex with women. And no, your guy is not asexual. He likes sex fine. He just likes it a certain way. Usually cross dressing has something to do with a person having found that it relieves anxiety and tension. My guess is that he has been doing this since he was quite young and that relaxation got paired up with the cross dressing and fantasies during masturbation. He hasn’t found the same level of release in sex with you. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. He could have both. He could possibly (though it is less likely) find out that once he knows how to have sexual release with you he won’t need the fetishes so much.

My biggest wish for the two of you is that you start working on this together. People can be married and satisfied in all kinds of ways as long as they have an agreement. From where I sit, it looks like you are being asked to just adapt to his style. If you can do that in an open-hearted way, fine. But if you resent it or feel in any way martyred, it will eventually erode your relationship. You and your man need to find a way to really talk and to meet both your needs. If you can’t do it on your own, look for a couples counselor who is open enough to be able to incorporate fetishes into your collective problem-solving. I do have a prejudice that when little children are involved, we owe it to them to try to fix a relationship (and try hard) before giving up and moving on

You didn’t say where you are from, so I can’t offer you any specific help in locating someone. Usually if you google AAMFT, and your state, it will bring you to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapist listings for your state. These therapists often have the qualifications you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jun 2006

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2006). Cross Dressing Partner. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/06/27/282/