My Husband’s Kink Has Driven Me to Take Anxiety Medication
Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I have been happily married for 16 years and together for 17. We have four amazing children. Our sex life has always been amazing, never boring. We have worked to keep things interesting and make intimacy with each other a priority. Within the past year he has revealed to me that he has fantasies about dressing up as a woman in the bedroom. I made sure my reaction wasn’t off-putting and took time to think about it. I decided to give it a go. When the kids were out, he got dressed up in a skirt, underwear, bra, and one of my shirts. We had sex. He loved it a lot. I acted excited, but I was still trying to process it. Over the past few months, it’s gained more and more momentum. He even tried out some of my makeup at one point and now has several pairs of his own high heels, and he bought me a strap-on to use on him. He says he has no interest in dressing like this in public. He is also very adamantly straight.
I am having a really difficult time sorting out my feelings with this. It is not in any way a turn-on for me. It is actually a complete turn-off, but I don’t want him to have to hide a part of himself from me. I want him to be free to be himself with me 100 percent. I just don’t know what to do to be all right with this. This is causing me a lot of anxiety (I have started taking anxiety medication because of this) and I feel like this could change our relationship whether I say something or not, and I don’t know what to do.
—Not Into Cross-Dressing
Kinks, particularly when they’re newly explored or indulged, can result in a fairly selfish zeal. His experience might go something like “Oh! I’m finally able to talk about this. My wife is willing to participate in my desire. Exciting! Let’s do all the things! Fun, fun, fun!” without space to consider whether you are enjoying yourself, too. This is where you have to advocate for yourself. Your desires and satisfaction are of equal importance to his. And you’re taking anxiety medication to cope with your feelings, so your relationship has already changed, in a way that is detrimental to your mental health.
You’ll want to begin addressing this sooner rather than later. Whoever is prescribing the anxiety medication seems like a good place to start. If they offer therapy, can you afford a few sessions with them to talk through your feelings? If not, is there a sex-positive therapist you could speak with? If the cost is prohibitive, journaling, walks, showers—whatever helps you think—can be useful. The better organized your thoughts are, and the better you understand your feelings, the more productive the conversations with your husband are likely to be.
You’ll want to choose your time wisely and tread carefully. If you bring up your turn-off response in the middle of a sexual interaction, or even when he’s hinting at cross-dressing play, there’s a higher likelihood of him receiving your communication as judgment or rejection, or feeling shame, which can make clear thinking and discussion difficult. Directly after sex is also likely to be problematic. And you’ll want privacy and enough time to have a full discussion.
Start with your appreciation of him and your desire to support him in living his fullest sexual life. What you’ve written here is great—you want him to be able to be open with you and be himself 100 percent. Then move into your own experience: You aren’t aroused by him in women’s clothing and are engaging in this with him because, presumably, you love him and want him to be satisfied. Ask for his help in figuring out solutions that work for both of you. This might mean catering to his desires sometimes and to yours at other times. This might mean agreeing to open up your marriage to professional or recreational partners who do enjoy cross-dressed sex. This might mean that the two of you are no longer a sexual match. You don’t have to come up with answers immediately, and give yourself and your husband plenty of space and time to process. You might find that something you think will work doesn’t when you actually implement it, or you might find an unexpected compromise. Good luck.