Please be respectful (and G-rated) with your comments. And Happy Friday.
Q: I am another one of those "long-time readers who suddenly finds myself with a question." My husband and I have been married for 15 years and have young children. For the most part, I feel we have the "comfortable marriage" that most marriages tend to evolve into over time. My issue is with our intimate relationship. It has always been less than satisfying for me, which I always attributed to a lack of experience by my husband. I thought that it would improve over time, but it really hasn't. He always says he wants to do whatever it takes, but in the end I still find that he just doesn't know what to do to "take me to the next level." I also find that it takes a lot of effort for him to [truly enjoy the experience], and many times he does not, which is frustrating for me (and makes me think it's my fault).
Lately I've started to wonder about my husband and his orientation. I discovered that he frequently visits websites that deal with transgender subject material (including pornography), and individuals changing from one gender to another. He sometimes visits other websites featuring women too, but not as much.
I'm trying to understand what his interest in transgender material could mean. Does visiting these transgendered websites indicate that he is gay? Is this is something I need to be worried about and address with him or is transgender a subject that some people find interesting to view but does not represent who they are? What exactly is transgendered?
I'm not sure how to approach this with him or if I even need to. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
– What's His Deal?, Houston
A: I'm going to start by invoking some Merriam-Webster.
Transgender: of, relating to, or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth.
That's a pretty simple definition of the word, but it works. (And a tip: We don't say "transgendered." I hear that a lot, but it's not a verb.)
I wish I could give you a quick, dictionary-style reason that people seek out transgender material online. Perhaps your husband has a transgender co-worker and wants to figure out what that means. Perhaps he is a straight man who likes variety in his internet life. Perhaps he is, in fact, confused about his own identity. I have no idea what's happening with your husband. This could mean nothing or everything.
What I can tell you is that you have every right to have questions. It is your business, and you certainly have the right to feel a range of emotions about what you found. But -- and this is a very big but -- I don't want you to confront your husband about this until you've seen a mental health professional and discussed the specifics of your marriage. I was talking about this letter with a psychiatrist friend who works in the GLBT community, and we both had concerns about you approaching your husband without help. We just don't know how your husband will respond, and how you'll deal with whatever he has to tell you. I can't make guesses about your husband's temperament or coping style. I don't know if a discussion between the two of you would lead to unsafe behavior. I also don't want you to sit there confused by his answers without the tools to proceed.
So again this week, I must throw out the therapy card. Find a professional who's comfortable discussing gender identity and sexuality. You can ask your doctor for a referral if you need one. Go by yourself first so that you can come up with a safe plan. You do have the right to ask and to know. You just need to protect yourself before you begin the process.
Readers? Is her husband's internet life her business? Is she making a big deal out of nothing? What about their relationship history? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.