What do you do when you find our your husband is hiding a life changing secret?

People who hide habits or parts of their personality from their partner often do so out of a fear of being judged or losing love. Sometimes, if they own up, they do risk ruining their relationships, however being real about who we are can also force us to face the fallacies of our own assumptions.

Take, for instance, the call I received some months ago from a woman who lives in a large country town. Her husband is a shift worker and one afternoon she arrived home unexpectedly to discover him dressed in women’s clothes, wearing a wig and make-up. She was devastated because they have been married for several years and she was totally unaware of his habit.

The woman found her husband wearing makeup.(Image via Getty.)

When she confronted him he told her that he was too scared to tell her for fear of rejection and he thought he might just hide it from her. She could not cope and called me in total despair. I was able to explain to her what cross dressing is about.

Cross dressers are usually heterosexual men who like to dress up in women's clothes. They discover their need to cross-dress during childhood starting out by dressing up in their sisters or their mother's clothes. They soon find out that it is not accepted and are told to stop it. They feel ashamed, become secretive and try to suppress their feelings and their desire to crossdress.

Later in life the issue can cause a lot of distress because often they are not sure how to cope. A lot of questions and worries persist and for each person it is a different story.

There are also many misconceptions about men who cross dress:

1) They have to be gay – they usually are not!
2) They don't like women – they do, most men are married
3) They do it for sexual gratification – Although cross-dressing is a sexual fetish for some, the vast majority of men do not experience any arousal as a result of cross-dressing, for some it is the exploration of feminine self-expression.
4) They always wear women's clothes – not true, most may only dress up occasionally – some men sometimes wear women's underwear under their clothes.
5) They can be cured – there is no cure as it is not an illness but a "state of being".
6) Cross-dressing should not be mixed up with being transsexual or transgender.

Listen: Osher Gunsberg's love advice.

Some men find that cross-dressing makes them feel relaxed and helps them with stress. For both the cross dresser and his family it is not an easy thing to deal with and it is very common to experience a sense of despair to face the reality of the situation.


My client loves her husband and does not want to leave him. After some counselling sessions with both of them they have reached a level of compromise. For now, he will only cross dress occasionally when she is not home and she needs some time to adjust to this newfound knowledge about her husband.

It is essential for a family member to become informed and educated by reading relevant literature to understand and come to terms with such a challenging situation.

There are some support and social groups for cross dressers and their family. The largest one is "The Seahorse Society" with branches in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. (Their website is The members are familiar with the issues that arise and can share their experience and offer practical advice.

Cross dressing should not be mixed up with being transsexual or transgender. (Image via Getty.)

It is my job as a therapist to normalise the situation for each individual and work with them to find out what it means to them and why it is causing difficulties in their life and relationships.

I have another client who lives in the country, he works from home but his office is at the back of the property. He is married with two young children and loves his wife. He called me because he hides the fact that he cross dresses, he does it about once a month but he believes if he told his wife she would not understand and neither would his family or friends. He is over six feet tall and plays rugby.

It is not something that he can easily incorporate into his life so he is juggling between wanting to be open and honest in his relationship versus not wanting to ruin his relationship with his wife.

So this ethical issue came up:

Do you think you are allowed to have secrets in a relationship?

Is it always necessary to be open and honest with your partner because YOU would feel less guilty?

Matty Silver is a Relationship Counsellor and Sex Therapist. Matty is also the president of ASSERT NSW the Australian Society of Sex Educators, Researchers and Therapists.