I spent years in two long-term relationships (about five years apiece), and the last one ended because I started my transition (MtF, and at least a few years from GRS). Shortly after that, I got deeply involved with another partner, and it dissolved after only two months.
I'm worried that I'm somehow overcompensating -- that emotionally I'm just swinging to the opposite extreme, and I'm going to crash through one stupid relationship after another over the next couple years. This would not only be personally painful but very detrimental to my transition. I'm also worried, though -- if I eschew relationships in general for a few years, trying to regain stability...well, that it'll look weird in retrospect to anybody I'm trying to date, sort of like a gap in employment.
Is it reasonable to spend some time not engaged romantically, or am I closing myself off to people when I shouldn't be? I spent a long time emotionally armored, and I'm good at finding excuses not to do things...I don't want to close myself up. :(-- Gracie The Graceless
Gracie the Graceless
I'm going to respond to the two key questions I hear you asking in order:
1. How does, and should, one go about dating in the midst of a gender transition;
Transitioning from one gender to another is an emotionally-charged, significantly vulnerable time. Having worked with hundreds of transgender individuals, I am aware that many relationships end during these transitions, and if they survive it is usually because there is a lot of concentrated effort given to making the relationship work. The energy required to manage gender conflicts takes quite a toll on relationships. Your decision to address your gender concerns and your commitment to a transition is a great first step toward improving your odds of having a healthier relationship!
It has been my observation that the first year or two of transitioning requires just about every emotional resource you possess to negotiate this life-changing, gender-altering experience. Rather than suggesting you NOT date, my suggestion is that you NOT put energy into finding someone to date. If someone finds his or her way to your heart, be open to the possibilities. (Though there is a caveat to this that I will detail in #2 below). If the prospect of dating someone becomes a distraction and energy drain from your gender pursuits, be sure to keep your priorities in check.
2. How smart is it to cease dating all together in an effort to regain stability
Unlike most therapists, I am not one who believes that spending time alone is going to improve your odds of success the next time you enter a relationship. The reason I conclude this is because the skills involved in being alone are very different than the skills involved in being in a relationship. Getting good at being alone will give you the skills to "stabilize" your life while single.
The logic is that when you love yourself, when you can "be" with yourself, and you don't "need" another to feel complete, then you'll be more prepared for a relationship. This theory holds some water, it's just not hole-proof.
My perception is that the best way to strengthen your relationship muscles is to exercise them while you are in a relationship. You get good at being single by being single. You get good at being partnered by being partnered. Just as going to school makes you good at being a student - getting a job once you graduate makes you a better employee.
While you may have been a straight-A student in school (or get really good at being single), your performance as an employee (or your performance in a relationship) may be very different. The skills of being a student (single) while similar, are different than the skills of being an employee (in a relationship).
It stands to reason, though, that the more stable you are, the better your chances are of attracting a stable relationship. Like attracts like. This is the caveat I mention above. If you are at the top of your game, you are likely to attract someone who is compatible with where you are. If you are at your worst, well, you'll likely attract someone else who is compatible with where you are - and when you become more stable, more adjusted, you may find that you've "outgrown" your partner.
It's ideal to attract a partner when you are feeling good about yourself - when you are functioning well and are stable. This is likely to attract a better candidate for a successful relationship than if you attract someone when you're not in such a good space.