"I am transgender and am immediately going to start transition. But I am also your husband, so you have a say in all of this."
That was the first lie. It was maybe a week before it was made clear to me that I had no voice in this at all. That nothing I said mattered, and that my ex would continue to make and break promises to me. The next several months were lie after lie. Many months of lies.
A lot of lies were gaslighting and revisionist history, like what my husband told our friends and family: "My wife always knew I was transgender."
No, I knew my husband liked to wear women's clothing only during sex and be pegged by me wearing a strap-on. That's a fetish called autogynephilia, where a man gets a sexual thrill from pretending to be a woman. That's not an identity.
After my ex came out to me, I tried to be supportive. We went to transgender support groups together, which in retrospect were utterly appalling. I remember the facilitators telling a father whose young daughter wanted to start hormones that he must go along with it, even though this girl would likely be sterile and potentially have other negative health effects. And people telling me "how beautiful" it was that I was supporting my spouse in transition, while inside I felt like I was dying from it all, so stressed that it felt like I was always about to have a coronary. I as the wife didn't matter in those groups, other than as a politically-correct favoured ornament on my spouse's arm. It was all and only ever about the transgender person and them doing whatever they wanted.
As this went on, I realized how lonely I had been in my marriage, for many years. I was basically living the life of a single mother, hoping my husband would want to spend time with me and our children. After the transgender announcement, the neglect became worse, and it was very obvious how irrelevant our children and I were to my spouse in this newfound quest. And then the massive expenses began to rack up: clothing, wigs, electrolysis and waxing, voice training. Eventually I realized that this stressful situation, where I had no idea what my husband would demand to do next or what the next broken promise might be, it was physically killing me and I needed to leave.
I told my husband that I wanted a divorce. He told me I was making a terrible mistake. He explained how he would become this amazing person after transition, when he is free to be his true self as a woman. That the drinking and being an absentee spouse and parent, all of that bad behaviour was because of his gender dysphoria and would be cured by transition.
Fast forwards several years to today. My ex-spouse pays child maintenance but otherwise barely interacts with our children. Mutual friends tell me that my ex lives in state of hoarding and filth, and has become an alcoholic. That's my ex's life as their "authentic self".
For a brief time I bought into that fantasy that somehow taking hormones and wearing women's clothing would turn my ex into a better human being and parent. But that is not what happened. If anything, my ex's worst traits have magnified since transition.
I try to feel compassion for my ex, but it has been difficult to feel anything but anger and resentment. All of this transformation came at a very high price for myself and our children, both financially and emotionally. I expect I will be paying for counsellors for many years.
But a lot of what I feel now, many years later, is simply relief. I am glad I am no longer entangled with this person and never shall be again. I feel as though I am still reconstructing my own life, but even so, my life is better now than when I was married. I am able to be a good mother to my children. I have done well in my career, and I have time for my children and to engage in hobbies.
I cannot bring myself to date anyone, though. I do not think I shall ever trust anyone to be a romantic partner to me again.
And even now, I still grieve for my lost husband and I think I shall always do so. But I want nothing to do with who this person is now. It is very clear that the person I fell in love with, my former husband... that person effectively died many years ago, if they ever existed at all.
For anyone else in this situation: please ask for help and find a way through this. Read available resources on narcissism and autogynephilia, both of which appear to be very common in these "married and transitioning at or beyond the age 40" scenarios. Find a counsellor (and likely a solicitor) who can help you. Do not fall for the lie that everything is all about this transgender person and that you and your life and mental health is irrelevant compared to what they're dealing with.
Please do not ignore the fact that you are going through life-changing trauma and yes, there is a high probability that you shall divorce your husband. It is one of the many odd similarities I have learned since meeting other trans widows: along with the sexual obsessions and profligate spending and narcissism, we are also almost always the one in the marriage who initiates divorce proceedings.
You do not have to live as a prisoner in a marriage with a neglectful or abusive spouse. There is a life waiting for you on the other side.