When Diane Daniel met her husband Wessel, she was attracted to his smile, quiet humor and gentleness -- "and of course his Dutch accent." Though it shocked her, she dismissed the occasional cross-dressing as they dated and lived together as just part of his nerdy nonconformity.
But two months into their marriage in 2004, her husband revealed at dinner that he wanted to live as a woman, and the couple embarked on a long wrenching jouney to stay together.
Wessel is now Lina, and at 47, she has transitioned publicly from male to female.
Diane, now 53 and a freelance writer living in North Carolina, describes in a recent story in the Boston Globe, "Goodbye Husband, Hello Wife," how her life was turned on its head when she learned her husband was transgender.
"I detached emotionally and physically," she writes. "I cried every day. I wondered what else he hadn't told me. I feared something was wrong with me to attract this kind of mate. I was angry and ashamed."
Lina was in exactly the opposite place psychologically.
"For me, it was a big, 'phew,' --- I had finally made a choice and a big burden was off my shoulders," said Lina, who works for a medical diagnostics company. "But her whole world collapsed."
"Diane needed to grieve and say goodbye to the old me and the things that were left behind," she told ABCNews.com. "I had the strange realization that I was at a birthday party and she was at a funeral."
The turning point for Diane was when Lina told her, "What I fear most is that you will see me as a monster or some kind of a freak. That everyone will, but mostly you.''
Slowly, Diane was able to open her heart, and their story illustrates the complex world of sexuality and gender and the power of love.
But it is also a call for acceptance for the 750,000 Americans who identify as transgender -- about .3 percent of the population, according to the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the UCLA Law School.
A 2011 landmark report, "Injustice at Every Turn," concludes that "nearly every system and institution" in the United States -- education, employment, housing and healthcare -- discriminates against transgender Americans.
An estimated 45 percent of those surveyed said that their relationship with a spouse or partner ended because of their transgender identity. Surprisingly, 55 percent, stayed on or their relationship ended for other reasons, according to that report.
But those like Diane who have gone through transition with a loved one, say it is a long and painful process -- and most spouses leave the marriage.
Helen Boyd, author of the 2003 book, "My Husband Betty," had a similar experience to Diane.
When her theatrical husband went from dabbling in drag to asking to wear an ordinary denim skirt, she thought, "This isn't fun anymore."
"I was shellshocked. I took a bath and just cried," said Boyd. "I knew that I would lose my male husband."
Boyd stayed with Betty, whom she had married as a man, "because I love her," and the couple just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
"She is still as charming and still the person who can make me laugh when I don't want to laugh about anything," said Boyd. "We still share the same world view and she knows me better than any other human being."