Some of the recent posts around here (as well as some old ones) could scare a closeted CD, who hasn't told her wife, positively to death. I think, if I had read them before I told her, I would have been too petrified to tell. For the benefit of those who might be in that situation, I just want to enter a contrary view. It really IS possible to successfully tell a wife about your crossdressing. I did it! Successfully! After 26.5 years of marriage!
Sure, it would be best of all to tell her before you're married (or in a LTR). Many of us, however, can't go back in time to do that. Given reality, it is all, IMHO, a matter of preparation by the CD.
First, it's infinitely better to tell her than to let her discover you. The shock alone will shut off her mind. She won't listen to anything you say. Not telling is NOT an option. You *will*, someday, be discovered.
Second, gather all the information possible to educate her about crossdressing and transgenderism in general. Try to analyze your wife's best method of learning. Printed documents work for some (It did for me), books can work, Video tapes for others, heart-to-heart talks for others still. Be prepared to answer the BIG questions that every woman seems to ask: "Are you gay?" "Do you want to become a woman?" "Are you going to leave me?" "Why did you hide this from me?" Answer them honestly. I can't tell you what to say, but any dishonesty will turn around and bite you. If you don't know the answer to other questions, just say "I don't know," but always have a good answer for these.
Third, try to guess her reaction. Maybe asking her opinion about a TG news story or TV show would work. Maybe tell her a TG joke and see if she laughs or gets disgusted. Is she a fundamentalist believer? A flaming women's rights advocate? If you can guess it, prepare to counter her reaction with appropriate information. In my case, for instance, she's religious but not a fundamentalist, so I had a page debunking the Deuteronomy 22:5 argument.
Fourth, pick a time and place to tell. She should be as stress-free and receptive as possible. The place should be private, of course, and allow a lot of time for conversation afterwards. Perhaps after a romantic dinner or a pleasant day trip would work. I chose a strategy to subtly hint enough until SHE asked ME what was going on. When she asks the question, she won't be likely to immediately reject an honest answer.
Fifth, when telling, don't just talk, listen! You know the cliché: "You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in proportion!" Anyone in a nervous, stressful situation will want to keep talking, to overwhelm her with words. If you do that, you may just be digging your own hole by answering questions she doesn't even ask. Listen and think before you talk.
Sixth, once you've told her, go at her pace. This is not a time for surprises. If you're not sure whether she's ready for the next step (whatever it is), ask her. Every woman will have a different pace. You're not in control, here! She is! From what others said on this subject, I made one fairly large mistake in my telling plan. I dressed en femme (well, sort of, at the time) for her only two days after telling. The only thing that kept this from becoming a disaster was that I asked her first.
Seventh, once you are both a little bit used to this new situation, agree on some reasonable rules and limitations. Emphasize that these rules are not cast in stone. They can be modified, repealed, amended, and added to by mutual agreement. If there is some rule she demands and you resist, she wins! She needs this stability. Work, over time, to reduce her objections to what you want and compromise to gain some portion of it. And follow the rules! You're trying to rebuild a violated trust! Don't make her think you're lying again.
This all comes from my experience and from the telling experiences I've read and heard. Every person is different. Make a couple of them and they're four times different. There isn't one set of telling procedures. What worked for me may not work for you. Still, I believe there are general principles--my perception of which I've outlined here--that will improve your chances of peacefully adding crossdressing to your loving marriage.
In closing, I just want to say to the CD who wants to tell his wife, that it really can work. I told my wife a year and a half ago, next month. I believe it has made our marriage stronger, not weaker. She has helped, and still helps me with womanly things. We go to Tri-Ess meetings together and we are *both* full members. We go shopping and other places with me en femme. We have both changed and grown. My success is mostly due, of course, to the absolutely wonderful woman I married, though I'd also like to think telling is one thing in my life I didn't screw up at all.