Value of Full Disclosure Of Relationship Betrayal
Often those in recovery from sexual addiction have a deep fear that a partner will discover his sexual acting out behaviors (affairs, prostitutes, stripclubs, etc.). The other members of his 12-step “Sex Addiction” program may have even cautioned against disclosure because it may cause “more harm”.
At Hope Counseling Center, we agree that disclosure may do more harm if the partner is not ready, prepared, or worked through his/her own underlying issues. We have developed a Full Disclosure procedure that provides a safe place and structure to fully disclose.
When couples attempt to do disclosure on their own, they often risk causing additional pain and trauma. The partner often demands detailed information about the sexual acting out that can result in further harm. If the addict gives in to the demands for too much detail, those details may become imprinted into the brain of the partner and make recovery virtually impossible.
Sexual Betrayal Creates Deep Trauma
Incomplete disclosure of sexual betrayal can make partners of sex addicts feel crazy. When an addict is still keeping secrets, certain “energy” in the relationship reverberates with deception. More often than not, this tension triggers fear in a partner. She may become a private investigator because she needs to make sense of the discord she experiences between what she knows (or is afraid she doesn’t know) and how she feels as she tries to trust the man who betrayed her. Off she goes in search of the facts—secrets she believes her husband is still hiding. But detectives don’t make good companions, and suspicion prevents connectedness. Constantly being on high alert for any hint of possible deception doesn’t promote healing in a broken relationship.
Knowing the whole truth is foundational to building a new life together because the new structure must be built on honesty and openness. And it doesn’t require the Partner to uncover all the facts.
Healthy Relationships Require Trust
Honesty and fidelity are implied or clearly stated in most marital vows and agreements. Many betrayed partners maintain that the dishonesty and keeping of secrets is a greater violation than the infidelity. Research shows that more marriages end as a result of maintaining the secret than do in the wake of telling the truth. Even though the partner will be angry, she will be angrier if the behaviors continue and she finds out later that the addict was lying. We advise that in most circumstances, the addict must tell the partner if healing is to occur. When unfaithful behaviors remain secret, communication about other matters are gradually impaired.
Partners often initially ask for full disclosure because this is a way for them to:
- Make sense of the past
- Validate their suspicions about what was happening in the relationship – suspicions the addict often denied
- Assess their risk of having been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, to financial disaster and to shame
- Evaluate their partner’s commitment to the future of the relationship
- Have some sense of control
FANOS: Couples Sharing Exercise
FANOS couples sharing exercise is an acronym derived from a Greek word meaning “to shed light on” or “to bring to light.” It provides a way for a couples to connect emotionally and to build intimacy (intimacy = “into me you see” and you accept me anyways).
Each letter of the acronym represents a subject you will talk about together:
- Feelings: Share with your partner a feeling you have. (You may use a list of feelings if it could help you identify feelings).
- Affirmations: Affirm your partner for something she has done.
- Needs: State a need you have today (not necessarily one that must be met by your partner).
- Ownership: Take responsibility and apologize for something you have said or done.
- Struggles/Sobriety: Here you have an opportunity to tell your partner the status of your struggles/sexual sobriety/recovery today (sobriety date, general struggles, recovery work, etc.). Be specific but not graphic.
Your partner also has the opportunity to check in regarding something she struggles with and works on (sobriety from overeating, raging, criticizing, obsessing about, checking on you, withdrawing, etc.).
One of you will begin the check-in and run through the entire FANOS; then the other will do the same. Talking through the entire FANOS should take no longer than a few minutes, but it gives you both a opportunity to share what you are thinking, feeling, and doing on your journey toward healing.
When you share your FANOS, it is important that the other person provide a safe environment. Their role is simply to listen, not really give feedback.
When sharing your FANOS, it is important to maintain eye contact with the person with whom you are sharing it. Eye contact may feel uncomfortable at first, but will eventually become comfortable. This is part of the benefit of this exercise. If you do the exercise with your wife or partner, remember not to give feedback. Do not criticize, correct, or shame one another. Simply listen to each other and know that the goal of this exercise is to build intimacy into the relationship. Also agree not to talk about the FANOS for 48 hours after it has been shared. The key is to create safety in the sharing time.
Here is an example of FANOS from a partner:
- Feelings: I’m a little scared but hopeful. I often feel fear thinking about whether you are taking recovery seriously. I’m worried that you will one day betray me again.
- Affirmations: I want to acknowledge and thank you for doing the dishes today.
- Needs: I need recognition from my boss that I helped solve a problem for the company last week. I took a big risk to be honest and report some inappropriate conduct, and I recognize I want to be thanked.
- Ownership: I take ownership over my financial issues with spending. I recognize that you desire to save for our future and that my spending has often harmed us financially. I am sorry and I am trying to work on balance.
- Struggles/Sobriety: I’ve practiced healthy eating habits all day. While I have occasional periods of desiring unhealthy foods, I’m making progress in being more honest about how I’ve used food to cope with my feelings.
(Taken from “Shattered Vows” by Debra Laaser, ps. 184-186)
I. Why Important
Relationship assertiveness is a very important skill that contributes to harmonious relationship and self-confidence. It prevents and removes anxieties involving people. It is the wholesome substitute to aggressiveness or timidity.
II. Aggressiveness, Timidity and Assertiveness
An aggressive statement or action tends to injure or violate the rights of the others. It creates hostility or resentment on the part of the person harmed. A timid person on the other hand usually does not dare to say or do things that he has a right to do, for fear of being humiliated or rejected. It results in his or her own unhappiness, suppressed feelings, and ineffectiveness in his relationships with people.
An assertive person can say or do things that need to be said or done without necessarily offending others or violating their rights. An assertive statement can be firm but kind, and it can foster better communication, openness and understanding, and hence can bridge gaps in interpersonal relationships.
Example: Suppose there is a long queue at the main entrance of the airport, and Mr. Rey is almost late in checking into his flight and has to rush. What does he do?
Aggressive: Mr. Rey barges into the front of the line and appears tough and ignores the offended feelings of those who have been waiting in the line.
Timid: Mr. Rey does not dare to go to the front of the line and just lines up at the very end for his turn, knowing that he will surely be late for his flight, and at the same time feeling very bad inside.
Assertive: Mr. Rey approaches the persons in front of the line and explains his situation courteously by showing his ticket, and kindly requesting them to allow him to go in first so that he will not be late for his flight.
III. Applications of Assertiveness
Proper assertiveness is absolutely necessary for harmonious interpersonal relationships in all areas of life: between husband and wife, among friends and co-workers, during meetings or conferences, in public places, etc.
Example: A wife feels resentful that her husband came home very late. If aggressive, she may start accusing the husband with unfaithfulness or other things. If timid, she may keep quiet but will manifest her resentment in other ways, such as cold or hostile attitude, which the husband may not be able to understand. If assertive, she will discuss the matter with the husband at an appropriate time, state her feelings about his being late, and seek better ways of preventing such relationship problems in the future.
IV. How to be Assertive
1. State your reactions rather than accuse the other person.
Example: You told a friend about a private problem. Then your friend told it to someone else, which you felt was embarrassing to you.
Aggressive: “You are not to be trusted with private information. You are a disloyal person!”
Assertive: “I feel hurt that you told her without asking me. I feel embarrassed that other people should know about the problem when it was only meant to be known by you.”
2. Use an “I” statement rather than a “You” statement.
An “I” statement describes your feelings and reactions, while a statement that begins with a “You” is usually aggressive and critical and will be met with hostility.
3. Be calm in your tone of voice or use appropriate tone
A non-aggressive statement that is said in a loud, hostile or threatening tone will be perceived as aggressive. It reveals the emotional attitude behind the words. People would tend to react negatively or defensively.
4. Use D.E.S.C. steps
Here are four steps suggested by the book Asserting Yourself:
- Describe the unwanted behavior of the other person.
- Express the way you feel toward the unwanted behavior.
- Specify what behavioral changes can you agree on.
- What rewarding Consequences will the other person obtain for sticking to the agreed change?
Take advantage of opportunities to express yourself
It can be a simple greeting or smile. It can be to compliment a pianist in a restaurant before you leave, or thanking a taxi driver, or striking up a conversation with a fellow passenger, etc. Each opportunity will strengthen you courage to be assertive.
V. How To Teach Children to be Assertive
- Encourage children to make inquiries – In a store, let children themselves ask about what he or she wishes to buy. Encourage them to inquire about directions from sales clerks. They will find that it is safe to do so and will get used to have more courage to deal with people.
- Discuss with them about the difference between assertiveness and non-assertiveness.
- Encourage them to discuss difficulties in relationships without being accusative or condemnatory.
- Be watchful of your own aggressive statements towards your children or younger people. Children easily pick up the way of their elders, especially attitudes and mannerisms. This includes aggressive communication, tendency to swear or shout, etc.
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Enactments
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) is an experiential model of relationship therapy that focuses on exploring and processing underlying emotional experiences. Couples come into counseling feeling anxiety and distress about the relationship but don’t know how to change it. According to Susan Johnson, change comes “not from reprocessing of inner emotional experience per se, but from new dialogues that arise as a result of this new experience.” (more…)
Affirming Relationship Connection
When our partner connects and emotionally touches us with a spontaneous word or gesture, it is important to tell him or her of how it affected you. I call this affirming relationship connection moments and it helps both partners remember how far they have come since beginning marriage counseling. (more…)
Sex Addict Full Disclosure
When I work with men that struggle with sexual addiction behaviors (porn, affairs, paying for sex, etc.) and they are either married or in a relationship, I will encourage them to give a full account of their past sexual acting out behaviors. The goal of a full disclosure is in taking full responsibility with ridged honesty so the partner or spouse will begin to restore trust. We call this the Sex Addict Full Disclosure process. (more…)
Porn Overstimulates Your Brain
If there was a contest to find the best way to control a person’s will, internet pornography would win 2nd place next to crack cocaine. Online pornography is much different than the porn magazines of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Those magazines of the pre-internet era was similar to light beer, while the internet pornography of today is pure grain alcohol “Everclear.” Using porn overstimulates your brain. (more…)
Relationship Attention Bids
Relationship romance is kept alive each time one partner lets the other partner know he or she is valued during the everyday life events. John Gottman calls these “relationship attention bids” for the partner’s “attention, affection, humor, or support. Bids can be as minor as asking for a back rub or as significant as seeking help in carrying the burden when an aging parent is ill.” How the partner responds to these bids can either result in connection, trust, passion, or feelings of rejection, hurt, and mistrust. (more…)
De-Escalate Marital Conflict | Marriage Counseling
Couples that desire to have connection must learn to de-escalate marital conflict and create moments of emotional safety. To do this, both partners need to work together to restrict their negative dialogues and reduce their underlying insecurities. (more…)