Couple Disclosure After A 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