Therapeutic Disclosure: How it Helps His and Her Recoveries, and the Relationship Recovery

Therapeutic disclosure accomplishes several worthy and necessary tasks for the addict, the betrayed spouse and the relationship itself.

 

For the addicted person/betrayer:
  • It helps get them out of denial by getting it all out with a compassionate counselor who does not judge, and helps to transform toxic shame into healthy remorse. The addict gets to see the depth and breadth of his behavior and the resulting consequences all in one place, which helps get him out of denial that “it doesn’t affect anyone but me”.
  • He is able to convert toxic shame (I’m a bad person) to healthy guilt/remorse (my actions and behaviors were harmful and I can change). Shame drives a person deeper into secrecy and addiction, guilt and remorse inspires a heart change.
  • He has an experience of total, complete honesty, and release the stress of “hiding” secrets. He gets relief from constantly working to hide the truth.
  • He experiences complete vulnerability with his spouse, in a safe space with a therapist present to protect both people. He has true emotional intimacy – and see that’s not a scary thing.
For the spouse:
  • She gets truth, so she can base her decision to stay or go, on real information. Deception can hurt more than the sexual behavior, SA’s don’t understand this, unless they are educated about that.
  • She can base her healthcare on this information (re: STD’s).
  • She gets to validate that her suspicions, or gut, was right, and that she wasn’t imagining things, and she wasn’t crazy.
  • She knows what she’s forgiving.
  • She gets complete honesty, vulnerability and true emotional intimacy from her spouse, probably for the first time in the relationship.
  • She gets to see her spouse, “for better or worse” and “in sickness and in health.”
  • She should get to hear his recovery and relapse plan, so she can be apprised of his recovery efforts, and gauge whether he’s seriously adopting a recovery lifestyle and becoming a safe person. – If his disclosure includes trauma, neglect or abuse as the cause of his addiction, she gets an opportunity to develop empathy for the pain he was medicating in the first place, and can see it as a disease, and not something “done to her.”
For the relationship:
  • They get to go from this point forward together, and put in pin the map calling it the “unhealthy past” and the future, “the healthy future”.
  • From this point forward, they can recover “together” and instead of “me versus his sexual behavior” it’s “us versus addiction and trauma.”

While it may “hurt” to rip that band aid of lies off, if done correctly, and with the right amount of detail – not too much, not too little, and with him completely owning his behavior, and not defending or blaming, or minimizing, it’s necessary to healing and does not “harm” if done according to therapeutic standards (both parties are prepared well.)

 

Personally, it was a very healing experience for me. I was able to see my husband in a new light, more real, more vulnerable, more hurting, way, but also as someone brave, to tell his embarrassing truth.

This is part of a 4 part process:
  • Full Therapeutic Disclosure
  • Impact letter (by partner),
  • Restitution letter (by recovering addicted person),
  • Response to restitution (by partner, if desired).

FTD is pivotal to get this whole process of marital healing and trust rebuilding started, but my impact letter (writing and reading) can be equally important.
Every step of this delicate process should be under the guidance and support of individual therapists trained in sex addiction and partner sensitive betrayal trauma recovery.

When FTD isn’t recommended immediately, and what you can do as the betrayed partner:

There are situations where working on the disclosure immediately isn’t recommended, when sobriety hasn’t been achieved, or there are other “comorbidities” – i.e., other underlying conditions such as personality disorders, cognitive disorders, trauma related disorders, other addictions, that prevent the sexually addicted person (or the betrayed spouse) from fully and authentically participating in a disclosure to the therapist, and subsequently to the betrayed spouse.

That shouldn’t prevent you from receiving answers to specific questions that could affect yours or your children’s safety in terms of health or finances, or legal issues, or might affect your decisions about, “deal breakers” for staying in the relationship. You might not get a full detailed disclosure, but you deserve to know if there was physical cheating, arrests, STD’s, blackmail, minor activity, etc. You don’t have to wait, to get certain questions answered. You can work with your own betrayal trauma informed therapist to develop those questions, and have them provide those questions to the sexually addicted spouse’s therapist and provide you with answers in a therapeutic environment.

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