Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Any time there has been sexual betrayal it is wise to have a disclosure. If there is no chance of the marriage or relationship surviving, it may be a moot point. If you are still undecided or thinking about staying, it’s a good idea to pursue one.
But only you know what you need and YOU get to decide if you want one or not.
So what is the purpose of disclosure?
The disclosure process, regardless of how you came to know about the unwanted sexual behaviors, is to learn what has been done behind your back. Having a disclosure is similar to holding up a mirror. Its purpose is to reveal truth that has been hidden or ignored. You will be seeing the truth, likely for the first time.
Because sex addiction thrives in lies and secrets, you are probably reeling from what you’ve found out or you may even feel as though you don’t know this person you have been living or interacting with.
And you’d be right. You don’t know them at all. And that’s exactly what they have wanted, in a sense….to not be known because it’s too scary for them to reveal the truth. The addict believes that if they were really known, they would be rejected. That is their biggest fear that keeps them living in this deception.
As a result of this fear of rejection, you may receive some staggered confessions of their activity because they believe that this will be easier for you to digest than the whole truth. This is NOT what a disclosure is or should look like and only adds to further trauma for the partner.
Having a 'verbal disclosure', which is one where the addict will share what they remember at the time or that they see as significant for you to know, will also add to partner distress. This is often done as way of ‘vomiting’ out their behavior so that they feel better and relieve themselves of any lingering guilt. It also can happen in an outburst of anger. None of these ways is safe for the partner and only results in additional trauma.
The ideal disclosure would be one that is written out over a period of time so that the addict has fully disclosed what you as the partner need to know. This would be guided by a therapist who is able to assist the addict in preparing the ‘disclosure document’ to make sure that it contains all the information that has been requested.
**Note…if you see a counselor who is on board with a verbal disclosure, run away. Seriously. This will further traumatize you, will not validate how you feel or bring you to a place of healing.
A disclosure should bring truth to the surface so that you can begin to heal, having a new foundation to build upon, which is ultimately more beneficial to you both. Dr. Milton Magness says, “A disclosure that is less than 100 percent honest is not a disclosure but a deception.”
At the core of any good and solid relationship is truth or trust. There is no way to rebuild or work on your relationship without it. This is the reason that a disclosure is recommended.
Who do I go to for a disclosure?
I’ll say first…take your time. Find someone who has a good understanding of the disclosure process and who has done them successfully. The desire is for the addict to have been working with a CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) because they have experience working with this type of addiction. If they have training through APSATS (Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists), that would help you as the partner because they will be more sensitive to your trauma and they can work with the addict on how to gain empathy towards you.
As a partner it is advisable for you to have your own support person who is available for you. The goal is for you to feel safe and validated throughout this process. Finding a Coach or Therapist who has been trained through APSATS so that they fully understand how to best support you and prepare you for the disclosure would be best.
Ultimately the goal of a disclosure is for you to find peace and truth in your situation. Finding a well trained APSATS Coach or Therapist to assist you as you prepare for disclosure, get to a place of safety and stabilization, and move forward into your healing should be your primary focus at this stage.
Next time I'll share more about a Full Therapeutic Disclosure, as well the pros and cons of a polygraph.
How are you feeling as you think about having a disclosure? If you already had one, do you feel as though it was productive or is there information your gut is telling you that was left out? How do you want to address that?