Finding out that our husband has betrayed us is a bit like having a bomb dropped on our home.
Sadly, for the vast majority of women (over 75% says research) disclosure begins with us discovering something of his betrayal (porn on the computer/phone, prostitutes’ numbers on the phone, a mistress’s disclosure, arrival of the police). Where to from here?
Hear No Evil
Some women don’t want to know anything more of his activities… at least not for awhile. Processing the “big one” (the knowledge that your husband, and your relationship with him, are not what you thought they were) is all consuming. That’s fine. However, in order for your healing to progress (which includes processing, grieving, letting go and forgiving) you eventually are going to have to know it all. By “all” I don’t necessarily mean all the gory details. However, you need to know the range of this thing… and you need to decide what level of details you require in order to process, grieve and let go.
If you are having trouble facing more disclosure, I’d encourage you to seek help and support. Yes, it’s incredibly painful, but in order for the wounds to eventually heal, you will have to deal with this. Left unattended: they will fester for decades.
Besides, if your husband is truly interested in healing himself and the marriage, he will be wanting to share the rest of his story with you. The two of you can work with a therapist, trained in sex addiction couple’s work, to plan a disclosure that will work for you. Remember that you are the injured party and the disclosure will be most difficult for you. Make sure your voice is heard in the planning; so that your needs are met, and you are as prepared, as one can ever be, for the bomb.
Give It To Me Straight
Of course more women as soon as they make a discovery, or have an initial admission of betrayal, want to know the rest. Now!
The fact is that the man who has been “found out” is rarely ready to come clean on demand. That doesn’t mean the wife doesn’t have the right to ask the questions: it just means that she should set her expectations accordingly. Years of hiding and lying don’t vanish on request. You are likely to get what is called a “dribbled disclosure” – and possibly one that is mixed with outright lies.
However, if you sense contrition and a willingness to come clean (many men are actually relieved to be found out) then explain to your husband that “dribbling” the disclosure is going to make things more painful for you than just “spitting it all out”.
But even if your husband does his very best to give you all the information you want at that time, there will still be extra processing ahead. It’s pretty common for an addict with a long history to forget some of his acting out (betrayal) events. They are often just too numerous for him to remember without a serious attempt to think it through. Moreover, you are likely to want deeper levels of detail around some incidents as time goes on – as you become capable of processing and grieving at the deeper levels.
Some therapists argue that the optimal disclosure is done in their office after a plan has been formed – even if the wife is demanding information now. I recently heard a therapist say that they tell their clients to be careful not to let any information out to the wife, no matter how much she asks, pleads, etc. It’s all to be saved for the planned disclosure (which might be a month away).
I don’t actually agree with this. I suffered the pain of a dribbled disclosure, but I can say with certainty that if I’d been made to wait a month while T (my husband) and his therapist worked out a planned disclosure – I wouldn’t have. I’d have been long gone and they could have forwarded the disclosure document on to my new address.
Somehow along the way, we’ve lost the idea that the wife is the (most) injured party here. That her needs have to be respected. Counselors who support withholding information from the wife until the time is right for them (the counselor and client) are teaching their clients to continue abusive behaviours towards the wife. They are behaving in patronizing ways that are unbecoming to their profession.
And what do they gain? A sense of control? A bit more neatness and tidiness? Fewer flying objects launched toward the client’s head?
A bomb is a bomb. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s going to be destructive and messy. Empowering women as they go through the process may be the best shield anyone (partner, counsellor, pastor, friend) can give them. That means asking them what they need to feel safe, and letting them have it.
Women: finding support as soon as possible is the best defense you can give yourself. The next is to set your expectations that this is just the beginning of a painful journey.
Fortunately, it’s not one you have to take alone. Your Father walks with you. He weeps with you. Your sisters do as well.
Praise You In This Storm
You are very welcome to share your disclosure story below: whether it is good, bad, or completely awful.