Once both spouses are ready, we will have a joint meeting with the couple and both recovery coaches. Here, the husband will share the breadth and depth of his sexual acting out. This will not be a time to process the information or the relationship. The goal will simply be to get all the factual information out in the light. We will set up additional meeting times to process the disclosure and deal with additional issues.
A few things we advise for disclosure day
- Don’t assume it will go well because “its only a couple little things she doesn’t know.” Many times what seems “little” to the offender turns out to be huge to the one who has been betrayed even when she knows about “bigger” things.
- Don’t assume disclosure will end of the relationship. It may, however, we have been amazed through the years what many couples are able to work through once truth is clearly on the table and once a wife believes her husband is committed to truth and a plan for recovery.
- Drive separately.
- Arrange childcare both for the meeting and for time afterwards.
- Have a safety plan in place in case the disclosure is especially difficult.
- Have a plan for each of you to stay somewhere else that night if necessary.
The Disclosure Meeting Structure
- Initially, the wife and her coach will meet in one room while the husband and his coach will meet in another. This is a time to catch your breath, talk over any last minute concerns or questions and, if you are comfortable, have your coach pray for you.
- When the wife is ready, her coach will text his coach.
- Husband and his coach will join and the facilitator will give a brief overview of the plan for the session.
- The husband will then read his disclosure letter.
- While he is reading his letter, the wife’s coach and the husband’s coach will keep an eye out for any signs of “overwhelm” in both individuals, but especially the wife. At any point, anyone in the room is free to ask for a pause or even to take a break where the husband and his coach physically leave the room.
- We encourage the wife to save her questions until after the husband has read his entire letter because many times questions she has may be answered later in the letter. However, we will do everything we can to help the wife ask whatever she needs to ask.
- The wife’s coach will have a copy of the husband’s written disclosure and will have worked out a way for the wife to let her know whenever there are things said that she wants to make note of and/or to circle back for clarifying questions.
- Once the husband finishes reading his disclosure letter, he and his coach will leave the room and allow the wife and her coach to see what clarifying questions she wants to ask and ascertain her capacity for those questions. Most wives then ask the husband and his coach to return to ask her questions. However, this is always based on the wife’s capacity. If she has reached her capacity and needs to be done, that is perfectly fine. Also, being “done” in the moment doesn’t void her opportunity for clarifying questions as we can always schedule other sessions.
- Once the wife has been able to ask her questions, we will close out the meeting and go our separate ways.
- If a wife is not able to ask her clarifying questions on the day of disclosure, or if she later realizes she has other significant questions, it may be necessary to schedule additional meetings with everyone (husband, wife and both coaches) for her to get the clarity she needs. If that happens we will follow a similar structure.
- Husband and wife will each schedule a follow up appointment with their coach within a week after the disclosure meeting. The husband is often fighting between very opposite feelings of fear and relief. Fear that his marriage might be over and relief that he is no longer hiding his sexual behaviors. The wife is often wrestling with a host of emotions ranging from relief (it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be) to horror, shame, disgust, and an incredible amount of hurt. Having support in place for the intensity of these emotions is essential for both partners.
- At some point after disclosure, the wife will have another individual session to work on an “Emotional Impact Letter” that she will share with her husband in another joint session. This helps her give voice to the pain she has suffered in disclosure and during the time of “knowing but not knowing.”
- Once the wife is ready with her “Emotional Impact Letter” we will schedule another joint session with everyone for her to read it to him.
- After receiving his wife’s “Emotional Impact Letter” the husband will meet with his coach to work on an “Emotional Restitution Letter.” This letter will help the husband take ownership of the pain he created through dishonesty, manipulation and control issues that invariably accompany addiction.
- The final session in this process will be a couples’ meeting where the husband reads his restitution letter. The couple can decide if they want her coach, his coach or everyone to be part of the meeting.
- Again, see Cost & Session Outline page for more details
- Here is a section from Darrell’s New Hope For Sexual Integrity recovery manual that we believe is helpful.
I believe a wife needs to know what she needs to know and it isn’t her husband’s place or even my place to tell her what she needs. An analogy that many find helpful is that of barbs on a fishing hook. If you get hooked, there is no way for it not to hurt. However, if there are no barbs on the hook, it will come out with less pain and leave less scarring. Details of a man’s acting out are like barbs on a hook so I encourage wives to pray and ask for clarity about what they really need to know.
I also counsel couples with what I call a 24 hour rule: I tell husbands, “If your wife asks something that you believe is a ‘detail’ rather than a ‘breadth and depth’ question, tell her you are concerned the answer is a barb that will only bring pain but that if she still wants the question answered at this time tomorrow, you will answer it.” I tell the wife to then pray and ask the Father if she really needs the answer. Many times this enables her to allow God to calm her fear to a manageable level and make a good decision about her question. Even if she still wants it answered, they both know she is not asking simply out of place of fear.New Hope For Sexual Integrity, pp. 198-199
- Try to give yourself grace for the process. Disclosure is a difficult and painful thing for both husband and wife. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Cry out to God before, during and after disclosure. Ask Him to reveal his Immanuel presence to you in the midst of your pain, your fear, your grief and whatever else comes to the surface for you. He understands your pain and He longs to join you wherever you are at.
- Know that disclosure is a very significant place on the journey of recovery but it is not recovery. There is much work to be done post disclosure. Injuries of the heart–damage to our primary attachment, is one of, if not the most painful things in life. As an unavoidable result, there will be much to grieve, much to mourn and much to learn. However, if you continue on the path of recovery, you will find God is faithful to be with you and that he also provides great rewards along the journey.
***(Yes we know betrayal happens the other direction as well but for simplicity and because we work primarily with sexually addicted men and their wives, we will refer to husband as the betrayer here)