Clients who have betrayed their partners through infidelity, emotional affair, pornography use, or other acting out behaviors often question if or how much they should confess to their loved one. Wouldn’t the full truth cause more hurt and prolong healing and repair of the relationship? In other words, what they don’t know can’t hurt them. On one side, complete disclosure can feel brutal for both the involved and hurt partner and comes with the possibility of losing everything. On the other side, not being honest risks a stunted, dishonest love that leaves one questioning whether their partner would stay or still love them if they knew what they have done. This festering, inauthentic love eventually guarantees its loss.
Ignorance is not bliss. Honesty is crucial in healing. Research indicates that recovery of betrayal trauma is most likely to be achieved through full disclosure of wrong doings, recognizing all the major elements of the acting-out behaviors. While confessing a little at a time may seem gentler, the slow tearing off of the bandaid in an attempt to lesson the pain simply reopens the wound, keeping it fresh and vulnerable with each new discovery. Thoughtful, honest disclosure provides the betrayed partner evidence that the destruction is over and hope that healing can begin.
Preparing a thoughtful disclosure sends a powerful message to your partner that you are willing to do the hard work necessary in being accountable and rebuilding trust. Where the behavior was selfish, full disclosure is selfless as you put the needs of your partner and your relationship ahead of your own immediate comfort. Acknowledging and confessing destructive thoughts and behavior is not appealing for either partner. However, statistics show that 96% of acting out partners and 93% of hurt partners come to believe, with time, that disclosure was the right and helpful thing to do.
Possible topics to consider when preparing your disclosure may include:
1. I’m confessing to you because :
2. I feel
3. My hope in sharing this is
4. My problems with (infidelity, emotional affair, porn, sexual acting out) began when
5. I am responsible for causing harm to you in these ways
Focus on areas of the betrayal regarding thought, behavior and action. What happened, where, when, and with whom (avoid sharing specific sexual acts) Include your own justifications and excuses in thought and action, labeling them as, I justified what I was doing by telling myself. . . but that was a lie and an excuse.
6. I see/hear/am aware of the impact on you in these ways:
How has your betrayal impacted your partner’s life, your life, and the lives of others?
7. I regret
8. I apologize/wish I could repair
9. Moving forward I commit to
Some acting out partners attempt to purge themselves of the discomfort of deceit, blind siding their partners with impulsive detail in the name of honesty. More effective healing happens when both partners benefit from thoughtful collaboration with a professional betrayal trauma recovery therapist who can help facilitate communication and set boundaries as to when and how the disclosure is made.
If you or a loved one is impacted by Betrayal Trauma, we are here for support. Join us in research based, individual therapy or group counseling courses designed to help you gain a clear understanding of how you are being impacted by betrayal. We can assist you in developing strategies you can implement to begin the healing process now..
Kara Facundo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate trained in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, Levels I, II and III. She specializes in helping individuals and couples recover from betrayal trauma and achieve personal growth. She also has a Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health.
Principle Skills Relationship Center is one of the few therapy practices in Colorado that specializes in treating couples with The Gottman Method. The Center integrates the Method in treating betrayal, trauma, and sexual compulsions and addictions.