Helping Couples heal their Relationship by Disclosing Secrets
Most couples decide to participate in a Formal Disclosure after an external event, such as a spouse's suspicions or discovery of unhealthy sexual behaviors by the other partner have negatively impacted their relationship. The Formal Disclosure is a complex and difficult process for both the partner and the addict (the term addict is used to refer to the individual whose behavior caused the damage & betrayal, though we acknowledge that not everyone is an addict, it does provide clarity in differentiating the parties involved). It is a significant step in the couples' recovery, one that requires honesty, courage to be vulnerable, strength to endure reliving the pain that the addiction has caused and commitment to healing their relationship.
It is recommended that before a Formal Disclosure is presented to the spouse, that the couple should engage in their own personal recovery. In other words, the addict must commit to his own recovery from unhealthy, compulsive and demoralizing behaviors by participating in individual therapy, group therapy, attending 12-Step meetings and working with a sponsor. It has also been suggested that the addict should have a minimum of two months of continuous sobriety before presenting a Formal Disclosure. The betrayed partner must also address his/her trauma and betrayal by participating in individual therapy and finding a support group such as Al Anon, S-Anon or COSA.
Throughout the process of the Formal Disclosure, I will be assisting the addict in completing and processing the following to the betrayed partner with the support of his/her therapist:
The Formal Disclosure Presentation - a thorough and honest account of the addict's acting out history, basically a timeline of the addict's sexual behaviors and deceptions.
Impact Letter - a letter written by the addict from the partner's perspective on the damage caused by his behaviors (processed with his therapist only). This letter is done at the same time that the partner, with the support of his/her therapist, is working on his/her Impact letter to be presented to the addict.
Emotional Restitution Letter - an opportunity for the addict to validate the partner's reality and suspicions, to show empathy on how his behaviors have offended and betrayed his partner, and to reaffirm his commitment to his recovery & the relationship.
Self-Care Plan for Post-Disclosure - for both the addict and the partner.
Disclosure to Children - this type of disclosure should be age-appropriate and with the children's best interest in mind and only carried out after a full disclosure is presented to the partner.
The partner's therapist will also guide the partner in creating a list of questions he/she might want the addict to include in the Formal Disclosure. Both therapists will collaborate together to determine which questions are appropriate to be included in the final draft.
Both the addict and the betrayed partner must work closely with their own therapist to ensure that the pain and the damage caused by the addiction is addressed. It has been my experience that a formal disclosure should not occur at home without the support of their individual therapist, and until the addict has enough sobriety to be empathetic and completely honest and the betrayed partner has enough healing to receive that information. The Formal Disclosure can be a healing experience for both the addict and the betrayed partner if done in a safe, nurturing and therapeutic environment. If you and your spouse are ready to embark on working on a Formal Disclosure, then let me help you walk down your Healing Path.
"You can't just give up on someone because the situation is not ideal. Great relationships are not great because they have no problems. They are great because both care enough about the other person to find a way to make it work." ~ Anonymous