Back to Blog
I have worked mostly with the wives of men who are sexual addicts. When the spouse first finds out that their husband or wife have been acting out sexually outside their marriage, there is the “blindsided effect”. The spouse may have had thoughts that their marriage is struggling, but thought it was something else, usually never cheating. The betrayal of finding out that your spouse has been sexually acting out with pornography, prostitutes, co-workers, or other forms is such a blow to the marriage they thought they had, the marriage they wanted and hoped they would have with their spouse.
Many spouses feel trauma in the initial discovery of the sexual addiction, and then the trauma may be repeated as they learn the ways their partner has and will lie and cheat to continue the addiction. Disclosure needs to be done well and correctly to limit the depth of the trauma. When a disclosure happens outside a professionally trained counselor’s office, it usually ends up with more traumatic events for the spouse.
The initial discovery often comes outside of professional counseling, but a full disclosure should always be done with a professional counselor. Preferably the sex addict’s counselor and the spouse’s individual counselor in one room. This has been the best scenario for healing that I have been personally involve in and found that it can lend itself to be a healing cornerstone in the sex addict, and their marriage.
There are many ways of doing disclosure, but I believe the spouse needs to be the most comfortable and feel the support of their counselor and a process needs to be put in place. The sex addict’s counselor works through the sex addict’s sexual history and then has them share only the part of sexual history that pertains to the time that they were with their spouse. This is a delicate process.
The spouse needs to be in charge of where the disclosure takes place, they can stop it at any time, what they need for self-care after the disclosure is finished and for how long they may need the spouse to be away from the home, to sleep in another room, to not talk with them, and to give them space to process all they have heard.
The spouse then needs to meet with their counselor and process what was said and write an impact letter to the sexual addict. This should include but not be limited to the ways finding out has impacted their physical, emotional, mentally and spiritually. This letter may take many weeks to write in conjunction with working through the impact with their own counselor. The spouse then reads the letter to the sex addict with one or both counselors. The sex addict then takes time to write a forgiveness letter and it is read and discussed in another session with the counselors.
There is no time limit on any of these steps, and there may be more steps in this process. Each couple will present different situations. This is just a framework. Working with people is not an exact science. It is most important that the sex addict and spouse are involved in individual counseling and a part of support groups as they go through this process. Again, this process may take months. The sex addict often wants to rush the process, but the spouse needs to be ready for each step of the journey before they go through it.
As a counselor I have been honored to be a part of many couples healing processes and growth in their marriage, and individual growth. This is not an exact science, but a process to healing. Disclosure needs to happen for them to have a chance of both parties receiving full healing. But remember a poor plan for disclosure can do more damage and a good plan can start the healing process.