When a couple comes to see me needing help and support, I give a thorough explanation of how this is an important process for all three dimensions of the relationship, the addict, partner and coupleship. Each one deserves and needs healing in their own right. It is a scary agenda for the addict, to put forth the energy into digging up the past and making sense of it;where, when and how did this addiction originate. It is much like writing a 1st step, and brings up some of their own wounds and traumas. We go over this carefully, sometimes writing 2-4 drafts before the final copy is ready to read to his partner. They also, need to comply to do a polygraph, a difficult, humiliating experience, however, freeing when its a pass, but not so, when they have not been totally honest in writing their story, and its a failed poly. We may go back to the drawing board, if their partner is willing, or I may suggest that we go ahead with the disclosure as planned and the addict agrees to have another poly within a week of another disclosure. As you can see this is exhausting for the couple. The partners questions are answered on disclosure day to her, after she has written them out, we go over them together, as well as how they are important to her. They can be anywhere from 50-200. These are important to her, and I find that the addict is more than compliant to give her the answers, as she longs to know the truth, and is deserving of no more secrets. The addict answers them before disclosure day, and we go over them together, while not allowing for any blame, shame, or defensiveness on his part.
Disclosure day can take anywhere between 2-5 hrs, depending on the history of the acting out, years together, and number of questions, I generally plan this event as the last clients of the day, wanting to give them the space and time they need.
For me, its exhausting as well, as one invest time and energy for the best outcome, putting effort into a process that could possibly and often is, new information discovered for the partner, even though most partners may think they know most of what will be shared. As part of the initial process, I email my clients the "syllabus" an outline of the step by step to do's. However, things can still get messy. The clean-up and the aftermath of a disclosure needs to be addressed with a fine tooth comb, such as the impact letters that are part of the follow-up, the couples re-intergration of physicality,emotionality, sensuality,sexuality and communication. They are redefining not only themselves, but all parts of the 3 legged stool. Its hard work, and I am blessed to be a part of this sacred space, as individuals and couples restore and repair the brokenness.
Below is a statement from www.recoveryzone.org
The initial feelings accompanying disclosure may be an important motivator in getting
the addict to commit to his/her own recovery going forward, including the wish to make
it right with the partner.
But although the addict feels some immediate relief in knowing that he has come clean
and that help is on the way, the partner who chooses to stick around will often have
a much harder time recovering. A large part of the reason is that the process of bringing
about deeper inner change sometimes seems glacially slow.
The literature on sex addicts and partners reports that on average it takes a year to begin to rebuild trust.
I believe this is because the addict needs to “behave” for long enough to establish
credibility, and because the addict must walk the walk of making amends.
It is also because the partner can tell whether and to what extent basic inner changes are
taking place. And in the long run this is essential to the credibility of the addict’s
expressions of empathy and remorse (www.recoveryzone.org)