If you’re reading this article, prepping to hear your spouse share how they have betrayed your marriage, be encouraged. Disclosure is a first step for both you and your spouse to start healing. Doing disclosure well is important. Your spouse is reading our guide to disclosure for betraying spouses. The following is the companion guide to disclosure for you, the betrayed spouse
In This Article
About the Authors
Melissa Abello, MA, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in Marriage Counseling, Sex Therapy, Anxiety and Depression in Women. You can schedule an appointment with Melissa for online counseling or in-person at our Columbia, Missouri counseling center.
Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 10,000 hours of clinical experience. Shaun specializes in marriage counseling, affair recovery, sex and porn addiction treatment. You can schedule an appointment with Shaun for online counseling or in-person at our Springfield, Missouri counseling center.
Prepping for your Spouse’s Disclosure
You never asked to be in this position, but today you’re reading this article, prepping to hear your spouse share how they have betrayed your marriage.You may be hurting, tearful or enraged.You may be all of these things, and you have every right to be.Nothing can fully prepare you for this moment, but now you are in it you can make the choice to recover.
Disclosure is a first step for both you and your spouse to start healing.Doing disclosure well is important.Your spouse is reading our guide to disclosure for betraying spouses.The following is the companion guide to disclosure for you, the betrayed spouse.
Write It Down
Your spouse is writing out their disclosure in preparation. They are being encouraged to do this for multiple reasons. First, writing out their disclosure will ensure it is a thorough account of everything that has happened. When we ask or demand our spouse tell us everything now, important details are often forgotten or omitted out of fear, shame or anger.
Second, you will now have a written account you can refer back to if you are unsure about events or details. It is very difficult to retain information when you are emotionally overwhelmed. Your brain is in survival mode, not information processing mode. So, having a copy of what has happened will allow you to process the information over time.
Finally, your spouse is taking a first step of building trust by relinquishing control of the information. In other words, to this point they have been able to control what you know and when you know it. They are now getting transparent, allowing you access to see them fully.
Your spouse is being asked to address four areas of responsibility. Each of these areas in important and we will explain them below:
Your spouse will write out the details of what they have done. This will be the what, where, when, and with whom content.
Thoughts & Motivations
Here your spouse will begin to identify what they were thinking and what motivated them to be unfaithful. As a betrayed spouse, this is often difficult to hear. However, they are being challenged to take ownership of their thoughts and motivations, recognizing these as wrong justifications and sharing them with you.
It is important you hear these and not take them as a challenge or threat you need to respond to. Instead, you are wanting your spouse to be honest with you, including about these very dark and destructive aspects of where they have been. Reacting in rage will not create the environment needed, one where such things are brought into the light where they can be changed. Again, owning our flawed justifications is not the same thing giving legitimate reasons.
Your spouse will identify and be open with what they are feeling.It is important, as you are being open with your emotions, that they do the same. Both of you need this kind of openness to recover.
Now that your spouse is entering recovery, it is important they dismantle all areas of denial. They are being asked to specifically address and communicate the damage they have done to themselves and everyone around them. They are recognizing what they have done rather than having you and others do this for them.
You have a writing assignment too. It is important you take time, often multiple times, to sit down and write out every question you have about the infidelity. Don’t evaluate the questions at first, just write down everything that comes to mind. After writing down every question you can think, take time to sit down again and evaluate what you actually want to ask. Use the following criteria determining which questions to ask.
- How will knowing the answer to this question help me heal?
- Will knowing this detail create graphic images in my mind of what has happened?
- Will this question help me to know something important or is it coming from a place of thinking simply knowing more means healing more?
Pass each of your questions through these criteria. Questions which meet these criteria should be kept, while those which don’t can be crossed off. Take the remaining questions and put them in your final list to bring to session. Any questions you may be unsure of can be brought to the disclosure and processed with your counselor.
Resist the urge to grill your spouse prior to the disclosure session, demanding they answer the questions that have just come to mind for you. Remember, we want to do this well, and such spontaneous interrogations rarely go well and will not provide you with relief.
Helpful Level of Detail for Your Spouse’s Disclosure
Your spouse is being asked to share in a level of detail which will provide a clear and full accounting of what they have done. They are being challenged not to be vague or general.
Such responses are avoiding the seriousness of what has occurred. However, they are also being encouraged not to share in a graphic level of detail, which could exacerbate your hurts or create vivid mental pictures. You need clarity, not vague responses. You need a chance to heal, not have your trauma worsened.
Examples of vague, unhelpful disclosures are:
- No clear beginning or end time for the infidelity.
- An admission of wrong but not being clear about what the wrong was.
- Blaming an unwillingness to be clear on not having a good memory.
- Constantly questioning why you would need to know information.
Examples of too much detail:
- Giving graphic accounts of sexual experiences.
- Sharing unmet desires met by the infidelity.
- Making comparisons between you and the affair partner or infidelity behavior.
Supports for the Betrayed Spouse
Another assignment you have is to identify people in your life who can be your supports to check in with after disclosure. These people need to be able to hear and empathize with your without offering advice or fixing things. They are for you, but also care about your marriage and your spouse. They are not going to berate your partner or push you to end the relationship.
Let this person know when your disclosure session is. Plan to spend some time with them following the session, away from your spouse. This can be time to process what you have just been through, or even just to sit quietly together. The point is you have someone who is going to be there for you.
You have made it to the end of this article, reading about something so difficult and painful it’s impossible to put into words. We want to encourage you for taking that step in recovery. Being in recovery means you work with the reality you have, taking the steps needed to heal, even if they are hard. In this case, you are taking the step of preparing for disclosure.
This is a first step in healing, not the end destination.Prepare for and come to your disclosure session with that in mind. The goal is laying a foundation of honesty between you and your spouse to build upon.
No one ever goes to a building site and gets excited looking at the foundation. Instead, they dream of what will be built on top. In the same way, disclosure will not provide you will the thrill or relief of looking at a fully restored marriage. Instead, you will know you have just cleared away all the rubble and trash of deceit, putting the truth in its place.
Take a moment to absorb and appreciate this accomplishment for what it is. Don’t diminish it by comparing it to where you wish to be in the future. Recovery means we intentionally celebrate moments of healing. This will be your first of many.
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