This past weekend, I was privileged to travel with a group of men in recovery to speak and serve at a men’s retreat. The retreat facility was nestled in the beauty of the Texas forest. Living in Colorado and coming out of the Houston airport, I rediscovered my sweat glands and pores I had misplaced. It was – how would you say – humid. A few hours later, we arrived at our destination. The retreat was centered on men’s sexuality and purity. The topic was heavy, but broken courageous men chose to become vulnerable and learn, as evidenced by the men who chose not to come to the event.
The weekend was filled with powerful testimonies by men who have come out of the darkness and into the light, revealing the truth of their sexual temptations and issues with lust. There was time for teaching, reflection, confession and one-on-one help. In some ways, it was draining, and in others, very rewarding. There was a great deal of tears and laughter.
Then it hit. The reality of the last day and the last hour. The reality of what these men would take home with them and begin to implement in regard to what they had learned and experienced with other men, but most importantly, … to share with their wife. No matter how intimidating or loving their wife might be, the possibility of full disclosure scares the heck out of most men.
Here are some common questions and justifications I receive from men. “Should I fully disclose everything to my wife?” “What should I not share with her?” “If I disclose my sexual failures, she will divorce me.” “I need to protect her; therefore, I cannot tell her.” “She will not be able to handle it.”
Now, I cannot tell you how your wife is going to respond, but I do know secrets give any addiction power over you, no matter how big or small, as they will keep you sick. Here are some things to consider. I am not saying it will be easy, but things worthwhile never are.
1. Wise vs. Foolish
It is not right or wrong that you tell your wife or when or where. However, it is wise or foolish. In this area, what might be wise for one couple may be foolish for the next. I want to teach clients how to think on their own and be responsible for their own choices.
Seek the counsel of others, such as a safe person who will understand and love you no matter what you have done. A safe person will not shame you. They will keep the information confidential. It is best that this person be the same gender. You may also wish to consider a spiritual leader, a counselor, pastor or a close friend who knows both you and your spouse – maybe a close couple, who know both you and your spouse.
Consider writing your disclosure in the form of a timeline with significant life events, such as job changes, moves, marriage, children, birthdays and holidays. This can also be done in the form of a narrative or outline.
There are many reasons why an addict will lie to their spouse. The biggest reason is that the addict is dealing with a great deal of shame and worthlessness. They believe they are keeping their partner safe from harm. They believe their partner will not be able to “handle” it. I have yet to experience a full disclosure when a partner couldn’t handle the truth. Now, there is often many tears, anger and pain. But I also have never met a partner who regretted knowing the truth for the first time. A partner will always choose truth and honesty over lying – no matter how painful it is to them.
3. Telling Too Much
I do not recommended you share too much information that may be hurtful to your partner, such as comparing experiences you have had outside your relationship as better than or worse than. Share information such as when, where, the frequency and last time it happened. This is only wise to consider in regard to the health care risks you have placed upon your partner.
4. Not Telling Enough
Not telling enough can be just as hurtful for your partner when you only share small pieces at a time, making them dig and pull every detail out of you. This puts all the responsibility on your partner to ask exactly the right question to corner and force the information out of you. It is much more loving and less painful to pull the bandage off quickly than slowly. I have had couples who have taken 2 to 3 years to fully disclose information – due to it being pulled out little by little.
These are only a few things to consider, as this is a very delicate and painful process for both parties. I have sat through hundreds of full disclosures and witnessed couples who have been able to restore their relationship to even better than before. Consider seeking a professional who specializes in sexual addiction and intimacy anorexia issues.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.