The Disclosure Process
Disclosure is the act or process of you or your partner revealing or uncovering a hidden truth. It is the point in time when either you or your partner finally admits their sexual addiction or intimacy anorexia or even when you mistakenly find out about your partner’s sexually addictive behaviors.
If your situation is similar to mine, your partner’s sexually addictive behaviors have already been disclosed. You are probably reading this article after disclosure has taken place. However, if your partner has not yet been honest with you about their sexual addiction or intimacy anorexia, or possibly do not yet realize it themselves, this article may be extremely beneficial to you.
Also, at this point in your recovery process, you may not believe you will regain complete trust with your partner again. However, as one who has walked a similar road, I want to encourage you and let you know there is hope, and you can rebuild and regain trust in your relationship again.
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss different types of disclosure.
1. The Polygraph
Many of you were fortunate enough to receive a recommendation from a friend or contact a counseling office that offered polygraphs to assist with the disclosure process. If your partner has not yet disclosed any sexually addictive behaviors, and your intuition is telling you otherwise, I highly recommend the use of a polygraph.
The use of a polygraph eliminates any additional what‑if scenarios in your mind. It will put your mind at ease. As the partner, you can work with a certified sexual recovery therapist to phrase the questions in such a way that gives you peace, knowing the entire truth has been disclosed.
Unfortunately, sexual addicts can be great deceivers, so it is critical you understand the truth in its entirety regarding their sexually addictive behaviors.
Also, the polygraph is a great way to rebuild trust between partners. If you have been betrayed by a loved one, nothing is a greater tool than the use of a polygraph to ensure honesty in your relationship. In an effort to rebuild trust, it is recommended to utilize a polygraph after 3 months, 6 months and 9 months after recovery has begun to ensure partners are being completely honest with one another. As my husband says, “positive and consistent behavior over time equals restored trust.”
NOTE: Polygraph questions should be time-limited (since married or since this date), yes/no answers and cannot predict the future. If you would like more information on possible polygraph questions, please contact Transformed Hearts Counseling Center at (719) 590-1350.
In my personal situation, my partner experienced significant discomfort during his first polygraph. Suddenly, as he was hooked up to a polygraph machine and nerves began to explode throughout his body; he began to realize the depth and great sadness I felt as his wife. He became very solemn and heartbroken, as he returned from his polygraph. At that point in time, I believe he finally understood my need for knowing the truth and that no matter what the truth was we would have to deal with it together and move forward.
2. A Traumatic Event
Some of you may have experienced an unfortunate mishap, where you personally discovered your partner’s sexually addictive behaviors in action or you may have discovered them indirectly without the intent of uncovering something unknown to you. Your partner was caught in the act. First, I apologize that you discovered your partner’s addiction in this manner. It is unfortunate. However, consider yourself blessed that you now know the truth and can receive help to overcome this traumatic event.
Again, I highly recommend the use of a polygraph after this type of disclosure so that you are aware of the big picture and not just the one-time event you discovered.
It is best you know everything up front, rather than receiving one piece at a time and the destruction that can cause.
For some who experience disclosure in this venue, it may also cause a traumatic event, in which case you can also be easily “triggered” in the future. (For more information, please refer to Ashes to Beauty The Book.)
3. Self Disclosure with Half-Truths
For those of us who weren’t so fortunate to discover the polygraph immediately, your partner may have self-disclosed to you because of the guilt or shame they experienced from their sexually addictive behaviors. However, oftentimes, the addict will only disclose half-truths. Your partner may have told you only bits and pieces, rather than disclosing information with complete honesty.
Many detail-oriented individuals, like myself, may have felt strongly compelled to ask as many questions as they could about their partner’s addiction. I highly recommend you restrain yourself from asking too many questions. Not only does it trigger your partner by recollecting the events, it will also be ingrained in your mind forever. Later on down the road, you may wish you hadn’t heard the responses to many of those questions, as you may be plagued with constant, detailed reminders of your partner’s addiction. Just trust me on this one. No more questions please.
I can’t reiterate enough the use of a polygraph. Again, please consider this tool to help regain trust between you and your partner.
4. Full Self-Disclosure
I believe we all would prefer the method of full self-disclosure. Regrettably, not many are fortunate enough to experience this type of disclosure. However uncomfortable and hurtful it is to hear, we all prefer to know the truth at the first point of self-disclosure.
Deception is a character trait most individuals cannot tolerate in a relationship. However, many people can come to an understanding and successfully go through the grieving process when sexual addiction is disclosed. In my case, I had prayed about what the issue was for over a year, and God did reveal the truth to me. The truth will always be known as a reality eventually. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Matthew 10:26)
It is so difficult to hear one or two pieces of information, and then two weeks later discover there was more to the story. When we, as partners of a sexually addicted anorexic, are subject to multiple self‑disclosures, we tend to reopen the wound and have a diminished ability to regain trust with our partner. Again, it is similar to the analogy of a gunshot wound. Do we want a Band-Aid to repair the wound or do we want to rush to a hospital and have the bullet removed entirely as quickly as possible? We all desire honesty, especially when the health of our heart is involved!
5. Forced Disclosure
Some partners find themselves in an unbearable situation that threatens divorce. The sexually addicted anorexic may feel externally motivated to disclose in order to prevent separation from their partner. Since many sexually addicted anorexics are concerned about their image, the threat of losing their loved one helps them become invested in the relationship. At times, this can be helpful to motivate a sexually addicted anorexic. It is painful for the anorexic when their image could be harmed. The partner, oftentimes, becomes the hero to save the relationship. Remember, if you threaten a separation, you need to be ready to enforce it. Will you do what you say? Will you hold your ground?
At other times, God can use dreams to speak into our lives. He may also use the power of prayer to reveal a hidden truth, as in my situation. He could also choose to use the wisdom of others to offer helpful insight into a situation.
It is important to note after disclosure, the sexually addicted anorexic will feel great. The sin that has kept them in bondage for so long has been unleashed and the process of experiencing freedom has begun. However, for the partner, the hurt and pain of betrayal has just been discovered. Their downward cycle is just beginning, whereas the addict is finally heading back upward.
Initially, the disclosure I experienced was half truths of self-disclosure from my husband. Nearly four months later, full disclosure was provided through the use of a polygraph. Regardless of how you and your partner experienced disclosure, the fact remains that full disclosure is a key element to a successful recovery. If the wound is not fully disclosed and thoroughly washed out, you cannot recover completely and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If even the slightest possibility of re-wounding or infection exists, it is important we continue fully disclosing the situation to prevent further infection. Whether you utilize a polygraph on a regular basis or maintain consistent, open communication with honest self-evaluation and disclosure, the outcome will be the same. Trust will be redeveloped within your relationship over time, and that is what we all are hoping to achieve in our recovery process. (NOTE: You can experience full disclosure without knowing all the details of an event.)
As the partner of a sexually addicted anorexic, it is also important you receive full disclosure before planning a separation, divorce or an agreement to stay together under specified conditions. If you make these decisions prior to knowing all the facts, you may regret it later.
Kerry Schortzman is the Director of Operations at Transformed Hearts Counseling Center as well as an author and speaker. She has traveled the road of recovery alongside her husband through the wildfires of intimacy anorexia. She has a heart and passion to see healing and restoration in relationships and marriages as well as to bring public awareness to eliminate sex and human trafficking. Kerry has been married since 1998 and lives in Colorado with her husband and four daughters. She and Cory 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.
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.