Sex Addiction : a guide for couples : Understanding the importance of disclosure

Week 2:  We are now on to our second week of our mini blog series on helping couples navigate through the discovery of sex addiction in their relationship.  The series runs alongside the launch of Paula Hall’s new book “Sex Addiction – a guide for couples” which was released on 28th February 2019 and is available online.

A common thought for partners is “have you told me everything?”.  Disclosure of sex addiction can happen in four types of ways: 

  •  The sledgehammer blow – you walk into a room while your partner is talking to someone on a webcam and your partner then tells you everything that has been going on.
  • The drip, drip disclosure – you find a few messages on your partner’s phone, your partner tells you a bit of their behaviour.  You think you know everything, then a few weeks later, your partner confesses a bit more to you.  This type of disclosure can go on for weeks and months.
  • The drip, drip exposure – the partner has discovered some of the addicted partners’ behaviour.  There is an initial confession related to that behaviour.  The partner then becomes a detective and reveals more of the truth and confronts the addicted partner, who then confesses.  Again, this can go on for weeks and months.
  • Detective breakthrough – the partner senses something is not right with the relationship.  Through their investigations, they have a breakthrough and discover the sex addicted behaviour.  The addicted partner then confesses to the behaviour.

Any of these disclosures are traumatic for the partner and shameful for the sex addict and causes devastation for the relationship.  The best way for the relationship to move forward (after working yourself – see week 1) and get an answer to the question “do I know everything?” is to conduct a ‘therapeutic disclosure’.

What is a ‘therapeutic disclosure’?

A ‘therapeutic disclosure’ is where the person with the sex addiction gives a full account of their acting out behaviour.  It is a process of fact finding and information gathering.  The information gathering is facilitated by a trained sex addiction therapist.  Their role is to ensure that the partner and the addicted partner are kept safe throughout the process.

Benefits for the couple

  • Draws a line under the information seeking and sharing process
  • Provides a safe space to process any additional information that may be revealed
  • Ensures an equal relationship, without secrets, where both parties know what happened
  • Allows decisions to be made about the future based on truth
  • Creates greater opportunities for intimacy to grow from shared knowledge of the past

Benefits for the partner

  • Allows you to stop seeking further information
  • Creates a safe environment to explore other questions that need to be asked
  • Provides information from which personal boundaries can be considered and established

Benefits for the addicted partner

  • Draws a line under any further disclosures
  • Provides the opportunity to break through secrecy and shame
  • Removes the risk of any undisclosed information later being revealed or discovered
  • Encourages honesty and vulnerability within the relationship
  • Complete Step 9 if you are part of a 12 Step group
  • Allows for true intimacy to develop as you are loved for who you really are, not who you are pretending to be.

More details on how a ‘therapeutic disclosure’ is conducted can be found in Paula Hall’s book “Sex Addiction – a guide for couples”.  You can also talk to your Sex Addiction counsellor about the most beneficial way a therapeutic disclosure can happen for you.

Week 3 : Analysing the strength of your relationship

Once a ‘therapeutic disclosure’ has been completed, and the couple have worked on their own healing journeys, then the couple can start to look at their relationship.  This blog will guide the couple on how to review their relationship and decide what the future holds.