Spouses Need Disclosure

sad hearts

Spouses need disclosure because they have a right to know who they love and what world they’re living in. It’s grossly unfair to pretend that everything is fine when it’s not. As difficult as this is, we’ve got to tell the whole truth. Besides, it’s your only hope of finding long term recovery. If you aren’t going to be honest, you aren’t going to be sober either.

When my husband came to visit while I was in treatment during family week, he made it clear that he really wasn’t interested in knowing what I’d done. Unfortunately, that’s not how recovery goes. Blissful ignorance is the antithesis of recovery. Done properly, disclosure gives you the whole truth but none of the gory details. How many anonymous sexual encounters, condoms, webcams, and affairs are part of the whole truth. Outfits, toys, thoughts, orgasms, and (usually) names are gory details. That’s easier said than done because wanting to know those details is a kind of defense mechanism for some people,  as if the details somehow can delineate the borders of this new world you now inhabit; the real world that you’ve been unaware of.

My husband didn’t want to hear any of this but he needed to. I didn’t want to say any of this but I needed to. Even with help, I don’t think you can be prepared for that kind of pain. It hurt much worse than either of us expected.

The first time I went into labor, I knew what to expect. I read books, went to classes, and learned how to breathe. When the big day arrived, we were a little nervous but more excited than anything else. We were merrily hee-hee-hee-hoo-ing along until that first real pain hit. Ten hours later, we abandoned our goal of a drug free birth and I got a shot of demerol. Eight hours later I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t survive another contraction. Six hours later, after around 40 minutes of pushing, our child was born. The whole thing hurt much more than either of us expected.

The second time around, I was more than a little nervous because this time I knew exactly how much it was going to hurt . But even though I knew what was coming,that first real contraction brought a tidal wave of fear with it. That and incredulity. How could I have been so stupid as to do this twice? How could I have forgotten? 

When you disclose a relapse, you know there’s a lot of pain coming but you’ve got to do it anyway.

I hope I never have to disclose that I’ve lost my sobriety but it could happen someday. After all, I’ve licked the bottle, to use an AA analogy, several times and only by the most technical of definitions have I been able to say I didn’t drink. There are times when I’ve been literally banging my head against the wall because every cell in my body is screaming for sex and I hate, hate, hate that I can’t just jerk off like the rest of the world.

I’ll bet you’re wondering if I’ve told my husband. I don’t tell him every time I want to watch a porn flick or read some dirty stories on the newsgroups; those are gory details. But I do tell about the big stuff. Nearly losing my sobriety is big stuff, so the answer is yes. I told him.

There are many reasons addicts lie about relapses but most of them boil down to avoiding pain. The only reason I can tell the truth because I remind myself that he has the right to know who he loves and what world he’s living in. If I truly love him (I do) I have let him see the real me, regardless of the outcome. Still, it’s like labor the second time around: way scarier because I know what’s coming. I’m sincerely grateful that my husband understands that.



  1. Another beautiful post here. Just like you said addicts need meetings, I need to read my blogging brethren! You always have so much of what I need to hear in your writing. Thanks for being a vessel for some wonderful messages. This disclosure thing has haunted me all the days of my recovery. It’s haunting me more right now. I hear what you are saying, but I think I have some “terminally unique” chatter going on in my head. I plan to revisit this. thanks!

  2. I googled “emotional cutting” because the idea totally freaked me out. I found this post, http://www.thesecondroad.org/tsr/2008/10/05/emotional-cutting/, at The Second Road, written by Mary P. Jones, a woman whose blog I follow regularly. Like GP, she is so frikking honest it makes me gulp.

    In that spirit of RH, I confess to going down that road—real cutting—many years ago. I have the unsightly scars to prove it. For me, it was a response to inordinate pain and chaos. This was before recovery, before an “understanding” of SA. It provided a sense of relief because it was manageable pain, and a distraction from the real source of heartache—my husband’s relationships with OW, and the deception and abuse that accompanied the acting out. I don’t do that anymore.

    I relate more to the “magical thinking” suggestion. When life makes absolutely no sense, when someone I love seemingly has no qualms whatsoever about inflicting searing , profound, and traumatizing pain, even when I beg him to stop, my mind morphs into some kind of misshapen cognitive cloud in order to make sense.

    Herein lies the danger: My funny, intelligent, blue-eyed husband could not possibly do these abominable things. My emotions are so out of control, so extreme; it must be me. I copped to a mental illness. Sounds like manic depression. He grabbed that diagnosis and ran with it. He became the nice guy with the crazy wife, with absolutely no accountability and incontestable denial. After going to The Meadows, many years later, I discovered that my roller-coaster emotions, my suicidal ideation, and even the cutting, had another name: Codependency. My behavior made sense in the context of living in an environment of betrayal, deceit, and abuse. I moved out.

    He came back. He made promises. He slowly moved into my house. He was even going to meetings. All the while he was still having affairs. The magical thinking continued. He can be so nice, so generous. Surely, that nice and generous man is in there somewhere. I want that man. I want him back.

    We have been together (we divorced once, after the first affair, but he seduced me with a vengeance beginning the day after our divorce was final) for over 30 years. I like to think that I stay because he’s been in my life for so long, because we are a wonderful family, because there is no money. I use terms like “learned helplessness” and enmeshment. In the book, Stalking the Soul, by Marie-France Hirigoyen, she uses the term “paralyzed” to describe the victims of narcissism (N). Being with an N engenders an image of a bunny and a wolf. Just as the wolf will go for the neck, the soft spot, the N knows intuitively what you need and what will harm you. I’m writing a book with the working title, Why I Stay, in the hope that in the process of writing it, the title will change to How I Got Away.

    There is still Magical Thinking. The innocuous term I use for the most radical defense mechanism I employ is “forgetting” The reality should be, This is as Good as it Gets. I’m in meanwhile, a terrible place to be. I’m in recovery, so perhaps I mistake my increasing bouts of serenity for what is possible for him. I write here to help me remember. Help me, I’m starting to forget.

  3. Okay, wait that worked. What a mind f**k! I have been trying to comment on here over and over and keep ending up on a page that says, “discarded”.

    I panicked and went to blogger help forum and installed a hack. (Why did I have to do that?!) When I click on comment, the appropriate form comes up, so it should work now. Hope you’ll try again.

    This is weird because I just discovered yesterday that my dog is deaf! (I thought she was mad at me.) That is what occurred to me when I thought that no one could comment on my blog. I’m more concerned about the dog than the blog, but silence is the theme, and silence is not a good thing in any context. I just have to wonder why silence is a predominant theme in my life just now.

    Anyway, if this works, I hope you’ll come back and try again. Thanks for visiting. I’ll be posting out dialogue tomorrow with my response.

  4. I tried to leave a comment on your blog — cool iTunes mix — I forgot that I needed to have Tina Turner — but alas — I couldn’t say so on your blog.

  5. Cool! I tend to take Saturdays off, though tend is not really the right word for a 2 week propensity. But after making the suggestion and wandering around with it, I realized there are many questions I’d like to ask of you. I also read various posts on your site.I admire your Voice, your insights, and as I said, your honesty.

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my SAH doesn’t talk to me about his addiction or recovery, in fact, he has more than once said, “YOU think I’m a sex addict,” so maybe he thinks there’s nothing to discuss, even though he goes to meetings and after-meeting meetings, and I assume he presents himself as an addict with his meeting buddies. The point being, all I know about SA, I learn from reading books and shares at COSA meetings. You could help with the missing perspective of one who’s been there. Hopefully, you’ll have questions for me as well.

    I’m looking forward to this. “Only connect,” in the cogent words of E.M. Forster. It’s my new motto, though I’ve carried it around with me for years. I think it a rather fitting way to describe what we hope for when we have these conversations on the world wide web.

  6. Sure! I don’t mind at all. I’m interested to read what those million thoughts were and a blog post would be a great place to explore that!

    I care much more about what search terms bring people to my blog than how many hits I get, but it’s really kind of you to ask first! Thanks!

  7. PS: I don’t mean to hijack the thread. I meant to expand the venue. I would continue to comment here. I’m basically asking you for permission to reprint what we’ve got going here. Does that make sense?

  8. GP,
    I’ve been thinking long and hard about your comment. “Emotional cutting” is a pretty evocative concept, and I want to respond with as much thoughtfulness and rigorous honesty as is in evidence in your site and in your posts. You’ve raised the bar, and I want to meet that standard.

    My thought was, (I had a million thoughts abt your question, but this is about how best to respond) would it be okay to post this thread–your post, my comments, and your comments back–on my blog and maybe get even more people in on the dialogue? I think the potential for insights is mind-boggling in a situation where you have an addict and a coaddict both offering their perspectives on a difficult topic. Interestingly enough, the topic has changed from Disclosure to well, something else.

    I only just started http://theotherbed.com. I still have to do some SEO and technical repairs before this would be of value to you, in terms of numbers, but to me, the discussion alone is of inestimable value, in our common subject matter.

    Let me know what you think. And thank you, again, for your forthrightness and honesty. I do intend to respond in kind.

  9. I mean this gently and kindly, just for you to think about – is it really malignant optimism or is it a form of emotional cutting?

    Optimism is so necessary for life, I would hate for anyone to try to temper what could very well be a life saving trait: to see possibilities and to hope. I’d rather you try to ditch your magical thinking, not your hope and optimism.

    I’m hopeful and optimistic that you will make the right choices for yourself and your children. You have an absolute right to the same happiness that you hope they will have and I’m sure you’ve got the courage and intelligence you need to do whatever needs to be done to move in that direction! I’m very excited for you! Great adventures await!

  10. Interesting you bring up personality disorders. How did you know? My SAH has been diagnosed as narcissistic, which adds a whole new twist to the dynamic. It makes sense that the SA is a symptom of NPD in that it is part of his Pac-Man like need for constant adoration (feed). And you’re probably right, no amount of recovery can take care of that.

    Unfortunately, some partners of NPD suffer from malignant optimism. When he’s nice, or even simply present, I forget about Mr. Hyde and I lap up those rare appearances of Dr. Jekyll. I’m working my way out of it, though, and take your advisement to heart.

    The difficulties of disclosure discussed from the perspective of the SA is invaluable. It meant a great deal to me and clarifies a complicated issue. I submitted this post to Digg and added you to my blogroll. Keep up the good work. I applaud your rigorous honesty.

  11. I’m glad I found your blog.

    My SAH won’t disclose. He did once–told me, the therapists, the kids, and then retracted it all. Changed his story 11 times in 9 days. Since then he’s admitted to nothing. I wish he would read your blog, this post.

    I had a little epiphany of my own not too long ago. I realized that I was as adamant (and rigid) about my need for him to come clean, to stop the crazymaking denial, as he was adamant (and rigid) about his denial. I realized I don’t need his validation. I know what I know and it has taken me a long time, but I trust myself.

    One therapist was so blown away by his persistent denial of any wrong doing that she thought he might be dissociating, like he really was delusional. In your experience, is that ever the case? Or is it just lies?

    • There’s a lot of similarity between denial, delusion, and plain old lying, and I think it’s hard to tell the difference when a person is in a mental or emotional meltdown.

      I think crazymaking is heinous. It’s the hallmark of sociopaths and psychopaths, and if you’re married to one of those, no amount of 12-step recovery is going to help.

      That’s not to say that addicts don’t engage in crazymaking, we do. But once we’re caught, most of us in experience something almost like a sense of relief. It’s exhausting to live a double life and we’re tired of feeling lower than whale dung.

      I’m glad to hear you trust yourself. I hope that trust will extend to knowing that you can live without this husband and that nothing is worth having your children grow up in a home with this kind of craziness. Please google Lovefraud for further information about sociopathy and psychopathy.

  12. Mystery leads to suspicion and suspicion takes the mind to a million places. On every occasion I have caught my sex addict in action it has been because I felt an eviscerating and crazy making feeling that something was wrong. I asked directly if he was having struggles or had relapsed. Repeatedly he told me I was harboring resentments from unfortunate ancient history. I began to think despite my hard work, I had not recovered from his four years of very active and dangerous acting out of his addiction. I went back into therapy and to church searching for and praying for the ability to forgive. FInally my therapist suggested that I investigate..if nothing turns up, I have a problem and if it does, my sensitivity is a voice I need to listen to. Well, he was back in the bars..in VIP rooms ejaculating into his pants with some dancers and actually having sex with one who is is favorite prostitute. He used work as an excuse not to be home. He used fatigue from work as an excuse not to be engaged with me, able to listen or pay attention to me.
    I am going through this again emotionally as if it was the first time. If he had shared the struggle early on, we could have obviated all of the acting out and despair it has caused. He cherry picks which parts of the program he will accept, rejecting others as totally absurd and against male human nature..all men jack off..all men look at porn…men go to strip clubs and can be good husbands. It seems his idea of recovery is reserving my body for ejaculation which leaves me feeling as though I am merely a tool for masturbation.
    I have been lonely for years..even when he was in “recovery” because his life is secret. He discloses nothing that isnt forced out of him through irrefutable evidence and then mitigates that with something deficient in me which made him act out.
    Living a life filled to overflowing with trying to untangle a web of lies and betryal leads to no decent quality of life. I dont need to know enough detail to leave an indelible image in my mind which will hurt me, but I would say there is a big difference between “I stopped by a strip club with some buddies, had a beer, put a dollar in a garter strap and left” and the truth which is more like ” I withdrew $300 from the bank. I made a VIP reservation at the strip club. I left work early after telling you I would work late. I stopped at the store and bought condoms. I took a viagra and went into the club and straight into the lap dance room. I paid for blocks of sessions with several girls before my favorite came in and brought me off”.
    I agree…if there is a spouse victim and the goal of recovery, full disclosure despite its cascading anger and pain is absolutely imperative.

  13. Gentle,
    As usual, your post brings a measure of hoest truth with it. You’ve certainly hit the nail on the head. I think that in my experience, when I find myself going towards the well, it means I need to do some serious soul searching. Last time I drank from it, it almost destroyed my relationship forever; that was the labor kind of pain I don’t want to go through.
    It means that now, I tell my SO things she doesn’t want to hear early. By not keeping them in (even if it’s just my realization that we’re straying because I’ve started thinking about being with someone else) and letting her in on things that used to be dark secrets, hopefully we can work through them.

    Thank you for sharing

  14. This is a great “nuts and bolts” kind of post. A working out of recovery principles into real life. This is one that I’ve specifically struggled with. I’ve spoken with sex addicts who felt strongly that they should not share a relapse with their spouse, just communicate a continued commitment to recovery. One man said that his addict father had communicated too much with him as a child, and it had hurt him. My interpretation was, OK, so don’t tell your kids too much, but I still need to keep my wife up to date. And yes, it’s been excruciatingly painful each time. Every time I fight off suicide as a less painful route. But obviously this would hurt her worse, and and it’s her pain (not mine) that I’m so afraid of.
    Good to hear your take on the subject.

  15. Wow. This post is amazing. Yeah, disclosure hurts. Hearing the addict’s side of it is very helpful. My SAH talks about the whole idea of avoiding pain as a reason for acting out (and drinking to excess). I can see how lying about relapses could fall under the same category. Your labor analogy is very apt.
    I hope that if we have to ever deal with a relapse in our marriage (and I know the chances are pretty high that we will), we both have enough tools in our recoveries to be able to deal with it. That is probably the scariest prospect of all to think of as a co-addict.

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