Larry Colclasure, M.S., LPC
Disclosure, as I’m sure we all know, is one of the toughest processes to go through. There is no good way to disclose, it is not a natural process, it is the result of the enemy and sin.
The first step to making a good disclosure is to go from defense to offense. We have been defensive for a long time, trying to hide what we have been doing, trying to cover our tracks, trying to find time to get away, to act out, and even lying to the most important people in our lives. It is time to stop defending these behaviors, admit the truth and get on the offense for our recovery (which includes our connection with God), marriage, and relationships. We choose to attack our sickness and our sin for these reasons and the front line of the battle is honesty.
There are a couple of big mistakes that many of us make at this time.
The first one is to hold back some things, to only do a partial disclosure. This takes some real balance. It is not good just to go to your spouse and vomit all your guilt. You might feel better, but your spouse will not feel good at all after being vomited on. At the same time, if you just admit to a portion of your behaviors, when the rest becomes known, it is much harder and more painful to deal with. And the rest always seems to become known. So it is best to disclose all the behaviors, types of behaviors, places we have acted out, and if we have acted out with someone our spouse knows, they need to know that name. Our spouse does not need to know any gory details or specifics. It is very common for a spouse to start asking a lot of questions. I recommend that we agree to answer any questions she has if she will take a month to pray about her need to know and get counsel about this first.
The second mistake is to start justifying what we have done and why we have done it. Our spouse is not interested in the why right now. It is time to admit the truth, take ownership of our decisions and our sickness. Trying to justify will usually just stir up more anger from our spouse.
The third mistake is to blame others for our behavior. Other people have impacted us and the reasons for our sickness are many, but now is not the time to discuss this. It is time to own my stuff, stay present, and take what I have coming to me.
That brings up the next issue which is, what I have coming to me. Most of the time, the addict has been escalating in behavior, hiding more and more, taking more and more time and getting farther away from relationships. It is often a real release to get this all out and still be alive. For the spouse, it is usually just the opposite. She has been going along thinking things are okay, or not sure about things, and then this bomb is dropped. She is reeling from this and trying to deal with emotions, thoughts, and consequences. She needs time and space to have her reactions. This timing is different for each person.
This is why it is so important to get some support and guidance. If I am not a home builder, it would not be too smart to tear my house apart and rebuild it without some guidance and help. If I am not an electronics specialist, it would not be too smart to tear my TV apart and try to repair it. I believe, and my experience has shown, that our marriages and relationships are much more complicated than any building or TV set. Therefore I believe it is very important to get some guidance and support.
This will come in three areas, first for the disclosure, then for the addict after disclosure to continue his journey in recovery, and for the spouse to deal with the damage and to rebuild.
Like I said, there is no perfect way to do disclosure, but I would like to share a model that can give some guidance. First is to list what you have done. Write this out and give it some time to make sure you have all that needs to be said and only what needs to be said. You will need some help with this. Second, list why you are stopping the behavior, why you are wanting to change. Third is to list what you are doing right now to stop the behavior and to attack your sickness and sin. Fourth is what you are going to do in the future to make sure you do not return to this behavior. I know that we can relapse any day, but we can have actions and plans in place to help us make the right choices each day too. And last is to list what your hopes, dreams, and wishes are for this relationship in the future. Where do you want to be in two years, five years, and ten years with this person?
Sometimes a spouse is not willing to hear any more than the first step. That is okay, that’s where she is right now. I need the other steps to understand that I am on the offense and know where I am headed. My ability to stay focused in this direction and continue in my recovery is the best tool I have to win her back.