One of the most difficult issues a man has to face is disclosing his sexual sin to his wife. The issue is loaded with both honest and resistant questions:
Why bring up something that is only going to hurt my wife? What good is there in bringing up the past? Where does the Bible say I have to disclose this to my wife?
While there is no clear biblical mandate, and no two situations are alike, there are some principles that apply.
1) Your sexual sin has broken your marital covenant. Hiding it from your wife continues to break the covenant, while bringing it to the light gives opportunity for true repentance, healing, and restoration.
2) Your wife is entitled to know that the covenant has been broken. In almost every case a wife would want to know, so you should not be making this decision for her.
3) What you don’t disclose you give yourself permission to do again. Be honest with yourself here. Not telling your wife makes it easier to continue in your behavior.
4) Disclosure is an essential step towards restoring a trustworthy relationship with God and, therefore, your wife. See 1 John 1:5-7.
5) There are real advantages in disclosing. First, it is usually better than having your wife find out another way. Second, it increases your chances of becoming sexually pure because it puts her on guard to any further cheating. Third, it re-establishes the primacy of your marriage by ending the conspiracy of silence that created distance between you and her. In doing this you realign yourself more closely with your wife and your right to control critical information that matters greatly to her. And fourth, your disclosure may awaken your wife to issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve true intimacy with her.
6) There is also a disadvantage or dangerous reality in disclosing your sexual sin to your wife. In some cases the wife will leave the marriage. This is true in a great minority of the cases.
Once you are ready and willing to disclose to your wife, how do you do it? Here are some things to consider.
1) Prepare yourself by doing an inventory of your past sexual behaviors. You can’t be totally honest with your wife if you’re not being honest with yourself.
2) Check your motive. First of all, it is important that you be fully convinced in your own mind about the importance of disclosing (Romans 14:5). Second, what is your real motive – to respect your wife and her right to know how you have broken your covenant with her, or for you to be absolved from guilt so you can move on?
3) Make provision for your wife before disclosing. Take her into the structured safety of being with a counselor or pastor. Be ready to pay for her to see a counselor on her own afterwards. Set time aside to stay with her if she wants you to. Have a place to go if she wants you to leave the house for awhile. And allow and encourage her to discuss this with a close friend.
4) Decide what you will disclose. Begin by sharing your rationale for disclosure ‘ e.g., I want our marriage to be based on honesty and truth. Then share the nature of the transgression (pornography, affair, strip club, cybersex). If was adultery, tell her who other person is and for how long. Do not give her the graphic details because this usually causes more harm than good. If she demands details, try to connect with her and find out what she needs to feel safe. Tell her if she needs to be tested for STDs. Also, give all the details about your m.o. ‘ your excuses and lies, the times and places you are most vulnerable, and what you did to orchestrate your behaviors.
5) Make it a full disclosure. Women want to know the truth, so don’t qualify it. Believe in the truth as the only path to healing.
There are several other important issues to consider in disclosure that we will consider in Part 2 of this article, such as, possible exceptions to full disclosure, dealing with your wife’s emotional roller coaster, responding to her anger, demands and boundaries, on-going disclosure with her, and minimizing the damage of your wife’s broadcast to kids, family, and friends.
For help in the battle for sexual integrity see Every Man’s Battle.