In the inevitable moment when a sex addict is finally caught by his partner, it can feel like the sky is truly falling, that the ground is caving in. Having his secret life discovered engages simultaneous relief and defensiveness. A sex addict may be glad to finally have the weight of his lies lifted (it’s been exhausting to tell so many), but is terrified of abandonment. And that means he’s almost certainly likely to tell only some of the truth.
A Candid Story Of The Consequences Of Only Partial Disclosure In Sex Addiction
Consider Jordan and Gina. When her boyfriend of four years received a Facebook message telling him that Gina had been cheating, he didn’t believe it. But when screenshots of text messages Gina had sent to another man were forwarded to him, Jordan confronted his partner. Gina broke down in tears, swore it had been only the once and vowed never to let it happen again.
But it did. After her second affair (or the second affair that Jordan knew about), Gina told Jordan she believed she had a problem and needed to get help. He had already packed up his belongings and made a plan to leave, but the old Gina—a devoted and loving girlfriend he’d admired and adored—had seemed to return. Jordan hesitatingly committed to the couple’s therapy Gina begged for and finally promised to try.
But two sessions in, Jordan wasn’t prepared for the facts that came spilling out. Gina felt safe with the therapist present and began to list the “string of guys” she had “flirted with” since getting involved with Jordan in college. When he’d pressed her for information after the shock of the Facebook message, she’d promised there’d been nothing else to disclose. Now he felt waylaid.
In truth, there was much more to the story, but Gina loved Jordan fiercely and was certain he would leave her if he knew everything there was to tell. She simply couldn’t risk telling Jordan the whole truth. And by admitting to part of the story, she relieved the tension of her lies while leaving the door open to engage in behaviors Jordan wasn’t yet aware of, and didn’t even know to be looking out for. By hiding the whole truth, even Gina couldn’t see how deep her lies ran.
Sex Addicts Tell The Truth In Stages
Most sex addicts, when they finally begin telling the truth, do not do so all at once. And many do not ever do so entirely. Shame and fear of abandonment are the primary reasons sex addicts do not disclose, though there are other reasons, such as not wanting to hurt a partner—and for those holding back on recovery—nurturing a desire to keep secret what they may wish to act on again.
The truth is usually disclosed in stages, and while this may allow the addict to feel more in control, it is not as helpful as it may seem for an addict’s relationships. Withholding the truth for any reason from a partner who wishes to know the truth (key phrase) will feel like further dishonesty, which creates conflict, tension and wounds in a relationship.
It is best to get everything out on the table and it is recommended to do so in the presence of a therapist. It is also best to do so at a planned time and in a way that feels safest for both the addict and the partner.
When A Sex Addict Should Not Disclose
If divorce proceedings or a relationship split are immanent, or if the partner does not wish to know details, telling the truth can be detrimental for the addict and for the partner. Planned disclosures are best in the right setting—with a therapist present—but it’s important to remember that while this is advised, it is not always possible. Disclosures tend to be messy because life is messy; things don’t always go according to plan.
Healing By Turning To The Tools Of Recovery
Recovery is of primary importance as is the health of the relationship; the two are bound together. When and if the disclosure process becomes fraught, both the addict and the partner should turn to their tools of recovery—meetings, therapy sessions and their community of support—in order to seek the guidance and strength to move forward. And the goal is full and total honesty starting today.
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