In light of the recent breach of personal data from Ashley Madison, a website promoting infidelity, the concept of how to disclose potentially damaging and hurtful information is a vital topic. Stories are pinging social media and news outlets that report alarming tales of suicide, divorce, and even scandals involving public figures. Maybe your name is on that hacked list and you’re lying awake at night wondering if you should come clean.
Disclosure is a delicate bloom on the vines of your relationship. Your confession may be your loved one’s trauma. Consider enlisting help from a professional. Therapists, especially those with specialized training in sex addiction, can help guide you down the intricate path of admitting to behavior outside of agreed-upon vows of commitment.
Consider These Concepts of Confession
- It’s not about you: The disclosure process is not about dumping your questionable behavior on your spouse or significant other, receiving forgiveness, and moving on. It is about your first steps toward generating genuine remorse through face-to-face accountability with your partner. This is also the time for you to enter into the dimension of transparency, which is going to be key going forward. There will be no going back into your secret place if you have any hope of saving your relationship.
- Learn empathy: Disclosure of your secret behavior to your significant other—no matter the magnitude—will likely come as a shock. He or she may be reeling from a sense of deep betrayal, and you’ll need to understand how painful your confession will be. These feelings may escalate into confusion, anger, humiliation, and/or traumatization. If you do not have the skills to understand the impact of these overwhelming emotions on your partner, the deep divide in your relationship may simply spread.
- Get support: You may be feeling shame, sadness, even hopelessness at facing the fallout of your behavior. Your spouse or significant other may be feeling a tremendous sense of betrayal. You both need support. Initially, help can come through trusted family members (key is trusted), your church, or nearest counseling center, preferably one with therapists who are trained to deal with trauma, shame, and disclosure. Though you both may want to just isolate for protection, fight those feelings and reach out. Run; don’t walk.
- There is hope: There’s a reason behind your behavior, and there is help for you in figuring out why you acted outside of your commitment to your relationship. If you are able to face some truths and work at making changes, you’ll come out the other side better able to experience true intimacy. Your partner will need to see these changes and work through his or her feelings as well. Most importantly, you must be willing to share the brunt of the recovery work. You must remember that your choices are at the root cause of the wound in your relationship. Though there may be other problems in your partnership, saving it after you have acted outside of your vows lies squarely on your shoulders.
Even if you were not “caught” in this latest breach but you know that your secret life is harming you and your family, it’s time to face the music. We live in a media-savvy culture with cameras everywhere and personal data spread across wavelengths that may be ruptured sooner or later. Get out in front of any situation aiming to derail all you have built up and get the help you need to get back on track.
There’s good help out there. Go find it.
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kathleen Scott, ACSW, therapist in Santa Ana, California
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