After Ashley Madison: What to Know Before You Come Clean

Finger on lips - silent gestureIn 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.

Be careful.

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

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • darryl

    darryl

    September 2nd, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    This can be such a hard situation to have to live with. But you do have to come clean- it will probably be good for the marriage as well as for the soul.

  • Garrett S

    Garrett S

    September 3rd, 2015 at 1:45 PM

    This is going to sound really selfish, but until I am caught there is NO WAY that I would out and confess something like this! If I wanted my wife to know about my secret goings on online then I would have told her. I don’t want her to know and I am not about to be the one to tell her unless my back is up against the wall. What good is that kind of confession going to do anyway? It would destroy my marriage, hurt the kids, and I would lose a great family. Maybe I made a mistake even signing up and maybe I would have never acted on it and I am definitely not going to now. So hopefully she will never even have to know.

  • Sherry

    Sherry

    September 4th, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    You need to know that actions have hurt a whole lot of people and that there will be a whole lot of work that has to be done to gain whatever it is that you are searching for once this comes out.

  • doug

    doug

    September 6th, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    So may be you were acting out by creating this account because your marriage was not as satisfying and fulfilling as it should have been.
    I do not think that there is anything wrong with admitting that and coming clean about the whole situation.
    This could be the perfect way to open up those lines of conversation that you may feel have been closed for quite some time and to make a real difference in your life as well as the whole family.

  • bethany

    bethany

    September 7th, 2015 at 5:54 AM

    I just have to say to Garrett, yes you are right it is selfish! for one if you did seek Ashley Madison and not want to come clean as it could ruin your marriage , lol what kind of marriage do you think you have that you have? why is it ok for you to have a choice and she doesn’t? If you tell her then you give her the choice to stay or go! She needs to know what kind of marriage she has, But the point is if your looking elsewhere then your marriage is already ruined. By the way remember this … Secrets go both ways!

  • Creighton

    Creighton

    September 7th, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    This could be the time that you have been waiting for, to really look deep within yourself to see what has caused you to even look for love somewhere else.

  • rowe

    rowe

    September 8th, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    Well what are you looking to gain from a confession like this?
    Are you wanting the marriage or relationship to end?
    are you wanting to be absolved form your sins?
    Or are you wanting to use this as a stepping stone toward a healthier relationship?
    I think that it is best to know your reasons before going into it so that you know the outcome that you are wanting to get.

  • liz

    liz

    November 11th, 2015 at 2:29 AM

    Ive been married to my high school sweet heart for 16 years. At 4yrs into our marriage i cheated with his family member. Ive been living with this guilt and know so hazy about what actually happen and the reasons. I told him about my affair after he had 2 affair and begging me for forgiveness. He demands to know the details. Hes always making comments and cant keep a straight conversation because it leads to having sex w/ someone else. I was not in the state of mind that i am today and i know it betrayal. I dont want to lose him . he want to leave because im not saying the whole truth.. I want to save my marriage and make him happy. 1Again.

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