- To validate their suspicions about what was happening in the relationship—suspicions their spouse dismissed and/or denied at the time
- To know if they’re at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, financial disaster, public humiliation, etc.
- To determine if and to what degree the cheating partner values their relationship
- To gain a sense of control over an out-of-control situation
- To help them determine how to proceed (or not proceed) with the relationship
- To see what else their spouse has lied about, as trust isn’t partial and betrayed spouses lose faith in everything about the relationship, not just things related to sex
For couples wishing to remain together, full disclosure all at once protects betrayed spouses from the continued emotional body blows produced by partial truths revealed over time. It also increases the odds that trust can be rebuilt. An unfaithful spouse who tells the full truth and then continues to be honest about his or her behavior has a much better chance of eventually regaining the respect of the betrayed partner.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough the need for disclosure to be carefully planned, organized, and carried out in a clinical setting. This process should not be undertaken without the supervision and involvement of licensed clinician(s) who have worked with both parties to prepare them for the process and potential outcomes of disclosure—as the sharing of this history, even in a safe, controlled, therapeutic setting, is unavoidably a traumatic event. In fact, many betrayed spouses, both before and after learning about a loved one’s pattern of infidelity, experience acute stress symptoms and even symptoms of PTSD (note Emma’s inability to concentrate at work, her frequent mood shifts, and her compulsive eating/spending). The phenomenon of relationship betrayal as a form of trauma is the subject of next week’s blog.