If you’re new to our website or our blog, at The Finding Place, we specialize in treating sexual addiction. Our certified sexual addiction therapists (CSATs) work with those ready to heal from their addiction, and our certified partner trauma therapists (CPTTs) work with the partners experiencing betrayal trauma.

How do I repair my marriage after the discovery of infidelity?

There are several terms commonly used in sexual recovery–Discovery is the point in time where everything fell apart. The addict’s problematic behaviors were discovered, and the partner found out how the addict has been acting out (e.g., porn, affairs, chronic masturbation, prostitution). Discovery typically involves deep shame for the addict and intense betrayal trauma for the partner as it breaks the trust between the couple.

This is typically the point in the process when the clients call us. Our therapists begin working with the couple both individually and together, and when a pattern of sobriety from acting out has been established, we will facilitate what’s called a therapeutic disclosure, which can be done with or without a polygraph (otherwise known as a lie detector test).

What is a therapeutic disclosure after the discovery of sexual addiction?

A therapeutic disclosure is a controlled and formal process to help heal the relationship between the addict and the partner. Whereas discovery breaks trust in a devastating instant, a therapeutic disclosure has the potential to rebuild it.

During a therapeutic disclosure, the addicted partner will write a disclosure letter that includes these five sections:

  • The purpose of the letter and the outcome the couple is working towards
  • A brief summary of sexual behaviors that predated the relationship
  • A description of betrayal events that happened during the relationship including each behavior, the frequency, and the duration
  • A estimate of how much time, money, and resources were spent on the problematic behaviors
  • And lastly, permission for the partner to set boundaries and practice self-care and a promise to respect those boundaries

(List adapted from Dr. Stefanie Carnes’ workbook Courageous Love: A Couple’s Guide to Conquering Betrayal)

The CSAT will guide the addicted partner through this letter-writing process, ensuring that the letter includes the correct level of detail and is not self-serving or manipulative. At this point, the addicted partner will typically take a polygraph test. 

Do I have to take a polygraph test?

While the polygraph is optional, it gives the betrayed partner added confidence that the addicted partner is not sugar-coating behavior or leaving anything out. 

Typically, the polygraph will include two questions from the CSAT: 

  • Have you been truthful in your disclosure letter?
  • Have you intentionally left anything out of the disclosure letter?

The betrayed partner can also request that specific questions be included during the polygraph.

What happens next in the therapeutic disclosure process?

Once the addicted partner has passed the polygraph and the CSAT is sure that the letter is complete and truthful, the addicted partner will read the disclosure letter to the betrayed partner in the presence of the CSAT and the CPTT so that everyone has the level of support they need.

The betrayed partner can then ask questions and will follow up by writing an impact letter describing the emotions they felt when hearing the disclosure letter. After the betrayed partner reads the impact letter, the addicted partner will then reply with an emotional restitution letter.

Should I tell my partner everything about my sexual addiction NOW?

I write this part to the betrayed partner: It’s completely natural and understandable for you to want to know at the moment of discovery everything your partner did to betray you. However, at that point in time, you will not be hearing the whole truth. You will be hearing bits and pieces of truth alongside half-truths and lies of omission. This kind of staggered disclosure has the potential to retraumatize you again and again and again, further destroying the trust you had in your partner and the trust you have in yourself, of what you know to be true.

Healing can’t happen when things are hidden, and addiction lives in secret. That’s why it is so important to formalize this process with CSATs and CPTTs who specialize in sexual addiction and betrayal trauma recovery.

The Finding Place Counseling offers mental health counseling in Little Rock, Arkansas, and custom therapy intensives that serve clients across the country. Visit our FAQ page then contact us to learn more.

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