There are many reasons why marriages end up in separation or divorce, and sexually addictive behavior is one of the causes. In emotionally turbulent situations, husbands and wives are urged to find the strength to fight for the survival of their relationship.
The path to achieving reconciliation begins with complete honesty. Honesty is tough, but certainly not impossible to achieve, particularly when the partners are still feeling attached to one another.
Honesty, sexual or otherwise, supports a new relationship with one’s spouse and pierces the veil of shame, denial, and lack of trust. Disclosure of sexual secrets may occur at the time of discovery, in therapy, or during step-one of a Twelve-step program. Some couples include disclosing current transgressions and temptations. Therapy does not end before disclosure of sexual secrets is addressed.
The lack of sexual honesty is an obstacle to recovery when it impedes building trust in the marital relationship. Continuing to hold secrets fosters a deep concern in the mind of the innocent party as to the addict’s sincerity to commit fully to recovery.
Walking away from a marital relationship is tantamount to giving-up, but fighting to overcome challenges is a sign that a wounded couple are willing to uphold their marriage vows and make things work for both sides.
Need for disclosure
Part of being fully honest in a marital relationship is disclosing past transgressions. Addiction therapists are divided as to the degree of disclosure required. It is prudent for an addict to unveil all his past behavior. Most therapists believe, unless complete honesty defines the marriage, no true restoration occurs. Others believe total disclosure opens wounds that continue for a lifetime. Full disclosure allows the addict to offload his guilt and shame but inflicts significant pain on his partner. Some therapists place emphasis on disclosing transgressions that occurred during the marriage and only broadly disclose transgressions that occurred before the marriage. Disclosure should be as complete as reasonable and best accomplished in a therapy setting.
Male fear of disclosing secrets
Sexually addicted men have a low sense of ego. From clinical experience, as many as half of the men in a sex addiction therapy group felt that their spouse did not love them. If a man feels he is not loved, it is more difficult for him to disclose his aberrant sexual behavior. He fears he will be abandoned by his spouse.
A second major concern relates to the fear a sexually addicted man feels about ending his addictive behavior. One of his greatest fears is how he will cope when he gives up his best friend—his addiction. In a group setting, a man hears other addict’s stories, which serve to enlighten and provide hope to each participant.
Female fear of hearing male secrets
The female partner experiences severe trauma upon hearing her partner disclose his sexual behavior. The spouse hears that her partner’s love for her was very questionable. If her partner is having sex with another woman, her ego is devastated. Her reaction to disclosure by her partner, at a minimum, will cause her hurt and disappointment. However, beyond hurt and disappointment most spouses experience a profound loss of trust, fear for her future, and fear for their family. A man cannot fully appreciate how his behavior shattered his spouse’s dream of a loving marriage. Most sexually addicted men are, for a number of reasons, self-centered and inclined to focus on how disclosure will affect their little world. Husbands often expect their wives to forgive and forget, that is, to compartmentalize.
Feelings of hopelessness
In the throes of a devastating disclosure, a marriage can be destroyed. The instinct of most couples is to feel bleak emotions like despair and hopelessness. While these are certainly natural emotional responses, it takes a clear mind to analyze and figure out a strategy to resolve a problem of a failing marriage. Simply put, couples are allowed to feel bad, but they must seek help. Sex addiction and marital counseling is readily available. While counseling is not always the right answer, the odds of saving a marriage and to enter a lifetime of recovery are possible. Schneider, Corley & Irons (1998) in an article entitled, Surviving Disclosure of Infidelity: Results of an International Survey of 164 Recovering Sex Addicts and Partners concluded that over half the partners threatened to leave after disclosure, but only one-quarter of the couples actually separated.