by Mark Laaser, Ph.D., & Debbie Laaser, MA, LMFT
Sexual betrayal is considered to include any use of pornography, masturbation, strip clubs, prostitution, phone sex, posting of profiles online, sexual affairs, voyeurism, or exhibitionism. Emotional betrayal would include any sharing of information that violates the expectation of exclusivity of the relationship commitment.
When a spouse has been betrayed by emotional and/or sexual betrayal, we consider full disclosure to be an integral part of a couple’s healing journey. We encourage couples to use professional help when there has been an agreement to disclose the truth, so as to come prepared and to be safe throughout the process.
The purpose of full disclosure is to reveal the whole truth about a sexual and emotional betrayal so that a new foundation of truth-telling can be established for the relationship. Truth-telling is an integral part of building trust, and trust lies at the core of emotional and spiritual intimacy in a relationship. Trust-building occurs when information that has been hidden or distorted is voluntarily offered to the betrayed spouse. Typically, a betrayed spouse finds out about lying or deception by ‘detective work’, asking questions, or accidently uncovering information. Betrayed spouses keep seeking information and asking questions to fill in some of the ‘puzzle pieces’ of reality, but it does not contribute to trust-building. When information is acquired this way, a betrayed spouse will always wonder if there is more uncovered deception or if she asked the right questions to ascertain the whole truth.
It is our belief that the greatest damage to another human being is the distortion of their reality. We all have intuitive powers, ‘gut feelings’, or spirit-filled hunches about many things in our lives. This internal reality is constantly being validated by others who share our life experiences. When what we are told or see in our external world does not match up with our internal world, there is a sense of going ‘crazy’. Lying, keeping secrets, and manipulating the truth about behaviors undermine the sanity of those trying to make sense of their world. Telling the truth may hurt another person, but there is much greater harm done by distorting their reality. Building trust demands that we tell the truth to each other.
Disclosing the truth about behaviors is vulnerable and risky. It is true that a betrayed spouse may choose to leave because the pain is too great. If, however, a spouse stays and works on healing herself and the relationship, a partner can truly feel chosen—for all the strengths and struggles of their life.
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