2. GETTING THE STORY

DISCLOSURE BASICS

 

Formal therapeutic disclosure (“FTD”) is a mutual, planned, and therapeutically-facilitated event where the unfaithful partner reads a document prepared in advance describing his/her history of emotional and/or sexual infidelity.

Now it's time to get to the "nuts and bolts" of how an FTD happens. 
 

TIMING OF FTD:

FTD preparation happens in one of two ways:
 

  • after the unfaithful partner has worked with a therapist for over a period (weeks to months) to prepare the thorough disclosure document; or
     

  • in an intensive prep time where discussions with a supporting therapist are condensed into a few intense days.
     

If disclosure preparation is rushed, the potential for omissions and further deception increases.

CONDITIONS FOR A SUCCESSFUL FTD

The following conditions are necessary to set the framework for an FTD:

  • Both partners agree to participate in the formal disclosure process. No one feels forced.
     

  • Both partners, with the agreement of their therapist(s), agree on the timing of the disclosure session.
     

  • Neither partner has initiated legal divorce proceedings or has recently stated that they plan to initiate divorce. This helps reduce worry that information disclosed will be used in a legal setting.
     

  • The betrayed partner is given an opportunity to ask questions both before and after the FTD.
     

  • The acting-out partner has worked with a therapist to prepare the written document that will be read to the partner during the FTD.
     

  • Therapeutic and/or peer support is available to both partner both during and immediately after FTD.
     

  • Depending on the history of betrayal and the level of deception, a polygraph with an experienced polygraph examiner familiar with FTD may be considered as an option. Polygraph is typically done immediately following disclosure — usually on the same day — and should be completed as soon as possible following an FTD.

COMPONENTS IN AN FTD

Generally speaking, FTD should include the following information:
 

  • INTRODUCTION
    An introduction will speak directly to the here and now moment, addressing feelings of both partners as the letter is about to be read.

     

  • TIMELINE / NARRATIVE
    Construct a timeline including the items below. If the timeline spans large blocks of time, include age ranges 0-5, 6-10,… This is important so that the narrative makes sense.

     

  • SUMMARY OF ACTIONS
    Make a listing of all of the items below. If estimates or approximations are necessary, do your best (including researching your calendar and financial and phone records) to provide details.

     

  • ITEMS INCLUDED IN NARRATIVE AND SUMMARY

    • Types of acting out behaviors

    • Time frames of behaviors

    • Frequency of behaviors

    • Number of sexual partners if sexual acting out

    • The date of last contact with any affair partner(s) and/or the last date partner engaged in behaviors

    • Amount of money spent on behaviors or activities related to behaviors, including source and location of funds

    • Names of unfaithful partners if known

    • Health issues (sexually transmitted infections, etc.)

    • Legal issues (e.g., arrests, lawsuits, and any children fathered by acting-out partner with affair partner)

    • Incidents that may have directly or indirectly impacted the couples’ children (including exposure to pornography, affair partners, or the sharing of photos, etc. with affair partners or online)

       

  • AFFAIR QUESTIONS
    Make sure the following questions are addressed in the narrative or in a separate section.

    • When did the affair begin?

    • When did you first meet the affair partner? Who approached whom? Was there pursuit?

    • Share the context of the relationship and each stage of progression toward intimacy as time passed.

    • When were you first attracted to the other person? When did the relationship first become flirtatious? When did it became sexual (if it was sexual)?

    • Who initiated the infidelity? Did either of you try to resist?

    • If so, for how long and why did the resistance fail?

    • Did the affair partner think of the spouse? If yes, what were the thoughts?

    • Is the affair person married or in committed relationship?

    • Where does he/she work?

    • Was this the other man/woman’s first affair? One of many?

    • Does he/she have children? Did you interact with the children?

    • Is that spouse of the affair partner aware of the affair? If yes, how did that partner respond? If not, are there any plans to tell the other partner?

    • How many times did you engage sexually with the other person?

    • How much emotional involvement was there?

    • How frequently and through what means did you communicate with the affair partner?

    • What activities did you do together?

    • Was contraception or protection against sexually transmitted diseases used? Always or sometimes?

    • Has the affair partner been tested for STDs?

    • Were gifts or mementos exchanged? What do you plan to do with the gifts or other mementos from the affair?

    • How much was spent on the affair? Specify gifts, travel and other details of items that were given and received.

    • Do you still have any of the gifts? If yes, what will you do with them?

    • Has the affair completely ended? If so, when and how? Who cut it off? Was there resistance to ending it?

    • Is the ending permanent or temporary?

    • Include contact that has occurred since the ending of the affair.

    • Does the affair want to restart the affair?

    • Who has known about the affair (through the unfaithful partner or otherwise)?

       

  • SEXUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY
    Brief sexual autobiography (optional, but may be particularly helpful in understanding the roots of betrayal and its progression)

     

  • CONCLUSION
    A conclusion that is similar to introduction, express empathy, commitment to reconciliation, activities in recovery

 

WHAT TO EXCLUDE FROM AN FTD

The following information should NOT be included in an FTD:

  • Graphic details of sexual behaviors. Your therapist will guide you on what to include or not include.

    Always ask yourself the following questions: What purposes will be served if I know this?

    For example, the betrayed spouse may ask what sexual positions were used with the affair partner? If one partner is a sex addict, answering this question may serve no useful purpose as the acting out had no connection with the couple's sex life and comparing sex positions in the affair to sex positions during the marriage.

    On the other hand, answering this question may help the couple understand if part of the appeal of the affair was sexual exploration that wasn't happening in the marriage. If the couple decides to share such details, the sharing should be at the lowest resolution possible. Verbally describing with a lot of details can leave lasting scars that are may stunt the recovery process. 
     

  • Other affair details unless they are helpful.

    For example, sharing every restaurant the affair took place in not necessary unless the betrayed spouse is being triggered when driving by a specific restaurant near their home. In such cases, this type of sharing may be beneficial. 

SHARE BEGINNINGS OF A RECOVERY PLAN

In the same session that an FTD occurs, the unfaithful partner should present his/her plan or “inner circle” if the partner is not already aware of it. The unfaithful partner should also commit to telling his partner of any “slips” (engaging in any bottom line or inner circle behaviors) within a specific timeframe — typically 24 hours.

WHERE THE DISCLOSURE TAKES PLACE

The disclosure should take place in a therapist's office (whether physical or virtual) and NOT at home. For the disclosure process to work, the couple must trust that:
 

  • the information will not be used as a weapon, and
     

  • the conversations about what happened will not turn into inquisitions.

This is hard to do outside of a therapist's office. The couple can and should talk about feelings and how to comfort at home but not dig into endless details of what happened or make harsh accusations. We are trying to create an environment of healing, thus the hardest conversations should happen in the safe and contained setting of the therapist's office. 

SUMMARY

The combination of the FTD, polygraph (if applicable), sharing of recovery plan, and commitment to disclose future acting out behaviors, provides the foundation for the repair of the relationship and the beginnings of rebuilding trust.