How did a structured Formal Disclosure differ from other informal disclosures that may have occurred in your relationship?

PARTNER: I was calm, he was calm, we were safe and supported. I got the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There were no excuses, no minimizing and no rationalizing. And nowhere in the process was I blamed.

It was awful to hear the full extent of the addiction presented factually and in its entirety, but at least by the end, I felt safe that was finally it — no more lies or terrible surprises. I could finally not dread hearing the phrase, “There’s more…”.

Most importantly, formal disclosure came with an accountability statement. This was beautiful and hugely important. My partner clearly, fully and honestly took full responsibility and accountability for his addiction, actions, and the hurt and damage that he had caused. He acknowledged, in front of witnesses, that his addiction was his and his alone and that none of it was my fault. I knew this, but hearing him say it was freeing and healing. It was one of the best ‘love letters’ that he could ever give me. My letter to him also allowed me to appreciate his courage and strength in choosing recovery.

ADDICT:¬†Well, she didn’t react like she did when I had given some of my own disclosure! This meeting was mutually respectful, gentle, emotional and safe. We each had support available and present in the room although, as it happened, we did not need it and in fact, I don’t think I actually noticed anybody else was there when I was disclosing to my wife as we were so connected by emotion.

The informal disclosures had been horrific, both for me and for her. In fact, the way I had done them had added massive damage on top of my sexual acting out. I gave a little bit of disclosure, stopped when she got upset, promised that was it and then, when I’d got a little more courage, mentioned some more. The psychological and emotional damage to her (and also to me) by this approach was enormous. I deeply, deeply regret this and wish I’d taken advice about how to do it before doing so.

I think the main difference was that the formal disclosure allowed me to be factual, such as “I did X on day Y with Z”. In informal disclosure it more likely would have been, “OK yes, yes, if it will shut you up yes I did this thing with that person but it was only because you were not interested and she was beautiful and she went after me, not me after her, so…”. Guess which of those disclosures would go over better with a person who had been betrayed? And as a bonus, it made me feel better about myself, too.