How much should you tell your spouse or partner about your sex addiction or pornography addiction behaviors? It’s a great question and one that comes up all the time. Let’s take a look.
At some point in the relationship you’ll want to regain trust. You might be free of any behaviors related to your addiction for weeks or months but your spouse still may not trust you. One key element of rebuilding the trust is to tell him/her everything. Now the question becomes, “What is everything?”
Disclosure is a delicate matter. He/She needs to hear “everything” and you need to tell him/her “everything” for both of you to be able to move on. That doesn’t mean you tell your spouse every detail of every sexual encounter you’ve had and it doesn’t mean you tell him/her everything immediately.
Ideally, your spouse will be working with a therapist to work through his/her emotions about the addiction and you’ll be working with a different therapist to stop the addictive behaviors. The therapists should work together and the disclosure situation should be as controlled as possible, given the emotion-filled subject and all that’s on the line.
Now, what does it mean to tell your spouse “everything?” First, work with your therapist to build a written list of what you want to disclose. You may disclose people you had sex with or you may disclose the number of times you had sex with other people. You probably don’t want to go into details of those sexual encounters and sex acts or descriptions of your partners. Your partner needs to know that it happened, but he/she probably doesn’t need to know the details. (And the written disclosure should NOT be given to your spouse at the end of the session – instead it’s a good idea for your spouse and his/her therapist to spend time soon after the disclosure to process what was said and the emotions it created.)
Of course, there are exceptions. If you had sex with a neighbor or a family member, your spouse probably has a right to know that. If you had unprotected sex, your spouse has a right to know that.
The bottom line is this: If you tell a little, then more comes out later, then even more later, etc., you’ve lost all credibility and trust. When you are both ready doing a full disclosure, with help from your therapist and your spouse’s therapist will be a difficult, but huge step in moving the relationship forward.