One of the partners in my Moving Beyond Betrayal Boundaries Course recently asked my opinion about betrayed partners writing an impact statement.
If you’re not familiar with impact statements, they are a written document drafted by a betrayed partner—with the guidance and support of her or his therapist—that is eventually read to the unfaithful spouse, preferably in a therapy session.
Impact statements should be prepared only after the partner has received and processed Formal Therapeutic Disclosure (FTD). The reason for this is that before FTD, the partner doesn’t have the full story about her spouse’s extra-marital behaviors and activities—information that is is vital for preparing an impact statement.
An impact statement is very much what the name suggests: a statement about the impact your spouse’s deception and infidelity had—and continues to have—on you.
Staci’s guidelines suggest completing an impact statement in two parts. Part I is where “you describe the ways you were affected by the actions and inactions of the sex addict in your life, and your resulting requests and boundaries.”
Part II is an invitation to examine any unhealthy relationship dynamics you may have participated in, so that you can explore how your spouse may have been vulnerable to developing an addiction, acknowledge progress your spouse has made since discovery, and express your vision and commitment to the relationship going forward.
Because there are currently very few guidelines for writing a betrayal trauma impact statement, when most partners prepare one, it is typically done in one document—Part I of Staci’s guidelines.*
Writing an impact statement or participating in any process that is recommended to you by a mental health professional, clergy member, mentor or sponsor is a choice. You may choose to write an impact statement for any—or all—of the following reasons:
- You want your spouse to hear exactly how you have been impacted by his infidelity, and you want to do so in a supported, structured, therapeutic setting.
- You struggle with persistent, unresolved anger because you don’t feel as though your experience has been fully heard or attended to. In this case, you may use the preparation of an impact statement as a way to process and work through your anger, and then share your experience and the related emotions with your spouse.
- You have some significant boundaries or have made an important decision that you want to tell your spouse, but only after you have had an opportunity to tell him how his betrayal impacted you. For example, a partner may have made a decision to leave her relationship but doesn’t want to tell her spouse of her decision until after she has shared how she has been impacted by his infidelity.
While preparing an impact statement may sound like something most betrayed partners would want to do, many partners choose not to. Preparing an impact statement requires partners to revisit painful memories and events that they later decide they prefer not to re-visit. On more than one occasion, I’ve worked with partners who set out with good intentions to write an impact statement but don’t follow through because the pain of re-visiting the past was greater than the benefit the partner anticipated she might get from writing and presenting one to her spouse.
Regardless of whether or not you chose to write an impact statement, I recommend that you work with a therapist or other trained professional to re-visit key incidents from your relationship so that you can better understand and process their impact on you.
*You can find additional information about writing an impact statement in Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts (Carnes, Lee & Rodriguez, 2012).
On March 22, my online course for managing betrayal trauma triggers, Taming Triggers Solution Online Course, will be offered for the last time. The home study version will still be available, but this will be the last time to get the online features of the course that include community support, the opportunity to ask me questions online, and the Live Q&A Call with me.
For all the details and to sign up, visit here.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2018)
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