[This article is Part 2 of a 3-part series for partners on how to practice self-care before, during, and after Formal Therapeutic Disclosure (FTD). If you haven’t read Part 1—Disclosure Self-Care for Partners [Part 1]—begin here.]
In Disclosure Self-Care for Partners [Part 1], we covered what you need to know or do prior to the FTD session, including:
- Getting clarity about your wants and needs
- Compiling a list of questions
- Making a plan for post-disclosure
- Planning communication for polygraph results
- Making any necessary requests
- Reviewing pre- and post-disclosure calendar
In this article, I’ll talk about how you can practice good self-care on the day of disclosure.
Day of FTD
Although it will be a challenge, try to get adequate sleep the night before FTD. I also recommend you have a small meal or snack within two hours before your session or take a snack with you, especially if you have any blood sugar issues.
What to Take to FTD (Partner)
Your therapist may supply these to you, but I recommend you take your pre-submitted list of questions, pen, paper, and anything else you feel you will need. Having the list of questions you pre-submitted to be answered in the FTD will be helpful if you want to confirm that all your questions are answered, or if you simply want to review the list.
What to Take to FTD (Addict)
Take at least four copies of your FTD document to the session. Although I prefer that the partner listen to—rather than read—the disclosure, she may want to review the written document at some point during the session.
Some partners’ therapists meet privately with the partner after the disclosure is read in order to review the document and help the partner process what she/he has heard. However, for privacy and legal reasons, I don’t recommend that a partner be given a copy of the disclosure document to keep permanently.
Also, if you agreed to or have been asked to stay somewhere other than your home the night of the FTD session, be sure to take whatever items you need so that you can honor your partner’s boundaries, and avoid returning home after the session.
Take Separate Vehicles to FTD Session
I highly recommend that you and your partner go to the FTD session in separate vehicles. Neither of you can predict what will happen, or how you will feel afterward, so it’s best to have the option of leaving the session separately.
Partner’s post-FTD feelings can range from relief, joy, and love to profound disappointment, devastation, and rage. Some couples may want to have lunch together after a disclosure session, while another partner may need several days or weeks of no contact so that she can process and digest all of the new information she’s received.
Keep in mind that if a post-FTD polygraph has been scheduled, the addict will often go straight from the FTD session to the polygraph examiner’s office. Under no circumstances should a partner go to a polygraph exam with the addict.
Set Your Physical Boundaries in FTD Session
In my experience, this step is often overlooked by everyone in the room, including therapists. However, it’s crucial. You likely have no idea what you’re going to hear in the session, and your anxiety level will be understandably high.
When you enter the room where your FTD session will take place, the therapist may have already set up chairs for you and your partner to sit in. Or, the only option may be for you and your partner both to sit on a sofa together.
Regardless of the room arrangement, I encourage you to take care of yourself with regard to where you sit, and how close you are to your partner. Pay close attention to your emotions and your body as you decide where—and how close—you want to sit to your partner. You may even be encouraged to sit closer than feels comfortable for you.
You may be tempted to sit closer because you think it will hurt the addict’s feelings or because the therapist wants you to. But remember that your physical boundaries are for your own self-care—not a rejection of another person.
If the addict is uncomfortable or angry with the distance you need, remind yourself that his feelings belong to him, and allow him to work with his therapist to process them, rather than forcing yourself to do something that is uncomfortable for you.
Ideally, the facilitating therapists will discuss how to set up the physical distance before the addict reads his disclosure document. But if they don’t, I encourage you to make requests or any necessary adjustments so that you feel as comfortable as possible.
If you find that you’re feeling extremely activated or triggered as the addict reads his/her disclosure document, you may be physically too close. Increase the distance between you and see how you feel. You can also imagine being protected by a shield, glass wall, or any other visualization that helps you feel more protected and safe.
Connect With Inner Support & Protection
Partners often get deep comfort and support by inviting their Higher Power, angels, guides, or anyone else who is a source of strength and support to be with them—in spirit—during the FTD session.
You can simply imagine that your Higher Power—or any other supportive beings—are surrounding you as you listen to the disclosure.
Disclosure is deeply painful and even traumatic. The information impacts you greatly, but it is not about you. Everything you hear in the disclosure is 100% about the addict—his actions and his distorted thinking.
Continuously remind yourself as you listen that what the addict shares is about him—not about you. Maintaining this mindset during disclosure will protect you from taking on unnecessary guilt, shame, or any thoughts that you are unworthy, unlovable, or defective.
Confirm Post-Polygraph Communication
If your FTD includes polygraph, be sure to review and confirm how you will receive the results of the polygraph. For more information about post-polygraph communication, see Disclosure Self-Care for Partners [Part I].
Follow Through with Self-Care Plan Made Pre-FTD
Ideally, as part of your FTD preparation you made a plan for any needed support immediately following the disclosure session. Your self-care following the disclosure session should include support from your therapist and others in your community of support—therapy group members, your sponsor, or close friends. See recommendations for post-disclosure session support in Disclosure Self-Care for Partners [Part I].
(Related post: How Long Should it Take to Prepare a Disclosure?)
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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