Last week, one of the members of my Survive & Thrive Membership Community for betrayed partners asked this question:
How long should it take for a sex addict to prepare a disclosure to present to his partner?
If you’re not familiar with the disclosure process, you can read my article about formal therapeutic disclosure (FTD) here.
Briefly, FTD is a process in which a sex addict prepares a document that is later read to his partner giving her/him information such as:
- The specific sexual behaviors he/she has been secretly engaging in
- The approximate length of time he has been engaging in the behaviors
- How much money he/she spent on the behaviors, affair partners, and related activities
For a more detailed list of standard information included in an FTD, read the whole article here.
Disclosure serves three important functions:
- It gives the partner vital information she wants, needs, and deserves.
- It provides a foundation of truth and transparency from which to build a new relationship based on honesty and trust.
- It provides the sex addict an opportunity to return to integrity in his relationship, review his past behaviors from his partner’s perspective, and to have true intimacy—the experience of being known by another person.
FTD typically occurs in one of three ways: in the context of the addict’s individual therapy; as a component of in-patient or residential treatment (presented to the partner in family week, for example); or in a multi-day disclosure intensive.
When it comes to the timing of FTD, partners are more or less unanimous:
And while the urgency to get FTD is completely understandable—after all, the partner has probably waited for years already to learn the truth—it’s not realistic, or even desirable, for FTD to be rushed or hurried.
Most addicts aren’t emotionally or mentally prepared to disclose the necessary information required in a good FTD—even to their therapist—for at least the first two to four months after beginning to work one-on-one with a therapist. In fact, it is not uncommon for an addict to disclose (or recall) new information several months into treatment. The FTD preparation process requires that the addict become more comfortable—and less shame-filled—with talking about and exploring his secret past.
In early recovery and treatment, most addicts are fiercely protective of their secret information for a variety of reasons—the most common being their belief that if they disclose everything, their relationship will end. This belief—which rarely comes true—impacts their readiness to engage in the FTD process.
The length of time it takes to prepare a FTD varies depending on the following factors:
- The addict’s motivation to stop their behaviors.
- The addict’s readiness to engage in recovery activities (attending meetings and working with a 12-step sponsor, for example). Some therapists require that an addict complete what’s called a First Step in his 12-step fellowship prior to preparing a FTD document.
- The potential consequences to the addict for delaying the process. Consequences can include his own pain and distress, the partner’s boundaries, or a specific deadline that has significance to him or his partner.
- The amount of time the addict spends working on and preparing the FTD document outside therapy sessions.
So how long is too long?
Because there are so many variables regarding how long FTD preparation can take, there is no definite or widely accepted timeframe.
However, if your partner has been in individual therapy (at least twice a month) with a therapist who specializes in treating sex addiction for more than 12 consecutive months and you don’t yet have a date set to receive FTD, here are 5 things to consider:
Ask your partner to give you an update about the status of the FTD preparation process.
If you get a non-committal or vague answer to #1, ask him when he can get back to you with more information.
If you don’t get a clear response to either #1 or #2, make a request to attend an individual therapy session with your partner so that you can get more information about the status of the FTD and discuss a tentative timeframe.
If you aren’t able to get a clear answer about a timeframe, check in with yourself and connect with your support system to determine a date by which you would like to receive the disclosure, and then make a request of your partner to receive FTD by that date. Keep in mind that for any request you make, the answer can be yes, no, or the other person can negotiate an alternative agreement. Since FTD is an important and complex issue, you will need to be well-informed about the boundary-setting process as you walk navigate this option.
If the FTD process has been extremely slow or there is a particular need to receive FTD sooner rather than later, consider a disclosure intensive. Disclosure intensives typically last three days, and include FTD followed by a polygraph to confirm that the FTD is accurate and complete.
For a list of therapists who are certified to offer disclosure intensives (Certified Hope & Freedom Practitioners), click here.
Want to get all the details about the FTD process?
Get Vicki’s Formal Therapeutic Disclosure Basics presentation here
If you’d like to receive blog posts just as soon as they happen, enter your email address now in the Subscribe to Blog via Email form on the right of this page.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity.