By Scott Brassart
I co-host multiple webinars and fill in as a drop-in discussion group host on this website on a relatively regular basis, and some of the most commonly raised questions in both webinars and discussion groups are about the need for and process of disclosure. Finally, there is a book that I can recommend, and in fact insist upon as a must-read for both addicts and betrayed partners. That book is Courageous Love by Dr. Stefanie Carnes.
Sadly, many therapists, even many Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), are not taught to manage the process of disclosure after infidelity or sex addiction is uncovered. And couples themselves generally have no idea how, without inadvertently creating unnecessary pain and strife and making their situation worse, to create a truthful baseline from which they can move forward.
Enter Courageous Love. Dr. Carnes opens the book with information about the traumatic nature of betrayal, discussing the damage it does to betrayed partners and also the relationship. She also addresses the fact that in the aftermath of initial discovery, the situation often appears hopeless to both the cheating partner and the betrayed partner – especially when both know (or at least sense) that there is a lot more information to be uncovered. Carnes writes, “It may be hard to imagine how you and your partner are ever going to put the pieces of the puzzle back together.” However, that is exactly what this book teaches struggling couples (and the therapists who work with them) to do.
Without question, the process of healing both individually and as a couple begins and ends with the repair of relationship trust. Relationship trust is the foundation of intimacy and connection. If trust cannot be repaired, neither party can be fully vulnerable or intimately connected, and the relationship will continue to suffer. That is why the process of disclosure is so important. It creates a neutral baseline where all of the information is on the table, decisions can be made based on facts rather than fears, and the couple can work on rebuilding mutual trust.
As Dr. Carnes repeatedly emphasizes, full therapeutic disclosure is not an event, it’s a highly detailed, therapeutically guided and supported process involving multiple clinicians. Typically, the process takes at least several weeks to complete. Without this formal process, disclosure can easily (and usually does) do more harm than good.
The good news here is that a properly conducted disclosure creates hope and healing, even for the most damaged of relationships. As Dr. Carnes writes in the opening pages:
Whatever it is that you’re currently thinking, feeling, and fearing, you should know right now that if you’re willing to try to heal yourself and your relationship, you can succeed in that endeavor. If you and your partner are hurting but still truly love each other and want to make it work, that type of healing and restoration is possible. This book can take you on that healing journey.
Courageous Love is a must-read for all couples whose relationships have been damaged by infidelity, with or without the presence of sexual addiction. It is also highly recommended for therapists who work with sex/porn addicts, cheaters, betrayed partners, and couples. The process of disclosure and relationship repair is complex and, if improperly managed, can go awry in a hundred different ways with disastrous consequences. This book is the definitive guide to keeping this process on track. No couple should attempt disclosure before they read and work through this volume.