Who Do I Tell?

In the shock and panic of Discovery/Disclosure it can often feel unbearable to carry that knowledge alone while still trying to go on with day to day life.  

How information regarding your loved one’s behaviour and betrayal is disclosed might fall into 3 categories:



You might choose who you tell

In the shock following Discovery/Disclosure it might be difficult to think clearly. Some points for you to consider are:

Safety - 

  • Once you have told someone you lose control of that information. Who else might they tell?  Might their children overhear a conversation and disclose to your children when you have chosen not to do so?
  • Has this person been a trusted confidante in the past?
  • There are no guarantees how people will respond/react to the information.  A common reaction is for people to feel angry and unload it onto the person sharing the information (shooting the messenger). This might further traumatise you.
  • Having shared with a trusted person, they might be able to support you in working through your feelings as they shift and change over time.

Motivation - 

  • It might be tempting to express your anger in this way at this point ("You've shamed me, I'll shame you").
  • Feeling like a fraud in your own life.  Perhaps you are unable to hold the tension of feeling like you are lying to those close to you.
  • To potentially gain support.

Consequences - 

  • What is said can't be unknown. At some point in the future you might feel you don't have as much privacy as you would like.
  • If you were to work through this with your partner to a point where you decide to continue in your relationship, it might set up situations where your partner (and possibly you) are shamed, judged or shunned. This can feel especially difficult with family members.
  • You might end up feeling pressurised by others' expectations (e.g. stay and work it through/leave them), rather than developing a more internal self-trust.

You might have to share information for practical/emotional reasons

  • You might decide that you need a temporary or permanent separation involving the person with addiction living elsewhere.  If you have children they will need some kind of (age appropriate) explanation.  
  • To avoid triggers from family/friends inviting the person with addiction to events or talking about them without the knowledge of their secret behaviours.
  • If a child begins acting up in reaction to the crisis this might be noticed by their teacher.  In this case it might help your child if someone at school has some understanding.
  • You can choose how much you share.  Keeping a partial disclosure truthful will help you feel intact and can future proof relationships for you if people find out more information at a later date (you haven’t lied to them).  Perhaps a simple statement such as -  “We are dealing with a serious difficulty in our relationship just now and hope that you understand that things will be different for the foreseeable future.  When I feel ready I will update you”.

It is taken out of your hands

In cases where the person with addiction’s behaviours have escalated into sexual offending, disclosure will manifest from arrest.  If you have children there will be involvement from Social Services and they will disclose to other family members who also have children. 

Likewise, some addicts’ offending behaviours are exposed by vigilante groups knocking on every door in the street or posting a video of the confrontation on social media.

For some addicts a hook up decides to inform a partner and others about liaisons. 

  • You still have a choice of who you share information with.
  • People aren’t entitled to demand information from you and you don’t owe anyone explanations.
  • You do not need to be the container for other people’s anger.
  • It might be helpful to prepare some one line boundaries in case you are unexpectedly confronted such as - “I don’t have all the information”, “I’m surprised you would ask me that”, “This is not the right time for me to speak about this”.  It’s perfectly ok to repeat the boundary as many times as you need to get someone to back off.

There is so much that feels out of control right now.  Making a reasoned decision who to share information with can offer a small amount of control in the current circumstances.  

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