Monday, February 1, 2010

Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But...: How Much Do You Think You Need to Know?

I recently watched the movie Revolutionary Road (trigger alert: infidelity!), in which Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) confesses to his wife April (Kate Winslet) that he's "been with a girl a few times". While BWC members' responses range from "Who" to "When" to "Why"...most center on that last question. Frank attempts to answer by offering up the usual two-bit psychoanalysis of what might have driven him to have an affair, but April stops him short. "Not why did you do it," she says, but "why are you telling me?"
It's a fair question. She seems to not know nor suspect, though their marriage is fragile to say the least. Assuming Frank is honest in his desire to put his transgression behind him and to focus on his marriage, why did he tell her?
And, in hindsight, would you want to know? Or would you rather move forward together or apart without knowing the full truth of your relationship? Is that even possible?

Full Disclosure
If it's true that Tiger Woods is at a rehab center for sex addicts, one of the steps is full disclosure of his sexual acting out. In other words, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I was offered the same process or rather I was told that I would be participating in the same process – complete with his and hers therapists to support both of us during the disclosure session.
I opted out. It struck me that it was sounding more like an ambush than a disclosure session, though one could argue it's just a matter of perspective. Byt hat point, I had asked – and received answers for – my most pressing questions. I had been tested, thankfully negative, for STDs, including HIV.
I didn't want to know any more. I felt shell-shocked and completely overwhelmed.
Experts insist that the disclosure process isn't to ram unwanted details down the betrayed wife's throat, but rather to put both spouses on the same page, metaphorically, so that they can move forward in their relationship equipped with the same information. Honesty, they argue, is critical to a healthy marriage.
I agree...but I think the betrayed wife should hold the controls. She should be the one to determine the questions, decide the level of detail and even define a schedule.
What do you think? Did you want to hear everything? Or "just the facts, ma'am". Can too much information create more problems? Or, if something is held back, might it re-emerge at a later date and create more problems?


  1. Hi,
    It's strange really. I was angry at first that my husband told me. Why bother me with HIS problem. It's was as if he was asking me for help. And yes, once I knew, I felt the need to know more as I knew the person he was having the affair with. The details were extremely painful. On top of that, I'm not even sure - never will be - if he told me the whole truth. The lying is a problem far worse than he sex. But suddenly, I had enough of it. I am no longer interested. Maybe the details are only of interest in the anger-stage. Once you get to the pain, one might not need more pain.

  2. i only need to know a few details at a time. when? where? in my bed? (nope, in the guest bed, and IN A CAR. so klassy. i don't get how you could be having sex in a car at the age of 30 and possibly think it's in any way good.) maybe i'll need more details later. she seems so irrelevant now, as my husband decides if he "ever loved me in the first place."

  3. I'm about 6 weeks post D-Day. I've gotten some details, but not from him. He's still lying and denying about how many and how long and he "never said I loved her" (when I have forwarded emails and texts from her that said he did). I'm to the point I don't want details of the actual "relationships" anymore(he moved in with one for a couple of months while we were separated, they were "together" for a year, while others were very short. It's starting to become too painful to know the details now. I still want full disclosure of now many and how long and when did it start, but that's all. I guess I want him to confess, but I'm starting to doubt he ever will. Now, I'm trying to deal with the triggers that fling me into anxiety attacks and not trusting him or believing anything he says. I came across some of our emails from last year when we were separated and I had accused him many times of cheating prior and during this time without any concrete evidence....and as I was reading his denials and how he still loves me and misses me (while living with her), all I could think of was "I did know"!

  4. It's amazing, in hindsight, how many of us did know. On some level, our instincts were telling us what was happening and, for some reason, we let our spouse's denials override that. That's one of the big lessons I've learned out of all this -- to trust that voice.
    And yes, I think it's wise to get only the info you feel you need, rather than a whole lot of details that do little more than compound your pain.
    And, in my estimation, without him coming clean, your marriage can't possibly heal. And you clearly could never trust him. I'm so sorry you're dealing with this...

  5. I am ambivalent at this point. The 'truth' was coming out in layers, and each layer twice the betrayal of those previous. I do not know where I will be emotionally when he hits that ninth tell-all step. I wanted to know everything at the beginning. Better a huge knife to the heart than the death of a thousand paper cuts. But when he is finally sober enough and brave enough to tell, will I want to go down that dark, terrible path again? Will I have the courage to face the cycling and the despair that I know will follow, endangering what fragile strength I may have cobbled together? I have five months of crying headaches and sleepless nights and rolling through hate and love and terror over and over. I don't know if I can do all that again after another five months, or ten, trapped by the timeline of his progression through the steps. I still feel like he holds all the cards and I just fall endlessly. When I have regained my own sense of self, will I give a damn about listening to his emotional vomit at the expense of my own sanity?

  6. As I stated in my original blog post, I recognized that I didn't want full disclosure. I knew what I needed to (and more!) and didn't want the agony of going through it again with additional details/info that really didn't alter the reality that he'd cheated. The numbers and genders and dates had become irrelevant. Unless I found out it had been with a friend of someone still in our lives – something I asked him point-blank – I was done listening.
    And I'm convinced that letting the betrayed wife determine what she does or doesn't want to know is key towards her healing. So much of the betrayal trauma is about what was done TO us. It's critical that she take back some control.

  7. E- though this post is ages old, I'm catching up and you are a blogger who still blogs - unlike many blogs listed to the right. Disclosure is also for the addict. I chose not to do a formal disclosure also, only because their were rules. Excuse me? Rules? No, I don't think so. So the disclosure was done throughout a few months. A lot done on the kitchen table with him writing columns of what and where and when and how many and how much money. Then he did a disclosure table with his CSAT and I again opted out of the formal disclosure. I had all the information. But now still thinking of when to do the actual formal with a poly. Milton Magness is very much into this and I agree positively. It's just the pain is still very raw and to do it formally sounds like pouring lemon juice into the wound. But it is what it is. That is my new saying. It is what it is. It is what it is. I married a man who cared about his penis more than our marriage. Now he's different, but like I say, so what does that mean for all the 20 plus years of strip clubs, porn, prostitutes? It is what it is. Some say an affair is worse. Well, my husband had an affair with sex addiction. So I get an affair plus sex addiction. But to state again - the disclosure is also the addict - to come clean, to be fully present, to be fully accountable, to know that he now cannot use any excuse in the past like "what she doesn't know won't hurt her."

  8. Ages old again! ...I am not the same writer as above, but I am going through this wretched pain of not knowing if what I know was "everything". There are a few things I don't want to know. I don't want to know her age, that would be horrifying, I know. I don't want to know what she looked like, she worked in a sex establishment, dancer, hooker, whatever,, so I have an Idea she was really no slouch, in fact my H described her as "the whole package", something I could have lived without knowing but you see my husband had a nasty habit/hobby of detailing his escapades online in a sex forum. many of the stories, he says, were made up or exaggerated to booster his low self esteem and look like a hotshot. But his "I never really KNEW what I would do, until I did it" comment was one I believed, until just this week when I found the old hotel reservation, which had HER name on it too. so, my educated guess is, if you put the girls name in your hotel reservation, you pretty much know what it is you are going to do. It's little bullshit details like that that are killing me. H has changed his life drastically since d day! I give him full props for that, together we are in a much better place and working to make it even better..p. When I get pissed about something I don't know, he reminds me I did NOT want all the details at the start, and I didn't. But now that I am thinking a bit more rationally (most of the time 5 and a half months in), I feel like I should get the answers that I feel I need. It does not feel like pain shopping, I have done that and have stopped. These are just little unsaid details that end up popping up (hello extended tax filing that forces me to pour over the details of 2013..the lost year..and WHY did I NOT ONCE look at his texting habits and numbers?) that blindside me, and although now they don't push me back to square one, they do set me back, and I am sick of it. Just give me the straight dope. I am pretty sure I know the worst...and the WORST was and is deception.

  9. This is excellent advice.
    I am almost 2 years from D-day #1. I have to say that I am glad our therapist pulled me away from getting the deep details. I know the major events. That was enough for me. I have enough mind movies as it is.
    However, my H did alot of minimizing and hiding of his behavior so I desperately wanted him to "admit" everything to someone so that he couldn't pretend that it wasn't what it was. But he wasn't able to so instead I got the trickle truth over a year. Brutal way to get disclosure.
    My recommendation is to get the truth in a controlled environment, with a therapist. And with a spouse who is willing to tell you anything that you want to know. But only after your taking time to understand the implications of knowing certain details. Trying to get disclosure immediately after d-day is potentially more harmful to you than you think at the time. Then come up with your questions and think through why you need to know that specific info. Think through how that piece of info will serve you. Are certain details going to be extremely traumatizing and prevent you from healing? Do you think you can move past those details?

  10. I am almost 11 full months from DDay. HIMSELF is a gold medal winning trickle-truther. It is the full and complete drip drip drip drip water torture. His constant refrain is "I told you I'm not doing that anymore". My constant reply is "I'm not asking what you are doing now - I want to know what you did THEN". We are in therapy. He has a therapist and I have a therapist and HIS therapist is currently seeing us together. I am beginning to see that this is not working. I do believe HIS therapist is well aware of his bullshit.

    Do I want to know it all -- YES I DO. Mind movies be damned. I've demanded a full disclosure with therapist (his and mine) in attendance. HIMSELF has refused and has also refused polygraph.

    I told HIMSELF tonight I was leaving. I am leaving. In 2 days (Monday) I will begin to look at houses and apartments with an agent. I do plan to take my own sweet time moving however. After 44 years with this jerk - I deserve to do things my way. I will continue in therapy as the PTBD (Post Traumatic Betrayal Disorder) is intense right now. I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    Why SilentScream?? My mouth is open and I can hear myself scream but there is actually no sound coming out.

    BTW - his lung cancer was treated with radiation and the Oncologist said all was looking good since April 2014. In late March 2015 he went back for a scan and they saw some small 'dots' that were not there before. Well folks, he can just find one of those prostitutes or street women that he is so fond of to care for him if the cancer comes back. I'm outta here!!!

  11. Dear Silent Scream,

    You recently responded to one of my posts about the "trickle truth". I'm wondering how you are doing since this post? Did you leave him? Are you okay? My heart goes out to you and I am sending you love.

    I haven't responded much to anyone's posts, not because I don't care, but because I have been so distraught that I can hardly see past my own pain. I care deeply about everyone here and I feel each person's pain right through to the core of my heart.

    I think full disclosure is a must--but not until each one of us is ready to hear it. That's how I feel in my situation and I have demanded it. He is supposed to talk to me today. We'll see if that happens.

    If he wants to make our marriage work, he needs to look me in the eyes and tell me everything. That is the only way he will ever accept responsibility for what he's done. And I need just as badly to see his remorse. I need to see him sink down in his chair and feel the despair I have felt. I need to see him stop hiding behind his lies. I need to see him take his guard down and allow himself to feel as vulnerable as I. Unless he can do this, we will not reconcile this marriage.

    In many ways I think it would have been easier had he been with prostitutes and strippers. But, in my case, it was with people I knew. Women who pretended to be my friend in order to get closer to my husband. He did nothing to protect me from these women. He allowed them in our home; he had me invite them to dinner parties and cook for them; he allowed them to hold our grandchildren and take part in family events. All the while, they were sneaking off into another room to steal a moment together. It is disgusting.

    More than sex, I believe it is the lack of concern and compassion not only for me, but for our family that horrifies me. It's the fact that it was all so personal...for all of us. I feel so violated in so many ways--rather like a rape or similar to how one might feel if someone broke into their home. The very place you feel most safe is no longer a safehaven. It's been marred and tainted by deceit and lies. There is no place to feel secure that hasn't been touched by them in one way or another.

    The truth is, it doesn't matter what kind of infidelity took place, just that it took place. My heart goes out to each and every person on this website. I'm so glad we have one another.


    1. Merilee,
      I hope you get the answers you need. I hope your husband is man enough and compassionate enough to give you what you need and take full responsibility for the pain he's caused.
      But please know that, however he responds to this, you will come through this. And you will have this community of support to help you, just as you've helped others.

  12. Fortunately/Unfortunately, I saved all of the emails they had written to each other during the affair. Fortunately, I saved them so I would have incontrovertible evidence of the extent of his adultery, and her conspiratorial role in keeping it going. Unfortunately, I saved them and have read through most of them once or twice (reading them makes me nauseous), but I don't want to continue to look at them. If we are going to heal this marriage, and I believe we both want to, then what is the point of going over what happened in the past again and again? He has dropped his relationship with her. He is sick with remorse and sorrow. I am sick every time I am reminded of the deception and betrayal. We want to move forward around our life's wheel. To move forward we can't be hung up on the hurt of past actions. I know enough. I don't care to know anymore. I want to move into our future together with my husband, with our family intact. There is only so much information that can be helpful to healing. Too much detail only hurts and harms reconciliation.


    1. EvenNow,
      I do think that at a certain point we need to recognize that we have all the information we need and the rest is pain shopping. It's like we keep picking at a scab to remind us of the injury. We don't need reminding. You know it too well. There's a fear, perhaps, that if you stop feeling the pain, you're somehow minimizing it. Not so. You deserve to let go of it. To move forward.



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