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.



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