Many women in the BTR Groups grieve over the life they thought they had, after they find out they’ve been betrayed and abused.
For some women, their husbands seek recovery and disclose the truth.
For these women, finding out the truth can help the healing come more quickly.
For other women, their husbands continue to abuse and live in denial that they have a problem.
These women may never know the truth, so how can they move forward in their healing?
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, continues her discussion about disclosures with Jeanne Vattuone, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and sex addiction specialist. Previously, Jeanne provided 3 Important Things You Need To Know About Disclosures. This time, she and Anne discuss how to find closure when there’s no disclosure.
Jeanne has worked with betrayed partners and addicts for ten years and is co-owner of Willow Tree Counseling in Santa Rosa, California. She is an advocate for the trauma modality for treating betrayed partners.
Disclosure Can Help You Heal From Emotional Abuse
Previously, Jeanne and Anne talked about why disclosure is important. Jeanne further explains what a disclosure is.
“I really see the disclosure as the truth-telling, the handing over of facts. It’s the data exchange. It’s not an apology. It’s not a time for empathy. I just want the partner to get the information, and then have time to absorb it and make sense of it. Then we’ll deal with the relational issues later.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
Jeanne believes that a disclosure could come in two parts with the safety issues first, followed by the complete picture later.
“Sometimes we need to break disclosure into two pieces. Get the safety items taken care of immediately and then, if they’re able to wait a little bit for the bigger, fuller, completer piece, you can break a disclosure into two pieces.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
Anne and Jeanne mention some of the things that could be brought up in a disclosure.
Some Questions To Include In Disclosure
- Do you have another phone that I don’t know about? How many devices do you have?
- Do you have other email accounts?
- Is there another bank account?
All of these raise safety concerns, but questions about the family’s financial situation aren’t always brought up, as Anne points out.
Some women in the BTR community wonder about this, so Anne asks Jeanne why it isn’t when it could raise the issue of financial abuse.
Jeanne says she often forgets those questions because it isn’t her main priority. Sometimes the wife has to bring it up, at which point, she will include questions about finances.
“I don’t know if it’s forgotten on purpose or if it’s just because it’s not on the top of our to-do list when we’re assessing for sex addiction and betrayals and lies. It is important, so I just want to validate that woman, who wrote in on this, that it is important and, if it’s important to her, I hope that she asks for it to be included in her disclosure.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
Having the information from a disclosure can be very healing to a woman. She can finally begin to understand what was happening in her marriage and make decisions about her relationship based on this.
If a woman isn’t confident that her husband has provided accurate information, she can have him take a polygraph.
A Polygraph May Help You Heal From Emotional Abuse
Polygraph or no polygraph?
Many women aren’t sure if they need or want one in order to heal.
Jeanne says there are several reasons a woman may not ask for one, or may pass it up when recommended by a therapist.
She says some women believe their husband is telling the whole truth about the situation.
Others say it’s too expensive and they’re already spending a lot of money on counseling.
Jeanne has also had women tell her that what they’ve already heard from their husband is horrible enough, they don’t want to hear anything else because it might be even worse.
Though Jeanne highly recommends a polygraph and she uses them in her practice, she doesn’t force it.
“I always let it be a partner’s choice. I recommend them and I also honor whatever our partners decide.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
One of the reasons she encourages a polygraph is because a sex addict’s drug doesn’t have visible effects, making it difficult to tell when they’re using.
“Addicts can lie, and with these types of addicts you cannot tell when they’re high on their drug. I think it’s better to have a polygraph on the situation, on the disclosure, than to not.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
While she highly recommends a polygraph, Jeanne also reminds women that they are usually only about 80% accurate, but it’s better than not knowing.
She also wants women to know that a polygraph doesn’t always represent true reality.
“[A polygraph] is not a statement of truth. It is his truth. It is what he believes to be true. The polygraph is only checking what he thinks to be true. It doesn’t check his memory or if it’s wrong. It doesn’t check if he’s forgetting. It is a statement of HIS truth, not THE truth.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
Jeanne says an addict’s therapist may recommend not doing a disclosure or a polygraph right away, other than for safety concerns.
“When an addict’s therapist says, ‘I don’t know if the addict is ready for disclosure,’ [the therapist is saying] that this guy is not yet out of his layers of denial enough to see the full picture and give a really good in-depth disclosure.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
If an addict is still in denial that they have a real problem, the polygraph is going to represent that.
However, some women may never get a full disclosure, especially if the relationship ends.
How To Heal From Emotional Abuse Without A Disclosure
Unfortunately, some men are not willing to admit they have a problem, get help and get into recovery.
When this is the case, women need to make sure they are keeping themselves safe.
Sometimes, this means the relationship with the abuser ends.
She may never know the truth of what really happened, so how does she move forward in her healing? How does she find closure?
Jeanne recognizes how difficult this is for these women.
“It’s hard because you don’t get the answers. You’re not going to get the information and that’s going to take a lot of time to come to terms with.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
She recommends three things that may help a woman move forward without disclosure.
3 Things To Help You Heal Without A Disclosure
- Good therapist or coach
- Good support group
- Good resources
All these can be found at Betrayal Trauma Recovery.
Jeanne says having these things will help women not get caught up in the “How bad was it really.”
“When you don’t have a disclosure and you are no longer in the relationship, I find that partners are sometimes left in that swirl of what if and how far does it go? I think having a good therapist or good coach you can talk to and a good group so that you don’t get caught in the limbo of what if.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
Anne, whose husband filed for divorce after she went no-contact for her safety, has learned to come to terms with not knowing how bad it was. She’s learned to recognize that what she doesn’t know means she does know something.
“If you’re not sure, if you don’t have the answers, what you do know is this is someone who’s not willing to tell you the truth, and that is not an appropriate person to be married to or to be with or to surround yourself with. If you don’t know, then you know this isn’t a healthy person who is someone that is going to make a good partner.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Jeanne agrees and says this approach can be very empowering.
“You’re taking stock of what you do know, and what you do know is that this is a person who is not going to be honorable with you and who has walked away from the relationship. You do know that something has gone on that you probably would not be okay with, so you do know lots. You don’t know the details of the how, what, and when, but you do actually know a lot. That’s more of an empowerment focus.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
Focusing on her own safety and finding closure within herself can help a woman heal from her abuse.
Anne states that she does sometimes wonder and believes it would be nice to know but, for now, she’s come to terms with it. She says his behavior during their marriage actually told her volumes.
“From what I know, I know enough. I know that this is someone who is not safe enough for me to be around, and that’s enough for me.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Whether there is a disclosure or not, it can be very difficult not having all the information, so Jeanne recommends for self-care. Taking care of herself and staying safe can help a woman find healing and closure.
“It’s hard to know that you don’t know everything, and disclosure is a very tender time, so just taking good care of yourself and planning that.”-Jeanne Vattuone, LCSW
Anne reminds women that not getting a disclosure means their husband wasn’t willing to become safe, and that is something.
“If you don’t know, then you know.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Whether you’re getting a disclosure or never will, Betrayal Trauma Recovery wants all women to be safe and prepared.
One way we do this is by providing a safe place to share your worries and fears with other women who have been there or are still going through it. BTR Group is that safe place. With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a BTR Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
We have Jeanne Vattuone back on today’s episode to talk about disclosures and answer community questions about therapeutic-led disclosures. If you didn’t listen to last week’s podcast, listen to last week’s episode and then join us here. You can also hear Jeanne’s bio there.
Before we get back to your questions, we talk a lot about finding the right support on Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, which is our daily online support group, is the best way to get support and know that you’re going to be safe, know that immediately someone is going to be there that understands and can validate your experience.
There are multiple sessions per day in multiple time zones. You don’t have to leave your house or get childcare. You can do it from your car or anywhere you have cell reception. Please go to btr.org, click on Services, click on Daily Support Group. You can check out the session schedule there to see if that works for you.
We made it so anyone in the world, depending on your time zone, can usually get on to a group session within four to six hours. That means you don’t have to wait, you don’t have to set an appointment, you can just hop on and be with women who immediately understand. We also understand that some people have a hard time with groups, or it doesn’t work with their schedule, so you can also schedule an Individual Session with any of our coaches from our website btr.org.
Okay, let’s go on to another question from a member of our community.
Why Isn’t Financial Abuse Always Included In Disclosure?
She asks, why do few therapists include the state of the family finances in the full disclosure? Whether this happens with a therapist or financial advisor, this is a very important piece of information for her spouse to have.
I’m not sure if this is what she’s asking, but do you think she’s asking about if he has any hidden bank accounts, does he control the money, those types of things. Do you think that’s what she’s asking too?
Jeanne: I do, and I think it is important. If there is a cost to an acting out behavior, I want that included in the disclosure, and if there’s any hidden money, I want that included. That is something that, unless a partner brings to me, I will sometimes forget to ask about. It is not always on the top of my brain, but I have had partners say, “I’m concerned about where the money’s gone. We had money, I never asked about it, it’s not there. I want to know.” Then we say, “Oh, absolutely, and then we launch into it.”
I can’t speak for others, but I don’t know if it’s forgotten on purpose or if it’s just because it’s not on the top of our to-do list when we’re assessing for sex addiction and betrayals and lies. It is important, so I just want to validate that writer who wrote in on this that it is important and, if it’s important to her, I hope that she asks for it to be included in her disclosure.
Anne: Yeah, when it comes to financial abuse, that’s what this is asking about, “Do you have secret bank accounts or are you in control of the money that she isn’t aware of?” This financial abuse piece would be important. That’s why, at BTR, I really encourage women to look at it from an abuse perspective.
This would be an example of financial abuse. You might want to ask questions about other types of abuse concerns that you have. What types of abusive behaviors might you need to know about to know what level of safety you have?
A lot of women don’t even know what safety means when they start down this road, or they haven’t even considered that there might be sexual coercion or other forms of emotional abuse going on. I see it as part of my job to educate them about the different facets of what this abuse looks like so that they can be aware of it.
Not because I’m trying to say, “He does all of these abusive things.” He may or may not, but just so they are on her radar so that she can start recognizing what it is, because I spent seven years in an emotionally abusive relationship and went down the pornography addiction route.
Nobody ever brought that up, and I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship. All I did was recovery and 12-Step, pornography addiction things that didn’t include the abuse and, in my opinion, in my situation it completely missed the boat. I want women to be aware of these things so that they can make sure and ask these things in the disclosure.
Are there any other abuse issues that you have found are helpful for women to ask about in the disclosure?
Jeanne: No, I really see the disclosure as the truth-telling, the handing over of facts. It’s the data exchange. It’s not an apology. It’s not a time for empathy. I just want the partner to get the information, and then have time to absorb it and make sense of it. Then we’ll deal with the relational issues later.
I want the empathy and the regret expressions to be genuine, but I want them a little later. I just want the partner to have a chance to get the truth of whatever that truth is.
Anne: For sure. The things that are coming to my mind really quick are does he have another phone, how many devices does he have?
Jeanne: Absolutely. Does he have another phone, does he have other email accounts, is there another bank account? Absolutely.
Anne: Stuff like that are things coming to my mind right now.
How To Move Forward And Heal Without A Disclosure
Here is another question from our community. Do you have any tips on how a spouse, or former spouse, who is not getting a disclosure moves forward?
Jeanne: This is a hard one because, when you don’t have a disclosure and you are no longer in the relationship, I find that partners are sometimes left in that swirl of what if and how far does it go? I think having a good therapist or good coach you can talk to and a good group so that you don’t get caught in the limbo of what if.
Seeking resources, seeking support, and not getting carried away with the what if’s is the best advice I can give. And to acknowledge that it’s hard because you don’t get the answers. You’re not going to get the information and that’s going to take a lot of time to come to terms with.
Anne: Yeah. For me, it’s actually been not so bad, and the reason I say that is because what I know is it was something really bad. For me, what I need to know was twice he left the house at 10:00 pm and didn’t come home until 3:00. He wouldn’t tell me where he went, so I know that’s something bad. I don’t exactly know what.
I could say, “From what I know, I know enough. I know that this is someone who is not safe enough for me to be around, and that’s enough for me.” I have one saying that may be helpful to listeners who are thinking this.
If you don’t know, then you know. That meaning, if you’re not sure, if you don’t have the answers, what you do know is this is someone who’s not willing to tell you the truth, and that is not an appropriate person to be married to or to be with or to surround yourself with. If you don’t know, then you know this isn’t a healthy person who is someone that is going to make a good partner.
Jeanne: I like that because I think you’re taking stock of what you do know, and what you do know is that this is a person who is not going to be honorable with you. You do know that this is a person who has walked away from the relationship. You do know that something has gone on that you probably would not be okay with, so you do know lots. You don’t know the details of the how, what, and when, but you do actually know a lot. That’s more of an empowerment focus. I like that.
Anne: I also like closure. I need to have this reconciliatory conversation with him to end the relationship or something like that. I hold no-contact with my ex and I never had a discussion with him. He was arrested and that was the end. I haven’t talked with him since. That was four years ago.
To me, I feel a lot of closure. Like, I don’t need to know. I don’t want to know. I don’t know, it would be interesting to know, but I don’t need to know. I think part of it is because I know that wanting that type of closure, for me, would just keep me in the vortex of abuse.
Because I want to step out of his world and having to interact with him or having to have conversations with him that don’t make sense or don’t end in anything resolvable, closure for me is knowing this is not a healthy enough person to talk to. I can’t even have a conversation with him.
If he ever gets to the point where I could, maybe I could, but, for now, this is where I’m at and it feels done to me. It feels like I have closure to myself, and maybe trying to reconcile that with yourself, rather than trying to get closure from someone else might be a good way to move forward. Or maybe not, I don’t know, those are some thoughts.
Polygraphs Tell You What His Truth Is
Okay, here is the last question from our community. How accurate are lie detector tests? There are many addicts who claim they don’t do them because they aren’t accurate. Do you use them in your practice and if so, can you help debunk misunderstandings about their accuracy and effectiveness in reestablishing trust in relationships?
Jeanne: Oh, these are great questions. Let me start by saying I am not a polygrapher, I am a clinician so I can give you my clinical side of it. I like polygraphs. I like lie detectors. I use them in my practice, if the partner chooses. I always let it be a partner’s choice. I recommend them and I also honor whatever our partners decide.
As far as I know, they’ve got an 80 percent-ish rate of accuracy. That is not 100%. In my world, that’s better than not knowing. Addicts can lie, and these types of addicts you cannot tell when they’re high on their drug.
If someone is drunk on alcohol, I can see it in their manner and the way they speak and the way their balance is. If someone is high on meth, I can see it in their face and the way they’re acting. You cannot tell with a sex addict, so I think it’s better to have a polygraph on the situation, on the disclosure, than to not. That said, if a partner I’m working with says, “I do not want a polygraph involved,” then that is her choice and I will support her.
Anne: We feel the same way that you do, that given the choice, you should definitely get a polygraph because 80% is better than nothing. These men have a history of lying, so the best chance we can have for them telling the truth is what you want to take.
What are some reasons that women cite for not getting a polygraph? What are some reasons women choose not to get them?
Jeanne: Some of the women will say, “I believe that I have all the information. I believe that he is telling the truth.” “It’s too expensive and this is already costing a lot.” “Everything he’s told me is already horrible, so if he’s telling me more that’s a lie, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s all horrible anyways.” Those are some that come to the top of my mind. 95% of our clients do get a polygraph.
The thing about polygraph that I really want to make sure folks understand is that it is not a statement of truth. It is his truth. It is what he believes to be true. If the addict is going through the polygraph and he thinks he last had this behavior in the Spring of 2016, and later we find out it was Spring of 2015, that doesn’t mean he tricked the polygraph. Okay? He thought it was Spring of 2016.
The polygraph is only checking what he thinks to be true. It doesn’t check his memory. It doesn’t check if he’s forgetting. It doesn’t check if his memory is wrong. That’s an important piece: That it is a statement of HIS truth, not THE truth. That is an important piece that partners know before they go in. If he says this is everything and he passes the polygraph, then he really believes that this is everything.
There are so many times when, by virtue of exploring, investigating, they’re researching the data for a disclosure that folks go to a polygraph, they pass, they go into disclosure session, and then that night the addict will say, “I remembered one more thing.” They come to disclosure second day and they say, “I’ve remembered one more thing I need to tell you about.”
That is not them manipulating, that is them remembering one more thing. They didn’t manipulate the polygraph. It’s just they didn’t remember it during the polygraph, when it was taken.
Anne: Got it. That’s really good to know because, that being said, if you have someone who, for whatever reason, maybe they have a personality disorder or something, if they truly believe something that isn’t true, like, “My wife punched me in the face,”—let’s just use that as an example—and you are the wife and know “I never did that, but he passed the polygraph and he says this happened.”
As the wife, you can know, “Wow, he does not live in reality.” That might help you determine that if that were to happen, which is probably very unlikely, but I’m just throwing that out there.
At Center for Peace, we did have someone who passed the polygraph, and their wife knew that a lot of things that they had said were untrue. We knew then that he doesn’t live in reality. His reality is different than the actual reality, which was an interesting thing. He did not qualify for Center for Peace for that reason. We were like, “Um no, I don’t think we can help you.”
Jeanne: That’s sometimes when an addict’s therapist says, “I don’t know if the addict is ready for disclosure.” Sometimes, that’s what the addict’s therapist is talking about. That this guy is not yet out of his layers of denial enough that he’s seeing the full picture, that he can give a really good in-depth disclosure.
Now, sometimes any disclosure is better than none. That’s the thing with the partner. The partner needs to understand that, “If I get a disclosure now, it may not be as detailed and accurate and in-depth or wide-breadth as it could be later.”
Sometimes the addict’s therapist is basically trying to convey, “This guy is still in denial. He still thinks what he did was okay in some sort of deluded addict way. If he’s in recovery longer and has more sobriety, he might see that differently.”
Anne: On that note, for women who are like, “I didn’t get a disclosure,” or “I need closure” or something like that, letting them know that, even if you did get a disclosure, it might not even be accurate. You’re wishing for something that may not even be possible at all because he’s still in denial. What he thinks is the truth is actually not reality, so your disclosure would not be great anyway.
Jeanne: I wouldn’t say that it wouldn’t be accurate, I would say it may have been full and complete to the best of his ability at that moment. Then, later in time, the best of his ability at that moment would be bigger or maybe better or more in-depth or have more awareness or have more compassion, the farther into sobriety they get the more into recovery.
Anne: On the topic of disclosure, is there anything else you’d like to share with our community? Just a real quick shout out to our community members. Thank you for sending in questions, that was super helpful.
Safety Always Comes First In Disclosure
Is there anything we haven’t covered, Jeanne, that you think our community needs to know about disclosures?
Jeanne: I think your audience is doing such a great job and your community is doing such a great job of educating about disclosure. I know folks want to know the truth and they want to know exactly what happened, and sometimes we need to break disclosure into two pieces. Get the safety items taken care of immediately and then, if they’re able to wait a little bit for the bigger, fuller, completer piece, you can break a disclosure into two pieces.
Anne: Yeah. Thank you, we really appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Jeanne: Thanks so much, Anne. Talk to you soon.
Anne: You know Jeanne talked a lot about getting the right support and again, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, which is our Daily Online Group, is the best, most accessible support out there. We hope you check out our website, btr.org, and we hope to see you in a session today.
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