FULL DISCLOSURE TO THE WIFE
SHOULD HE, OR SHOULDN'T HE?
By Melody O’Malley, BA
This is the second part of an article examining how some pastors and counselors are re-traumatizing women who are trying to deal with the sexual betrayals of their husbands.
For part one, click this link: http://www.menagainstporn.org/blog/2017/5/2/full-disclosure-to-the-wife-should-he-or-shouldnt-he
4 Reasons Some Pastors/Counselors Don’t Believe in Disclosure
1. They discount the depth of magnitude the husband's sin is having in the home and marriage. These individuals who are supposed to be helping women deal with betrayal, do not recognize the emotional, psychological, sexual, financial and sometimes physical abuse that often goes together with sexual sin/addiction and infidelity.
Many are prioritizing the man's right to privacy over the wife's right to know the depth of the unfaithfulness that has taken place. There are countless women suffering from mysterious STDs who could benefit psychologically by knowing how they got them. Many of these women and their children are dealing with angry men who express frustration and sometimes rage to shut down the wife’s emotional response to the infidelity.
2. Many focus on "there are two sides to every story" approach to deal with the problem. Most marriage counselors will focus on helping couples deal with issues that trouble each individual and have led to a strain in the relationship. However, when it comes to addiction and abuse, this technique is wrong. This counseling approach blames the wife for her husband’s sins.
This is dangerous because it provides the husband with an excuse for his behavior. Worse yet, it sends some women on a painful and unnecessary witch hunt to determine what is wrong with them. Most likely, her husband has been blaming her for years to justify his behaviors (this is a technique called gas-lighting that is used to distract responsibility). This exercise would result in destroying what little self-worth the wife has left. Some counselors and pastors fail to address the issue by trying to stay neutral. But this is false neutrality. Without knowing it, those who think they are staying neutral, are siding with the abuser/offender to the detriment of the victim.
3. They, themselves, may be struggling or given over to the same sins. When a person able to counsel is deeply involved in sexual sin, it robs them of their spiritual authority and influence in others’ lives. Due to their sin, I believe this may be a reason for discouraging a man to give a full disclosure.
4. There are women who prefer NOT to know. I have met five of these women who prefer to deny their husbands’ hidden life. Only five. Of those five, the reason two of them have for wanting to stay in ignorant bliss, is because they intuitively know the exposure of their husband's sin would cost them their standard of living – huge house, multiple cars, extravagant lifestyle. And for one, her standing in the community as a good Pastor's wife would turn her world upside down. These women also realize exposure could cost them their family’s good standing and reputation within the community.
Another woman I have met – whose husband tried to tell her of his sexual sins 10 years earlier – didn't want to know and was scared to death to know the truth. Instead, she consumed herself with church volunteerism and various good works to avoid thinking about it. When I met this woman, she was just finding out her husband had been soliciting prostitutes their entire marriage.
And there are the women who choose not to know because they are in a marriage with a violent abuser who they fear. I have met two women through my support group who lived this oppressive reality. They were heroic to simply get by each day and knew that they or their children would get hurt if she confronted anything about his sinfulness. Both of these women were eventually able to get out of their unfaithful abuser's grip, but many women struggle to break free in this situation.
In closing, I'd like to give you a true life story. In one of the small support groups I was in for women following D-Day, there was a beautiful young wife. Her husband had just told her of his on-going affairs throughout the last 12 years of their marriage. The detail that gave her the most anger and grief was in the reality of how she'd contracted a serious STD seven years prior to this disclosure. She recollected with us how confused she had been when the symptoms began and how she had gone to her doctor.
After finding out about the STD, she initiated going with her husband to their pastor and two counselors. Her husband had allowed all of them to insinuate and accuse her of adultery and promiscuity. For 7 years, her husband had allowed multiple important people in this woman's life to suspect her and judge her character. FOR 7 YEARS! Just so he could stay private and continue in ongoing sin.
Despite her longstanding integrity and reputation within the community, and the fact that she had pursued the counsel, none of those in authority questioned her husband's faithfulness. ONLY HERS! It became crystal clear to me that day, that a husband who has strayed, or who has an addiction should always be encouraged to give his wife a full disclosure. It is only through full disclosure that a wife is given the truth needed to decide whether to stay or leave and the relief and reassurance from all that she endured during the fog of the unknown.
So, if a pastor, family member, friend or counselor is faced with factual information about a husband's sexual unfaithfulness from him or others (and this includes actual affairs, fantasy affairs, pornography use, etc.), or if they are being asked by a wife for help in attaining a much-needed full disclosure from her husband, perhaps we can start to see things more empathetically from the victim's point of view. As long as the infidelity remains hidden and only a hunch within the wife, she stays in the dark. The marriage and family stays in the dark.
The Church and community stays in the dark. The man is heading toward eternal darkness. The disclosure can bring much relief emotionally and mentally, and it can bring the wife much-needed support that she needed all along. Unfortunately, a wife who only has a "hunch" or "gut feeling", is usually judged as "paranoid or controlling"...especially if her husband has been successful at maintaining a squeaky-clean image within the community. When truth comes out, the wife immediately receives the affirmation and validation that she needs. The husband benefits from the accountability that is created by the truth being brought to light. If he is earnest to overcome his sinful tendencies, this will be a good thing. If he is not, then the wife still benefits.
It’s very important to realize that if the wife discovers the truth later and learns that others kept the truth from her, this will be an extra burden of betrayal and trauma.
And the truth shall set you free...for those willing to be set free.