FULL DISCLOSURE TO THE WIFE: SHOULD HE, OR SHOULDN'T HE?
By Melody O’Malley, BA
With today's rampant epidemic of infidelity – even within Christian marriages – the topic of whether or not the wife should benefit from a full disclosure is an idea that's getting a lot more attention. But should a husband fully disclose his sexual misconduct and come clean to his wife? As a wife of one of these husbands, I have to say an emphatic, YES!
Over the span of my 21-year marriage by the time of D-day ("disclosure day") I had been tortured with bits and pieces of information regarding my "Christian" husband's sexual transgressions. When he would confess, he would give me only the bare minimum to deceive me into thinking he was telling me everything. I so desperately wanted to believe in his goodness, but the dynamic in our home and marriage kept going from bad to worse as little by little details he elected to share came into light.
Meanwhile, the worst details stayed hidden. I knew in my spirit something was terribly wrong even after he would swear he'd told me everything. It wasn't until two years ago I finally got the full disclosure (or at least I hope). Naturally, I was shocked and horrified to find out the details of his hidden life were far worse than I had ever imagined. However, I experienced the gravity of that moment as a Heavenly Grace and provision to me in that it was a relief to FINALLY have clarity as to why our marriage had fallen short of my hopes and dreams.
Should a man disclose his sins like this to his wife? Yes, he should and here's why. The Bible is emphatic that when a man and a woman marry, the two are to become one flesh. How on earth can this ever happen if a husband is hiding an entire portion of his life from his wife? God has made her in a way in which her spiritual antennae will be on high alert, knowing something is not right. This was not God's plan for marriage. If they are to become one, there can be no secrets, deception, or lying. As painful and difficult as it is, there's simply no other way. For a man to allow his wife to wonder and guess for years, decades, or until even after his death, is cruel and torturous.
Why then are so many women in this situation counseled that they should not need a full disclosure from their husbands, or worse yet, be judged as paranoid, unforgiving, or controlling when they communicate their need to know? Why are husbands discouraged from being honest with their wives? There are several reasons for this. I've collected this information by interviewing numerous pastors and counselors on the topic. I interviewed them to find one who would help my husband and me long-term. I needed to know it was going to be someone who would encourage my husband to continue being honest. If we were to survive, I couldn't handle any more secrets.
4 Reasons Some Pastors/Counselors Discourage Disclosure
1. Women can't handle the truth about the betrayals. How sad I thought this was. The truth is many counselors, pastors and people in general – especially males – can't handle the display of valid, yet strong emotion. Let's be real here. Is a woman really supposed to sit like a zombie while hearing her worst nightmares coming to light? Not only is that unrealistic, it's un-Christ-like. Some pastors or counselors see the husband in his calm and collected state as reliable and emotionally stable. On the other hand, the wife, who is dealing with trauma, is seen as less trustworthy. This is a common discrimination and unspoken bias. If his wife displays the appropriate emotions associated with her trauma, a husband can find some pastors or counselors will point the finger at her as being the main source of their marital problems. The wife's appropriate emotional responses become the focus of discussion instead of the reason she is reacting!
This has nothing to do with women being unable to handle the truth about her husband’s betrayals. I have yet to meet a woman who can't handle the truth. I've met hundreds who can't handle lies and manipulation. I'd like to propose that it’s the female genius to forgive and extend mercy. I wish these pastors and counselors could see the mercy demonstrated by women in my online support group (over 3,000 worldwide) and how they are willing to work with their wayward husbands to save their marriages.
Not only CAN women handle the truth...but they DO, at a most supernatural level. I asked one pastor who told me women can’t handle the truth if he had any examples to share. He spoke about a couple he worked within which the woman had the affair. When it was brought to the husband's attention, he filed for a divorce the next day. However, in thinking, the pastor had no recollection of a woman not being able to handle the information. He had been judging women based on their very appropriate emotional and traumatized responses to the information.
2. "Sin is between God and him. He has no obligation to tell her." This may sound holy, but it's not Scriptural. King David tried to get away with this one after he cheated with Bathsheba and killed her husband. God sent Nathan the Priest to confront him and expose him! In fact, God has inspired it so that David's sin is now in the light for everyone to see who reads the Bible until the end of time! Sin has its consequences within relationships! To think sexual sin in particular only affects the individual himself is simply shortsighted and naïve at best.
3. "It's better to leave the past in the past. Why tell the wife?" This reason was given by a pastor who told me when a husband comes to him and confesses a transgression he considers the situation "over". He will not encourage the husband to tell his wife. Here’s the problem with that thinking. If the wife isn't told, the husband is more likely to do it over and over again! Also, if a man is prone to affairs, he may very likely be involved in pornography and have a full-blown addiction. If this is the case, one cannot trust anything he is saying, whether or not the affair is over or not. In addition, it's likely the wife already believes something is going on but could never prove it. Also, it's certain that in order to hide the affair, the husband had to neglect or abuse aspects of the marital relationship. If he indeed loves his wife, he needs, to be honest, and repented so she can understand the past patterns of neglect and bring clarity to the confusion she feels. For example, most adulterous men will avoid sexual relationships with their wives leaving them feeling undesirable and disconnected. This can cause incredible insecurity. Knowing he was doing it to hide an affair provides the wife with insight that she is blameless and allows her to regain her self-worth. Allowing a wife to flounder in the unknown is lacking in compassion and cruel.
4. "It’s selfish for a man to give full disclosure. He torments her to ease his own conscience." This thinking really goes back to the false understanding that women can't handle the truth. Plus, it would be music to most cheaters' ears to have a pastor or counselor say this and leave him deceived in thinking that it's the "selfless" choice to remain in his hidden world!
Stay with us as Part Two in our Series of "We're Leaving the Spouse Behind" will be posted next week!