Part One: Your Cheating Partner Needs to Be Assessed
As a betrayed partner, you have a very real need for full disclosure. I want to start by validating that need before I jump into a discussion of why it sometimes takes such a long time to actually get that disclosure. You do need disclosure in order to lay a foundation for trust to be rebuilt in the relationship. However, even though that need is urgent it also takes some time to get to the place where a fully honest disclosure can happen.
When you first come into treatment and when your cheating partner first comes into treatment, neither of you is ready for full disclosure. In fact, several things need to happen to prepare your partner to give and you to receive that disclosure. And those things need to happen in a specific order.
Skipping steps and attempting full disclosure too soon can be disastrous, so patience is needed, even though it may be difficult and uncomfortable to wait. If you do things out of order, you’ll end up having to go back and do them again down the line. So doing things in order actually makes the process go much faster and saves you from additional pain.
When your partner comes to treatment, the first thing that’s going to happen is your partner will go through an assessment. That assessment will include standard questions and exploration of their family and psychological history, along with some very specific questions and exploration about their sexual and romantic behaviors. Basically, we want to know if they simply had an affair or some other sexual/romantic misstep, or if we’re dealing with a sexual compulsivity or addiction.
If, after assessment, it’s determined that we’re dealing with an affair or some other non-compulsive, non-addictive form of betrayal, that points treatment toward individual therapy plus an element of group therapy and possibly couple’s therapy. And based on the assessment, treatment will focus on issues that are specific to your partner, the particular betrayal you’ve experienced, and reparation of the damage done to your relationship.
If we’re looking at sexual compulsivity/addiction, however, the approach to treatment is quite different. We need to know when the addiction started, what behaviors are included, how advanced the addiction is, how deep the addict’s denial is, etc. Only then can addiction-focused treatment begin. Usually this will involve inpatient and/or outpatient therapy, addiction-focused group therapy, 12-step recovery, and, at some point though usually not right away, the introduction of couple’s therapy. With or without addiction, a proper therapeutic assessment of your cheating partner usually takes between two and five sessions for any of several reasons.
- Therapists usually give assessments in person, and also review assessments in person. This takes time.
- Cheating partners often refuse to come clean about all of their behaviors in early therapy sessions. It can take several weeks to get the full story.
- Cheating partners sometimes have genuinely repressed or hidden memories about some of their behaviors, and it can take time for such memories to surface.
As you can see, the assessment stage of treatment for your partner, with or without addiction, is not a one-and-done situation. And please understand, proper assessment is imperative. Otherwise, your cheating partner will not get the needed treatment. (You wouldn’t treat a broken arm with chemotherapy, would you? Well, that’s similar to the difference in treatment between plain infidelity and sexual addiction.)
What all of this means is that your partner is likely to be several weeks into the treatment process before we even know what we’re dealing with and have a plan for moving forward. The good news for you as a betrayed partner is that plan likely does include full therapeutic disclosure. The bad news is that several more steps must be taken before that process begins.
In next week’s post, we will continue our discussion about why the disclosure process takes so long by examining delays caused by your cheating partner’s self-manipulation and denial.