Protect Your Brain: You Don’t Need to Know Everything
I would like to be your advisor as to what is in the partner’s best interest. What I know more than anything is that “a partner wants to feel safe in an unsafe situation,” which is Barbara Steffens’ quote from My Sexually Addicted Spouse. And to feel safe typically means you need to know everything about the issues and events that your husband participated in. Wow! That can put the brain on overload. So, I’m going to say although you deserve to know the general truth, it’s not good to put every fact, every image, every bit of data into that brain of yours. I’m here to protect your brain.
Now why is that? Because I am a partner sensitive therapist, and what I know to be true after doing this work for years and years is that it is good for you to know the truth. That’s why after a certain amount of recovery, and for every couple that’s different, it’s time for you to have a disclosure with somebody that knows how to do that, somebody who is going to take your questions as a partner and feed them to the addict, make sure that he or she puts them in a formal disclosure process. After that you will have the information you need.
However, what I know to be true is that a partner oftentimes wants every single minute detail, because it makes you feel like you’ve got some sense of control, when the truth is it’s not good for you. It’s not good for you at all. So, for that reason, as a good therapist, somebody who is out for your best interests; I’m going to ask you why do you need to know that; how does that benefit you? I’m going to be graphic here. You may say, “I want to know if she had anal sex with him.” and I’m going to say, okay I can accept that you want to know if his propensity and his sexual addiction is for anal sex. I get that, but you don’t need to know who initiated that first. You don’t need to know how many times that occurred in a session, in a transaction if you will. What you need to do is know enough details so that you know the total picture of what’s going on. That’s up to you and me to work on and decide. That’s why you need a partner sensitive trauma therapist, somebody who gets the fact that someone else would go, you’re crazy to know all that stuff. But I would say, that’s normal.
The most important I want to do is to protect your brain, because one of the things that I know about partners is that no matter what information you want, once you put it in your brain, you never forget, and I don’t want you to have images, thoughts, feelings that you can’t forget. Actually, the addict doesn’t either. He was so out of control. He was so enmeshed in his own illness that he was unaware of the consequences of how that would hurt you if you knew. What he did was despicable, it was deplorable, it was unimaginable, yet that’s the nature of the addiction. It gets worse and worse and worse.
I’m going to ask you, are you protecting your brain? Are you protecting the back of that brain, the amygdala, the fight or flight or freeze part of the brain? The more you have in that amygdala, the more likely you are to participate in behaviors you would never participate in, the more likely you are to wake up in the middle of the night and punch him, the more likely you are in the middle of the day to pack the car and leave. Those are fight, flight, and freeze responses. And once that energy travels to the interior cingulate, that is the emotional area that typically holds rejection, and there is no worse experience in terms of emotion than rejection. Partner betrayal causes a huge amount of rejection, so when you know all the details that make you feel more and more rejected, it’s not good for your brain.
Once the information has left the amygdala it moves to the interior cingulate, which processes rejection and then it goes to the prefrontal cortex, which is your executive functioning. It’s your ability to make decisions. When you are traumatized, your executive functioning goes offline. It will affect your ability to make good decisions, and to comprehend true reality. This leaves most women running on adrenaline, either feeling hypervigilant or super depressed.
That’s why I want to protect that brain, because the brain is something you need to make better decisions. It eventually goes back online, but if you overload it, it will take a lot longer, and I’m here to protect you. You’ve already been betrayed, and you cannot betray yourself by overloading your brain with information you don’t want to know.
So, in retrospect, you don’t want details without having a formal structure to give you the details. It’s called a “formal disclosure,” and to do that, you’ve got to have a trained therapist, somebody who is good at knowing what the structure is. Structure will make it a safer process and you deserve to be safe!