When it comes to disclosing what has happened in your marriage to family members and close friends, much of what we feel is related to how we learned to deal with embarrassing and shameful situations in our home as a child/teenager. You need to be aware of those dynamics in order to walk with both truth and grace with your family and your husband’s.
For instance, in my home, telling the truth about what had happened was very important, but expressing how you felt about the truth was not encouraged and sometimes even discouraged. So, when I was growing up if something bad happened, we talked about it in terms of factual reality, but we didn’t talk about how it impacted us emotionally. Telling my parents about Troy’s unfaithfulness was not difficult from the standpoint of being truthful. It was difficult because I didn’t feel safe to express how his unfaithfulness was impacting me. I felt like I needed to look like I was doing okay—even if I really wasn’t. My siblings were especially difficult to talk to. They accepted the truth, but they did not seek to know my heart or to share how Troy’s sin had impacted them.
Troy’s parents, on the other hand, grew up in family systems that taught them not to “air their dirty laundry in public.” They were very uncomfortable about other people finding out about Troy’s sexual sin and resented those who reacted to his sin negatively. In their generation, people didn’t talk about their problems with others. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is a recipe for bondage. Secret sins and wounds can only be forgiven and healed if they are brought to the light. Covering them up only leads to more sin and more secrets.
So, the first thing to be aware of before you disclose to family or close friends is how they typically respond to painful/shameful information. You need to know what to expect in order to prepare yourself for their reactions.
The second thing you need to determine about those you want or need to tell about the problem is how much they really need to know. Most often, family members only need to know generalities. Remember, details make the emotional impact of truth much greater. And if someone asks for details, your response should be, “I don’t think you need to know that” or “I’m really not comfortable answering that question.” Be as specific as you can to avoid confusion or unnecessary fears, but limit what you tell your family in order not to expose them to more than they might be able to deal with. Keep in mind that you have a support group and probably a counselor to talk to. Most of your family members will have to deal with the bad news without that kind of support.
Please understand; I’m not trying to give you a script to follow. I just want you to think about what you say to other people and how it is going to impact them. The goal is to speak with both grace and truth. Be as honest as you can without causing your family or your husband or yourself any more pain than is necessary.
Of course, there are times when a family member is safe and healthy enough to really share your heart with. You may have a sibling who is a counselor and understands the dynamics of sexual addiction. A family member may have walked through the same thing and be able to identify with your struggles completely. Just be wise.
–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One
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