One of the most difficult questions people ask is “Should I tell the children or our families, or should it just remain between the 2 of us (my partner/ spouse and me)?”
There is no easy answer to this very troubling question. It is something you must think through, and weigh up, for yourself. Also, it is something I would urge you to consider carefully. Don’t give into the pressure to make your mind up NOW. In my opinion, it is better to be hesitant and cautious than to make a rushed a decision which you regret later on.
Here are a few factors to bear in mind as you contemplate what might be the right choice for you:
- Once the story has been shared it cannot be ‘unshared’. If you and your partner recover from this, and manage to build a completely different life, other people won’t forget and it may influence how they see you (both).
- Although you can choose to turn your back and walk away, to end your relationship, and find someone new, the person who betrayed you will always be the dad or the mom of any children you have had, and raised, together. This is a crucial point to bear in mind. If you disclose everything that your partner has done it will likely affect their relationship with him (or her), and possibly affect it for the rest of their lives.
- It’s worth considering the age of your children. For example, what’s appropriate to share with a 16-year old will not make sense to a 6-year old. Also, timing is important as children get stressed too. They have exams, school anxieties, and numerous other issues. Is this the right time to drop a bomb like this? If you decide you’re going to share it, pay attention to the timing.
- Are the children at risk? This is a very important question to ask. Hopefully the answer to the question will be ‘no’, and you can take that out of the decision-making process. However, if you’ve any doubts at all, then you must have the courage to face them honestly and openly. You must protect your children, no matter what the cost.
- If you decide to tell your children (however old they are) they are going to need support, and may want to talk things through. Ask yourself: Do you have the reserves to deal with this, or should you maybe wait until you’re less traumatized? Also, they have the right to share how they feel with other people. Hence, it may mean that your family and your social group find out.
- You might feel like a fraud if you choose to remain silent. You might feel you’re colluding and are sharing in a lie.
- What if the children learn the secret later on, or if they learn from someone else, and they argue ‘it’s not true’? Just think about how shocking that would be for them. They may also think that you’ve deceived them as well, and this could influence their relationship with you.
- It could be argued it prepares your older children for real life. Your children may be struggling with the same kinds of things, and this could be a way to talk about its seriousness, or to help them with a battle they are facing on their own.
- If you’re open with your children (and especially adult children) it may remove some of the shame and the stigma that surrounds a sexual addiction or dependency. Also, a secret can be powerful and can hold a person hostage. If you choose to be authentic, you might find that you feel freer.
- It can lead to more support and accountability. If a partner who’s addicted is committed to being free, then others can encourage them to stay true to themselves, and to keep on working to maintain the ground they’ve gained. Also, the spouse or partner can receive greater support as they seek to come to terms with the devastating news. However, you will need to assess if your family and your friends will genuinely support you, and will want the best for you. Sadly, others may be glad when they learn about your struggles – and this could simply add to the pain you’re carrying.
As I said at the beginning, there is no simple solution. Peoples’ situations differ. It requires careful thought. And if you feel dazed and confused wait a while; there is no rush. You can always choose to share when you are ready, and are stronger.