Every now and then a new tool for recovery and trust-building comes along, and I’m pleased to introduce you to one today!
As you know, deception is one of the hallmarks of addictive behavior. And to make matters worse, if a person who struggles with addiction grew up in a family where lying and deception were commonplace, or there was a family legacy of secrets, he/she will struggle even more with practicing rigorous honesty — even about topics that have nothing to do with addiction or acting out behaviors.
What is transparency?
The dictionary definition of transparency is:
“the condition of being transparent.”
To be transparent means:
“allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen; easy to perceive or detect.”
In the context of a relationship, to be transparent means to be easy to see or perceived by the other person, as opposed to being unnecessarily difficult to understand, vague, confusing, or crazy-making.
Being forthcoming or transparent is one of the most helpful skills any deceptive spouse can learn and practice, and it is a hallmark of true recovery when practiced well. When you are an open book to your partner, she doesn’t have to work hard to know who you are (what you think and feel), what is important to you, and what you need and want.
The Daily Transparency was created by a spouse who struggled with hiding and lying, even when he was not acting out compulsively in his addiction. His intention in taking TDT on as a daily practice was to counter the tendency to conceal and hide when there was no good reason to do so, and to build an “honesty muscle.”
Examples of what one might share in a daily transparency:
*Anything you would not have previously shared with your partner. The information could be addiction-related or not. For example, if you tend to keep feelings of fear or vulnerability to yourself, that might be a transparency for you.
*If you are in the habit of pretending you never get triggered around your addictive behaviors, a transparency might be to share that you were triggered that day. Remember, it is not generally helpful to share middle circle behaviors with a betrayed partner; however, you can share with her that you were triggered, and then share what steps you took to take care of the trigger.
*Sharing feelings of insecurity or inadequacy.
*Disclosing a strong urge to act out. You may be concerned that your partner will feel threatened by hearing you wanted to act out, and she may. However, every person on a path of sobriety or recovery has urges to act out. In fact, partners sometimes say that their spouse’s sobriety or recovery feels false or unreal because he never expresses any struggles or challenges.
*If you are reluctant to share wins or successes (of any kind) because you think you shouldn’t or because you were told in the past not to “brag,” you could share anything you are feeling happy or proud about, especially if doing so is a stretch for you.
Transparencies are unique to the individual, and very much depend on the ways the person hid, omitted, concealed, or lied in the past. The primary benefits of TDT are that they build the unfaithful spouse’s “honesty muscle,” and restore trust by demonstrating the willingness to be forthcoming and share difficult truths.
If you want to share transparencies with a partner, TDT is NOT recommended if you are very new to recovery or the practice of rigorous honesty. In general, you should not take on the TDT (with a spouse) if you have not completed a formal therapeutic disclosure.
The simple truth is that you’re not ready. And even if you believe you’re ready, your partner is most likely still experiencing disorientation and trauma, and therefore cannot — and should not — be presented with additional information that may cause more distress.
Here’s how The Daily Transparency works:
1. Commit to sharing one transparency per day
The first step if you want to practice TDT is to commit to sharing a daily transparency with your partner, or an accountability partner or sponsor if you’re not in a long-term committed relationship.
2. Ask your partner if she is willing to hear your transparencies
If you’re in a relationship and you want to share your transparencies with your partner, ask her if she is willing to hear them.
Some partners may not want to hear a transparency every day, or they may not want to hear transparencies that are addiction or recovery-related. Whatever your partner’s decision, honor it. If she doesn’t want to hear them, find an accountability partner or share them with a good friend or sponsor.
Remember that TDT practice will be an evolving one, and the two of you may adjust how it works for each of you over time.
3. Share two recovery/addiction-related transparencies per week
Believe it or not, when partners don’t hear anything from their spouse about his struggles with recovery or sobriety, they get suspicious. And rightly so!
If someone is truly struggling with an addiction, it is not realistic that they never feel tempted to engage in their addictive behavior. When an unfaithful spouse doesn’t share anything about his struggles or temptations in weekly check-ins, for example, his progress and recovery may feel unreal or even “fake” to his partner.
Therefore, one or two transparencies per week related to addiction/recovery are recommended to encourage the unfaithful spouse to take a risk for the sake of being more forthcoming, open, and honest.
4. Be consistent
One of the easiest ways to damage trust is not following through on commitments or agreements.
If you make a plan to share a daily transparency with your partner, do whatever you need to do to make sure you don’t create more pain and distrust by not doing what you said you would do. Set an alarm on your phone or create other reminders to make it a consistent, daily habit. If you forget one day or an unusual circumstance derails your practice, apologize for not following through and start again the next day.
And if you want to take your accountability up a notch, make an extreme accountability that includes a painful consequence if you don’t follow through.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2019)