One of the partners in my Moving Beyond Betrayal Boundaries Course recently asked my opinion about betrayed partners writing an impact statement.

If you’re not familiar with impact statements, they’re a written document drafted by a betrayed partner—with the guidance and support of her or his therapist—that is eventually read to the spouse, preferably in a therapy session.

Impact statements should be prepared only after the partner has received and processed Formal Therapeutic Disclosure (FTD). The reason for this is that before FTD, the partner doesn’t have the full story about her spouse’s extra-marital behaviors and activities—information that is vital for preparing an impact statement.

An impact statement is very much what the name suggests: a statement about the impact your spouse’s deception and infidelity had—and continues to have—on you.

The most comprehensive outline for writing an impact statement comes from fellow colleague, Anastasia Sprout. You can get the whole article here on her blog.

Anastasia’s guidelines suggest completing an impact statement in two parts. Part I is where “you describe the ways you were affected by the actions and inactions of the sex addict in your life, and your resulting requests and boundaries.”

Part II is an invitation to examine any unhealthy relationship dynamics you may have participated in. You can also explore how your spouse may have been vulnerable to developing an addiction, acknowledge progress your spouse has made since discovery, and express your vision and commitment to the relationship going forward.

Because there are very few guidelines for writing a betrayal trauma impact statement, when most partners prepare one, it’s typically done in one document—Part I of Anastasia’s guidelines.*

Writing an impact statement or participating in any process that is recommended to you by a mental health professional, clergy member, mentor or sponsor is a choice.

You may choose to write an impact statement for any—or all—of the following reasons:

  • You want your spouse to hear exactly how you’ve been impacted by his infidelity, and you want to do so in a supported, structured, therapeutic setting.
  • You struggle with persistent, unresolved anger because you don’t feel as though your experience has been fully heard or attended to. In this case, you may use the preparation of an impact statement as a way to process and work through your anger, and then share your experience and the related emotions with your spouse.
  • You have some significant boundaries or have made an important decision that you want to tell your spouse, but only after you’ve had an opportunity to tell him how his behavior has impacted you. For example, a partner may have made a decision to leave her relationship but doesn’t want to tell her spouse of her decision until after she has shared how she has been impacted by his actions.

While preparing an impact statement may sound like something most betrayed partners would want to do, many partners choose not to.

Preparing an impact statement requires partners to revisit painful memories and events that they later decide they prefer not to re-visit. On more than one occasion, I’ve worked with partners who set out with good intentions to write an impact statement but didn’t follow through because the pain of re-visiting the past was greater than the benefit the partner anticipated she might get from writing and presenting one to her spouse.

Regardless of whether or not you chose to write an impact statement, I strongly recommend you work with a therapist or other trained professional to re-visit key incidents from your relationship so that you can better understand and process their impact on you.

*You can find additional information about writing an impact statement in Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts (Carnes, Lee & Rodriguez, 2012).

impact statement

© Victoria Priya, LCSW [formerly Vicki Tidwell Palmer] (2018)

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  1. Cheryl on March 18, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    When should a Impact Letter be written and read to SA? My husband revealed 3 weeks ago that for the majority of our 16 year marriage he has been acting out, the last 10 years with prostitutes, anonymous sex with strangers etc. My level 1 CSAT counselor is insisting that i write and deliver an impact letter because she wants to ensure I am really sitting with my feelings about all of this. I just don’t feel like I even know yet what the impact is. Last night he shared in conversation how he hide all of this and I am reeling again. I just want to cancel the appointment with therapist. Am I just in denial?

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on March 18, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      Hi Cheryl, I’m so sorry to hear about your very recent disclosure, along with the continued staggered disclosure you’re receiving.

      From the article:
      “Impact statements should be prepared only after the partner has received and processed Formal Therapeutic Disclosure (FTD). The reason for this is that before FTD, the partner doesn’t have the full story about her spouse’s extra-marital behaviors and activities—information that is is vital for preparing an impact statement.”

      I think it is very helpful for you to process what you’ve experienced so far with the support of your therapist and any communities of support belong to. However, preparing and drafting an impact statement is best done after FTD, not only because you then have a thorough accounting of your husband’s extra-marital activities, but also because your husband will be more capable of hearing your statement, as well as taking in and responding to how you have been impacted by his betrayal.

  2. Staci on March 19, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Hi Vicki – great article! Thank you for including the Impact Statement I wrote in your links. It is very challenging work for partners, that is for sure, not for the faint of heart! But when they complete it (with help with their therapists or a support person and usually several drafts) they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that is very earned. And when they read it to their sex addict partners, it is a truly pivotal moment in therapy and reconciliation. Therapists can do everything they know to teach a sex addict empathy, and addicts can do a lot to learn about the harm and pain they caused their partners, but NOTHING is as powerful as hearing in the partner’s own voice, in detail, where the hurt came and how it changed things. I am not sure any couple’s reconciliation is complete without some form of the partner’s voice articulating the harm, and it being fairly and lovingly witnessed. Empathy in action!

    Thank you Vicki for all you are doing for partners!
    With respect and gratitude,
    Staci Sprout

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on March 19, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Hi Staci, and thanks for your work and adding to the conversation!

  3. Karen R on January 3, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Vicki. Thank you for your informative article on Impact Statements. After 6 years of discovering my husband’s sex addiction, he is finally doing a FTD scheduled for the end of this month. My question is as follows….His therapist (CSAT) is requesting an Impact Statement from me before the FTD. His reason is that my husband will go into the Disclosure already knowing the great impact his betrayal has had on me; hence, placing him in a more empathetic & realistic position to understanding my feelings. As a side note, in addition to his sex (& marijuana) addiction, he has BPD and without sounding too codependent, I wonder if hearing the impact statement before giving over his FTD could lighten “the blow” to any reactions I may have during the disclosure session. So I wondered what your opinion was of me giving over the Impact Statement before the FTD….as I’m writing this, I’m also realizing that I don’t believe I’d be reading the Statement, but instead the therapist would be in their session together. Thank you in advance!!

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on January 4, 2019 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Karen, good question!

      What I’m hearing is that the therapist is hoping that if your husband hears your impact statement before presenting his FTD document that he may have more empathy, and that may be the case.

      My questions for you are 1) how do you feel about preparing two impact statements? and 2) what do you imagine it will be like to write an impact statement and not see your husband’s responses to it (if his therapist reads it to your husband)? There is really no way you can prepare a complete impact statement before you hear disclosure, and I would not want the process to be made less “impactful,” so to speak, by writing it before FTD and not having the opportunity to present it in person to your husband, at least the first time.

      My experience with betrayed partners is that for many reasons they often struggle to write one impact statement, so it may be challenging for you to agree to the therapist’s request and then write another one later after FTD if that is what you choose to do. I recommend going with what feels good and right to you. Ultimately, FTD and the writing and presenting of an impact statement is for you, not for the therapists involved and not even for your spouse, although he will benefit from both.

      Hope this helps, and I wish you a successful and clarifying FTD experience.

      • Karen R on January 14, 2019 at 11:28 am

        Hi Vicki. Thank you so kindly for responding to my question!! You gave me a lot to think about and I cannot express how much I really appreciate your feedback!!

        I really didn’t want to do 2 impact statements. Doing one is hard and traumatic enough and, something I do not look forward to doing!! I’d have to keep thinking of the betrayal and all the pain it caused and continues to cause me. Simply, who wants to do that, and twice no less. Thank you, I feel like you totally validated my thoughts and feelings.

        My therapist is excellent but she doesn’t have experience dealing with (any) addiction. The one prior (to the transfer) has experienced working with this addiction but went on maternity leave.

        You gave me the professional guidance I really needed for me to decide what to do. Although it could be helpful for my husband to go into the disclosure with perhaps more empathy, I’m not going to go through the painful, time consuming, and emotional exhaustion of doing the impact statement twice (and yes most likely his therapist would read it without me even being present).

        Again, many thanks. I’m very grateful!

        Best regards,

        • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on January 14, 2019 at 12:40 pm

          That is great Karen, thanks for letting me know!

  4. Laura on December 26, 2019 at 7:22 am

    My name is Laura! I have your book MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL! Thank you for the book! I have been differing in a marriage for 21 years! We never had DISCLOSURE! Last year we discussed this and he agreed to do it! I joined him with his therapist to discuss! He had started prior to that and I believed he was doing it! Of course he had stopped and never told me! Again he is supposed to be working on it! I am very fed up as he is a major procrastinator! I feel resentful that he appears to not be doing the work! I do know that his therapist has been away on vacation and his Disclosure Partner I just learned is away on vacation! And his Sponsor frequently travels! I do not have boundaries around this work! All I keep hearing from the SA is that Disclosure takes a long time-but it should not take a lifetime!!! Can you please help me! What boundaries can I have! I do not see anything on DISCLOSURE in your book! What tools or books can I use to guide me! Thanks for replying! I very grateful to you for your wisdom and your guidance with this problem!

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on December 30, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Laura, you are very welcome!

      I can completely understand why you are fed up waiting for disclosure that was agreed on last year. That sounds extremely frustrating and painful. Here is an article I wrote about the timing for disclosure that I think will be a big help: How Long Should it Take to Prepare a Disclosure?

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