It is a common question I have heard over the years. One or both people in the couple shares a concern about their partner’s unwillingness to talk outside of sessions, the guilt they may be feeling about deciding to leave the relationship, their or their spouse’s anger, the advice they’ve been getting from well-meaning family and friends. Is it really possible, they wonder, under these circumstances to mediate?
My answer is probably. Mediation is voluntary, so even if a couple begins mediating and one or both decide to stop, they have at least tried to sit together to resolve the issues that need to be decided. At worst, they will have gained clarity about what they want and their partner’s goals. Yet, in my experience, most couples who begin mediating are able to complete mediation.
Fears or concerns the couple had coming in are often managed as a part of the process. For example, not talking before a mediation session (or even between sessions) is often a result of fear. One of the parties may be concerned that if they discuss things directly, it will get out of control and conflict will erupt. Especially if there are children in the house, this person may just want to avoid potentially exposing the children to parental strife. Inside a session, the mediator can help facilitate conversations and manage emotion, allowing both partners to open up and feel safer talking through the issues that need to be explored.
I have seen so many families work through difficult times and reach agreements that move them forward toward healing. Mediation is not right for everyone. In instances of domestic violence, safety is always the first concern. If someone is concealing funds, you may need the intervention of the courts to freeze accounts or trace monies. Most people are simply trying to figure out what they need to do to become divorced with the least amount of damage possible and, for them, mediation is an excellent option.