Category: Blog

“Mediation Won’t Work Because We Can’t Talk”

CommunicationSome couples who decide to end their marriage or partnership stopped communicating effectively with each other a long time ago. Many things can cause this to happen: different communication styles, a power imbalance in the relationship, lack of problem-solving skills and loss of interest or respect are a few.

When couples that want to separate or divorce consider the process that is best for their family, they may be afraid that they won’t be able to work together to make decisions for their separation or divorce agreement. Our mediators are trained and experienced in working with couples in conflict. Mediators facilitate your conversations and create a safe place for each of you to advocate for yourself. They help you clarify your thoughts and feelings on a topic, and assist you in discussing them in a way that your partner or spouse can listen and understand you.

We have seen over and over that couples that mediate may not be communicating well at the beginning of the process, but as they work with the mediator, good communication and understanding returns. They are able to successfully create fair agreements that give each person the opportunity to move forward in the best way possible. For parents of minor children, this allows them to regain confidence in their ability to continue to work together effectively to co-parenting their children in the future.

What is “normal” and what is abusive in a relationship?

By now everyone has probably heard the tale of the frog placed in the pot of water and set on the stove. Gradually the heat is turned up. The frog makes no attempt to get out of the pot. Because the temperature increases gradually, the frog doesn’t notice and thinks it is normal.

Relationships can be a lot like that. Sometimes, we start out happy, then gradually things deteriorate. As it happens slowly, over a period of time, we fail to notice the impact it is having on our mental and physical health. If we do experience discomfort from time to time we may excuse it away… this happens to everyone, it’s normal.

So, what’s the difference between normal and abusive?

In any relationship, it is pretty common for the honeymoon to wear off. Things like bills, cleaning, and children can get in the way of romance. Yet, in a healthy relationship, there is a sense of teamwork, shared responsibility, partnership toward common goals. We might feel tired from the effort, yet we also often feel appreciated for what we contribute and are compensating through things like companionship and fun. It’s not all peaches and cream. We disagree from time to time and may even stomp off mad or raise our voices, but when troubles come, we work together to find solutions. Or, if the relationship needs to end, difficult as it may be, we are able to do so.

In an abusive relationship it is not uncommon for things to start out really strong–maybe  even a little bit too strong. Nothing and no one is perfect, yet it can often seem just too good to be true. When a problem arises (as they always do in life), in an abusive relationship there will only be one person held responsible and that will be you. Often you will be punished for your perceived transgression–bullied, excluded, demeaned, isolated, physically harmed. Your partner is in control, and s/he expands their control whenever possible, while you are left to walk on eggshells hoping not to upset them. Sometimes, they will apologize. They may even give you a gift or some sign of recognition. They may promise you it won’t ever happen again or beg you not to leave or tell anyone. Yet, it does happen again. And often, over time, it gets worse. If you want to end the relationship, you will likely be threatened or worse.

Because abuse (verbal/emotional, physical, sexual, economic, psychological) can happen infrequently or gradually increase, it can seem like it’s not real or it’s bound to get better. We can all do a better job of learning to manage conflict in our interpersonal relationships, but it is important to know that the usual tools won’t work within the dynamics of an abusive relationship.

If you are in an abusive relationship, it can feel overwhelming to even contemplate taking steps to leave. You are not alone. Others have also been where you are. It is not your fault (even if you are being told it is). There is support available. If you are experiencing abuse or just want to know more, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline today at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224 or visit their site at http://www.thehotline.org/. Or contact a local provider such as Willow Domestic Violence Center at 585-232-5200.

 

Holding On To Your Goals In Separation and Divorce Mediation

 

What is mediation 2 d-sYou are in a stressful state as you navigate the choppy waters of divorce. Focusing on the shore can keep you headed in the direction you want for your future. There are three main components to any separation or divorce: the financial one, the emotional one and the legal one. The key to getting the best possible outcome for your future is to keep your emotions from interfering with the legal and financial aspects of your process.

To ease conflict and create a collaborative atmosphere during your separation or divorce, it is important to keep your interactions with your soon-to-be-ex businesslike. Don’t let yourself get drawn into an emotional argument. You have a choice in how you respond to your spouse or partner’s negative emotions. Be responsible for your interactions with them, and try to keep them positive.

During the divorce or separation process you will experience all kinds of strong feelings. That’s completely normal. The key is to only engage with your spouse or partner when you can think and speak from a practical mindset. You can do this by staying focused on your future, and the goals you have for getting there. If you find you are getting drawn into an argument, simply say that you will get back to them later. You may need to avoid talking to them about the decisions that go into your agreement outside of your mediator’s office. Sometimes it takes the mediator’s help for the two of you to have an effective conversation.

Remember that having clearly defined goals that you are working towards will help you manage your interactions, and end up with the best possible outcome.

 

Separating but not married? Mediation can help!

Marital med 2nd imageWhen couples with children separate, there are a lot of decisions to make. Having those agreements in writing can decrease the chance for future conflict, facilitating a smoother  future for you and your children.

Unmarried couples with children need to determine their parenting schedule, how they will share holidays and special days with the children, how they will manage vacations with or without the children, how they will make important decisions in the future regarding the children, and more. A mediator can help by raising issues the couple may not yet have thought about and by facilitating the conversation when communication becomes challenging.

In addition, parents need to determine their support arrangements for the children and how expenses for the children such as health insurance, co-pays, prescriptions, dental costs, childcare and education will be handled. The mediator can assist by ensuring the parties gather necessary information to make informed decisions, provide information and resources to the parties, and help manage strong emotions and conflict as they arise.

If you and your partner are separating, mediation can help. Contact The Mediation Center today for more information, visit our website for more resources at www.MediationCTR.com or contact us today to schedule an appointment or talk with a mediator at info@mediationctr.com or 585-244-2444.

Lions and Tigers and FAMILY REUNIONS; Oh My!

Are you having a family reunion this summer? Is it your family? The in-laws? Whichever family is involved there are sure to be many personalities that show up. Some you appreciate and others you would rather run and scream from. But no matter what, you find yourself there, surrounding the grill or snack table…Review the situation

Family gatherings can create stress for many people for differing reasons. Your family knows all of your buttons and you have had years of ingrained patterns of behaviors with your family members.

Families have very unique personalities and sometimes these personalities can clash, and the thought of being together can be scary, similar to being thrown in a pen with lions and tigers, well maybe not that bad….

Clashing personalities can result in hard and hurt feelings that come with certain reactions/behaviors among family members. These are called family dynamics, some are good and others can be dysfunctional, to say the least! Every family is different, as is the resulting family dynamic. And trust me when I say, ALL families have DYNAMICS.

Your family’s cast of characters may include such personalities as: Mr. Negative, Aunt Nosey, Crazy Uncle, Miss Perfect, the slacker/moocher, the unruly child, muddy paws the dog, Cousin One-Up and the know-it-all. No matter what you call them, you likely have some relatives who stir up family controversy or who simply get on your nerves.

Families are given to us at birth or through marriage or other relationships. Family members are not chosen in most cases; rather we are born into them or thrown into them. At your family reunion, all the personalities come together, for better or worse.

Here are some suggestions for a happier family reunion:

  • Stick to the purpose. Why are you going to the family reunion? Is it to connect or re-connect with relatives? Then focus on what you want – not what you don’t.  Smile. Play. Help out. Don’t look for reasons to be offended.
  • Stop texting, start talking. The purpose of a family reunion is to see people in person; you don’t have to text and call. So put away the screens and enjoy each other.
  • Don’t let family push your buttons. Others push your buttons because they get a response, your emotions and your behavior.  Deactivate those buttons. Walk away, laugh, change your reaction. If you keep doing the same things that always lead to frustration, you’ll keep getting frustrated.  Do something different.
  • Let people be who they are. One of the biggest sources of conflict is that we want family members to change.  They will probably never change. So if you keep expecting them to, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.  Set appropriate expectations for people.
  • HAVE FUN! Take your mind off of the serious stuff, and focus on the positives at the family reunion — like the 99 percent of the relatives you get along with.

If you know that going to a family event will cause you more distress and angst than joy in your life, it is okay to avoid those events. But, use this as a last resort and focus on the family members that bring you happiness.

Give it a chance with some of the above suggestions and you may be pleasantly surprised.

If you would like to address and try to resolve some of these family issues, consider mediation as a process that can help. Sitting down with a conflict resolution specialist who can facilitate your conversation can help you and future family reunions be happy and healthy!

Happy Family Reunion!!

Adapted from Family Reunion Planning Kit

When post-divorce mediation can help

Separate couple artThings change as you move through life. Sometimes the agreements that were made at the time of your divorce or separation no longer work for one or both of you, or are not being followed. Mediating the issues that have come up can lead to new understanding and willingness to compromise.

There can be new issues that have come up that were unforeseen at the time you filed. If you have children, their needs are continually changing as they get older. There may be things that you didn’t initially address in your agreement that need to be worked out now, such as paying for club sports, braces, or college. Changes in the kids’ activities might mean your current parenting schedule no longer works well. One of you may want to move farther away. One or both parents may have remarried and need to accommodate stepchildren in the scheduling.

There can be issues with certain parts of your agreement. A property or business that you continue to co-own may need to be dealt with, or perhaps there was a payment plan set up for one spouse to pay money owed to the other for the distribution of their assets that is not working. There may be an issue with payment of the child support. There may also have been a change in income, and you need assistance working out a new support amount and filing it with the court. Those issues can be addressed in mediation and any new agreements you make can be added to your court filing.

Coming together with the help of a mediator can lead you to re-establishing effective communication and coming up with mutually acceptable solutions to these issues.

Typical issues in post-divorce mediation:

New parenting schedules

Adjustments to child support/payment of child support

Decisions on paying for college or extracurricular activities

Selling jointly owned businesses or property

Payment of spousal support

One parent moving away

Disagreement over an issue affecting a child/the children

 

 

Call the office for more information at 585-244-2444.

 

 

Grieving and Divorce: The normal ways couples process the end of a marriage

concept of divorce, broken photo frame marriageAccording to the Holmes and Rahe Life Events Scale divorce is second only to death as the most stressful life event a person can experience. Yet each person experiences the loss of their marriage differently. The length of the marriage, the strength of feelings one partner has toward the other, the presence of children, which partner initiated the divorce, how much time has passed since the idea of divorce was raised—all and more influence the emotional impact of divorce when it occurs.

Although grief is expressed differently, for different things and at different times, the stages of grief tend to remain the same. Kubler-Ross (1969) holds that grief occurs as a cycle which includes five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not all people experience all five stages, nor is the model linear. Someone might bargain to save the marriage, become angry that their partner is not willing to return to counseling, and then become sad and despondent. At other times, a person may have come to a place of acceptance that divorce is inevitable, only to learn their partner is leaving them for someone new, thrusting them into a fresh stage of anger. People can also become stuck in the grieving process. This can be particularly deleterious to families because parental mental health directly impacts children’s adjustment in divorce (Taylor & Andrews, 2009, Parental Depression in the Context of Divorce and the Impact on Children. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50(7), 472-480).

When one partner is not acting as upset as the other when divorcing, it does not mean they are not grieving or have not already grieved. Anticipatory grief can happen in advance of a loss, when someone knows that the marriage is not working and may come to an end. Often, after the divorce, new grieving takes place.

If you, or your partner, are grieving, consider getting some help. Working with a counselor who specializes in grief is an excellent way to get the support you need. Joining a support group such as Neutral Ground or Parents Without Partners puts you in touch with others who have experienced what you are going through. Finding a trusted friend or someone from your faith community who can listen without judgement and offer you support, can provide a safe place to process your feelings.

Many find the mediation process helpful because it allows couples to work at a pace that meets their needs, while de-escalating harmful conflict. Contact The Mediation Center today for more information at: info@mediationctr.com

Children Returning to the Nest – “Kidults”

What is a “kidult”? I define a kidult as a child who has been away at school and is returning home for the summer. They are either between school semesters, have graduated and need to find a full-time job, or are transitioning to graduate school.Review the situation

Do you have college students, boarding school students or newly graduated students that have returned to the nest? I have two coming home, one having just finished his freshman year and the other just graduated. I am both excited and nervous.

We, as parents look forward to their return, we have missed them and having an extra driver to help out with errands is a good thing; but at the same time it can bring some anxieties. We haven’t lived with them all year. How have you and they changed? How do we keep our sanity and be supportive parents? Setting ground rules early may lessen anxiety for everyone.

A kidult finds themselves having been “on their own” at school with many freedoms and setting their own schedule and now, they are living back home where there are parental rules and expectations. Parents have been living without this extra person(s) and now have to adjust to their return. This inevitably means a transition time and re-teaching by parents and re-learning by kidults, what the boundaries and ground rules are of living under the same roof. And yes, parents, it is okay to have rules and responsibilities for kidults living in your house if you feel it’s important. Things like helping out with the cleaning or yard work is an okay expectation, as is not staying out into all hours of the night.

So how do you avoid this conflict and reestablish a sense of family living with your kidult?

  • Parents first need to be on the same page with each other and discuss ahead of time what expectations are appropriate.
  • Plan a family meeting when they first get home to discuss the expectations. Don’t wait until the conflict happens. Be proactive.
  • Don’t dictate and preach. Involve them in the conversation. They need to take ownership in the process.
  • Remind them that their actions will now affect everyone in the house.
  • Talk about how life at school may be different than life at home.
  • Negotiate a list of responsibilities now that they are home, like:
    • Vacuuming
    • Mowing the lawn
    • Working a summer job
    • Actively seeking a full time job (if they have graduated)

You and your kidult have grown and changed in different ways. We want to encourage independence and growing up, but with a sense of family and respect for others.

Managing this potential conflict is about finding a balance for all of us and setting expectations early in their return can make for a much sunnier summer for all of you.

Listening to reach agreement

When we are in conflict with another it can be difficult, if not impossible to really listen to what the other person is saying. And really, why should we bother listening when we clearly disagree? Yet, we may be making assumptions about what is being said because we are defensive, which can escalate the conflict further. If we are ever going to make progress and reach agreement, we have to listen.  Here are three quick tips which can help.

Access calm

The first step is to calm ourselves. This is really important because until we are calm and centered, not only can’t we hear the other person, it is very difficult to articulate what it is that we want and need. You could ask to take a break, count to 10 (or 20 or 30…), breath deeply a couple of times, think of your happy place, etc. Whatever you do that soothes you, DO IT!

Pretend you’re a reporter

In conflict with someone we know, it is easy to believe we know what they’re going to say before they say it. This often angers the other person which ratchets up the conflict. Instead, tap into your curiosity. Ask open-ended questions (who, what, why, when, where) in a neutral tone of voice. Listen deeply for the interests and needs this person is expressing and those things you may not have heard before. After all, listening doesn’t mean you agree, you’re just collecting information.

Clarify what you’ve heard

Repeat back to the person you are listening to what you’ve hear. Saying something like, “Let me see if I got what you’re say…” makes it clear that you are seeking to understand. Again, understanding does not equal agreement, but the person speaking is going to be a lot more likely to hear what you have to say if she or he thinks you understand them.

When it’s too tough to talk directly with one another, a mediator can help. Having someone who is trained to facilitate conversations without choosing sides can increase the chances you will be able to hear one another and make progress. If you’re having a hard time with a specific person or a theme has emerged in your conflicts, a conflict coach can help. Having someone support you in your efforts to better deal with conflict can help you try new approaches and offer tips on how to have more successful results.

Summe Break is Almost Here: “I’m Bored”

If your house is like my house, about the second day of summer recess you hear, “I’m bored”. I know this is coming every year and I still look at my kids each year in disbelief, “REALLY?”

Spring is taking its time to bloom in Rochester, but soon the leaves will be on the trees, grass will be green and the flowers will grace our yards with their beautiful colors and SOON THE KIDS WILL BE OUT OF SCHOOL. It is not too early to start thinking about activities to keep kids, both young and old, from being bored.

Once springtime hits, we start to think about outside activities. Yard work is a must, but what are some fun things to do with the kids and as a family?

Getting the kids outside and engaged is very important. Kids are attached to their Ipods, Ipads, computers and phones, so getting them engaged with others and off the couch can be a challenge, but keeping them active will keep their minds and bodies in shape.

Activities should be age appropriate and safe. Think back to when you were a kid and things that you enjoyed to help you with ideas.

Here are some outdoor (and indoor/rainy day) activities to chase the boredom away and keep your kids from turning into couch potatoes this summer. Most of these are inexpensive and once you get them set-up you can let their imaginations run wild. Kids love when their parents play WITH them, so make time to participate in some of these fun undertakings.

AT HOME                                                                                                                        shutterstock_113043922

  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Kickball, bocce, or any yard game
  • (Do you remember SPUD & freeze tag?)
  • Add a twist and play flashlight tag at night
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Outdoor movie theater
  • If you have woods on your property, make a fort
  • Backyard camping – set-up a tent for overnight and for daytime play
  • Make an obstacle course
  • Water balloons or sprinkler, for those really hot days
  • Ride a bike
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Neighborhood Game night
  • Bubbles
  • Hide and Seek
  • Make some slime
  • Puzzles

IN OR AROUND ROCHESTER

  • Museums
  • Bowling
  • Indoor Trampoline
  • Zoo
  • Hiking/Nature walk
  • Park or playground, Rochester has many parks
  • Volunteering

 FAMILIES WHO PLAY TOGETHER HAVE FUN TOGETHER!!!

Be sure to use YOUR imagination.

Renee LaPoint, M.S.