When you begin the process of mediation you may feel apprehensive and anxious. You may wonder how compromise can ever be possible with someone who simply refuses to compromise. You may wish to avoid taking directly because you feel hurt, rejected and downright angry. It’s natural to feel like you want to run for cover rather than talking directly.
In many respects mediation is a brave and bold option. It may feel much safer to get lawyers to write the letters. After all then it is possible to make accusations and say the more hurtful things, and then hide behind the fact that it was the lawyer’s pen. Or perhaps going to court may seem a good option? After all you’re never going to be able to find a compromise so you may as well save the months of waiting before making the application. If a judge makes the decision then you don’t have to. The judge can decide it all. Then if the outcome is not good it is the judge’s fault, or the lawyer’s fault, or even the system’s fault.
Talking is hard because it means facing the one who has hurt you, who has upset the status quo. It means you might have to face the conclusions that occupy your mind during the night when everyone else is asleep. It means you might have to work more, shop in less nice places and make some hard decisions. You might be faced with some realities that you don’t much like – especially that really awful one about selling yours and your children’s home and moving somewhere else.
You may also find that the things that keep you awake at night, are keeping your husband or wife awake too. You may find that they would like to find a solution that avoids those sacrifices if possible too. When talking about what is best for your children you both know that Sam should continue with gymnastics and that Eddie will find the changes particularly hard. You know your children best and so, hard as it is, maybe you are best placed to make decisions about what happens next in their lives, and yours. The judge will never meet your children and will decide what happens for you based on figures on a balance sheet. Surely you are better placed to make that call, with your knowledge of how your family works best, and what is really important?
The first session started horribly. You were late because you wanted to spend as little time there as possible. You could tell they were annoyed because they got there on time. Well they would, wouldn’t they? They get everywhere on time. The session wasn’t quite as painful as you thought but your heart groaned at the thought of trying to find all those documents. If only you’d got round to filing them like you said you would. There just never seemed to be the time. How long will it take to gather them together? Ummmmmmm. You hesitated. You had no idea. It felt like a mountain to climb.
But the mediator was kind and seemed to understand. You got the stuff together (eventually) and going through the documents together helped them make much more sense than you thought it would. Putting the key figures on the flip chart really helped, and then you got sent a summary afterwards.
There were moments when you didn’t feel you made much progress. Sometimes you’d be talking about something and you thought you were agreeing. But then something else came up and you realised that you weren’t agreeing at all. There didn’t seem to be enough money either and that was a worry.
But then the mediator suggested something. When you worked that through on the flip chart things started to look better. You left that session with a slight spring in your step. You even spoke to each other by your cars on the way out. You arranged to go and watch a gymnastics competition together. That felt good. It felt like there might possibly be a future after all this, and one that was OK. Not brilliant, but not truly awful either.
There were a few more ups and downs, but in the end you got there. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it was one that would hopefully work. You could do a few more hours, and there was never anything on Sky anyway. It felt good to finally have it sorted. You could get on with what happened next. You still felt sad but you felt that this was fading. It had cost less to sort it out than you thought and you were glad a judge hadn’t decided. You had started talking a little again and you could see that you were both a bit more relaxed and so the kids had relaxed a bit more too.
This is a hypothetical story drawing on reports from clients as to how they felt throughout the mediation process. It does not reflect any client’s actual story.