When couples embark upon mediation they are ultimately looking for a resolution. They want to be able to find a set of arrangements that will enable each of them to move on. It sounds like a fairly simple objective when you put it like that. However, even deciding on the first thing to talk about, and what the priorities are can feel like a mountain to climb.
It is not unusual for couples trying to reach a resolution between themselves to find that what starts off as a discussion about housing or when the children will see each parent, turns into a vicious argument. Old patterns of conflict are followed round and round the loop. The same personal criticisms rear their heads. Confused, angry and hurt people will often lash out. It feels horrible but attacking when you feel under threat is an automated reaction that is part of our programming. Yes humans have reasoning and can process things at a level beyond animals but often the thinking part of our brain turns off and flight or fright mode kicks in and we react.
Talking about arrangements in mediation does not mean these types of arguments won’t rear their heads. You will still be the same people carrying the same weight in mediation! But a mediator can help you to concentrate on what is important such as making sure you are making arrangements that will work for your family. The mediator can also help you to identify points that are causing difficulty in your conversations. This often makes it easier for couples to make future arrangements on their own (or they can always return to mediation).
Often participants in mediation feel hurt that the other person is misrepresenting the situation, or not telling the truth. This can lead to heated discussions as one person feels strongly that they are being truthful, whereas the other feels hurt and frustrated that the other is painting such a wrong picture. In many, many cases both versions are true. How can both sides be true when they are so very different? Because they are two perspectives on the same situation.
Each couple will have their own story and each part of that couple will have their own version of events. But to take an example person A may feel they have been unhappy in the marriage for some time. They may have tried to speak out but it ended in heated argument and so it seemed easier to say nothing. To just carry on and hope that one day things would get better. They have achieved a quiet life, even if it is not a happy life. Eventually they may decide (or something may happen to make them rethink their priorities) that they cannot simply exist like this any more. They must pursue their own happiness and they take the decision to leave. They meet someone new and it seems a chance to try to finally enjoy life and to be fulfilled and they form a new relationship.
Person B feels that there were difficulties in the relationship but they seem to have got a lot better. They are no longer arguing and in fact they haven’t had an argument in some time. They feel things are good. Then out of the blue person A informs them that they are leaving and that they are not happy and haven’t been for some time. How can this be? Things seemed good? If they weren’t happy surely they would have said? Why would they not have mentioned it? They then discover that person A has formed a new relationship. This explains everything. Clearly they have been having an affair and that is why they have left. How dare they insinuate that it was person B’s fault that they were not happy when they have been seeing someone else.
In mediation many feelings may play out from both person A and person B. Both parties feel hurt, both parties may feel betrayed that their spouse did not behave as they wished them too. Both will be angry, bewildered and scared. The feelings are exacerbated by the fact that the other is not being truthful or will not understand their version of events.
Neither party is deceiving the other, or being untruthful. They simply have different perspectives on the same events. As communication between them has been poor for some time, neither has been party to the other’s thoughts and they have simply filled in the bits they did not know with their own dialogue, or their own interpretation of events.
Mediation helps couples to understand this and to try to move forward and accept that they may simply have different perspectives. Family consultants or counsellors can be used in conjunction with mediation to help each party to deal with their emotions and to come to terms with what has happened.
If you feel that mediation would help you to find a tailor made resolution for your family then please get in touch. We are always happy to answer questions that you may have about the process.