How Can Mediation Actually Be Peaceful?

It can be difficult to understand how two people who do not want to be married anymore could actually manage to get along enough to make it through a mediation process without going to battle against each other. Granted, the mediation process is never suitable for domestic violence and abuse situations. But what about all of the unpleasant and heartbreaking (and maddening) issues that happen to break down a marriage and are the whole reason you are seeking a divorce? How can two people possibly get along in mediation when they can’t get along to stay married, and now that a divorce is on the table, any good behavior is out the window?

Ground rules

When a couple enters mediation with me, I make it very clear the type of behavior that I expect from my clients. I don’t do yelling as a personal and professional rule. This does not mean that I do not have boundaries. This means that boundaries can be enforced without people yelling or becoming aggressive. I have worked very hard on my own trauma issues and PTSD that I am not about to expose myself or my clients, or the people in my neighboring offices, who are often other counselors or massage therapists. (Imagine getting a massage and having to listen to people raising their voices about money or a parenting plan. Not relaxing at all!) I am very clear about my rule that if people cannot manage their emotional state and conduct themselves with self-control, then I am entitled to end the session and possibly end the mediation process, which leaves you to start over with a different mediator and pay for the process all over again. Worse yet, your partner might end up getting their own lawyer and you will go through litigation instead.

Safe space for creating a vision

I create the mediation sessions to follow the same “safe place” environment that I always created for my therapy clients. I always tell my mediation clients that I have both their best interest at heart, which is the truth, and that we are all there for the common goal of creating an agreement that protects them and gets passed through the court system. I remind them that my job is to keep an eye on the big picture while attending to the details of getting all the assets and liabilities sorted out. If there are children involved, I help the parents to create a vision that is not about punishing the other parent but reminding them that this is their chance to create a new life that is about moving forward and being happy.

The way that I see it, you have spent enough time being unhappy, and now is the perfect time to start thinking about your future and taking responisiblity for your own happiness. If you have children, this is the environment that you will also create for them. Of course, there is grief over the loss that occurs in a divorce. Remember that there is always space for hope and optimism. Water the seeds that you want to grow.

I think that when two people are given a safe space and the support they need to create a workable plan for handling the nuts and bolts of a divorce, they can better process the emotional aspects of the loss and start finding their way along the path of personal growth and development.

I am happy to assist you in that process. Please feel free to call me or email me for a schedule a consultation!

by Diana Zilly, MS, MA, LCPC, NBCFCH. Diana is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Divorce Mediator, and former Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Joliet Junior College.

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