Mediation can get dirty – A new title coming in with a cliche thought.
The couple knew each other since high school. They went to college together. Both of them got placed with a multinational company and in a few years, they synergised a good amount of savings with investments for lifetime. As they recalled, their primary assets were their six-year-old triplets. The difference occurred when their life had evolved individually, and none could sort the real source of hitches in the relationship. They hadn’t decided to part ways, they couldn’t even think about it, for obviously they were at their peak in careers and the children had a long way to go before adulting. In a few years of time from the differences, their communications had transformed to be silently-living-together. What would their choices be at this stage? A marriage counsellor – if they intend to figure out their life to live together? A lawyer – if they decided to divorce? OR A private mediator – if they simply wanted a third neutral person to facilitate the current day situation while they took control of their days to figure out their choices – i.e. between a marriage counsellor or a lawyer or if there was any other solution?
They were sure of one future step, if the time of divorce had to come, they would choose to make arrangements in private, settle for a mutual lawyer and file a mutual consent divorce over having two different lawyers fight their case in a public platform of the legal courtrooms.
If they had to bring in a private mediator, there would be 3 situations, a private mediator could act:
- To handle the current day situation by facilitating their conversations in a manner that they could figure out ways to take control of their next steps, and
- To assist in planning, analyzing, exploring arrangements – if they chose to separate, and
- To assist in formalizing the separation by coordinating with their advocate to file for a mutual consent divorce.
As a private mediator with experience in family discussions/ arrangements/ separation… I can say – the situation could be complex. And by using the word – dirty – in the title, I reason with the following:
Because you have to look in the face with the person you have the conflict .
The people in family conflict most often know each other for years. Their knowledge (knowing of each other) is not limited to the lifestyle but they are familiar with each other’s vulnerabilities, mood swings, emotional triggers, mental capacity, as well as each other’s spiritual interests. In cases of spouses, they are aware of each other’s physical energies as well. They know what happened at that exact dark moment that led to this day of ex-communication. With this level of involvement, if there is a separation or loss of healthy communication, it takes forever for the people to come in the same room together in presence of each other – even if they don’t have to talk to each other. In no way, are they going to be comfortable looking eye to eye.
In Mediation, the first criteria is to get together – willingly, and voluntarily, to engage in a healthy discussion. Even though there are possibilities the talks may be communicated via a mediator, and the parties can choose not to confront each other physically, but this is “Look in the face and Talk” process. Is it hard? You ask.
Because there will be uncomfortable talks at the table.
When the relationship has gone sour, any talk raised by one can be uncomfortable for the other. A daughter/ son bringing up issues against the parent in a parent-child mediation. Or a spouse bringing up intimate discussions. Or when there was a promise made in the closed room between them, that no matter what, this discussion is their secret. All of this is going to revolve around feelings like anxiety, fear, shame, and even proceed to questioning loyalty.
In Mediation, while a mediator tries to find a balance in the room for comfortable conversation, initially, bringing the topic up, as an agenda to discuss, in itself is an uncomfortable feeling for the participants. Even if one finds the courage to bring the discussion to the table, one knows that it is going to backfire with denial, anger, and a sense of betrayal. This could disrupt the next possible discussions to find a solution.
Because it is you who has to block your time and schedule for the mediation meetings.
Once you fight, disapprove of any relationship, you are too hurt to make any more arrangements “for” the relationship. You are upset, and the feeling of upset keeps you away from any slightest investment that the repair demands. Keeping aside repair, a healthy closure demands time, long hours of discussion and arrangements, which could be tiring physically, mentally and emotionally.
In Mediation, if compared to the legal courtroom procedures (in which there is an order/ summon given with “date” to make an appearance) once the people choose mediation, they are put in a situation where they themselves need to put an effort to make time for the mediation meetings: online or in-person. This is getting over one’s own ego and stubbornness. It is true that succeeding at this point could be very healthy for mediations, but it is very difficult for the participants in real life.
Because you will feel “stuck” or “not going anywhere” in the middle of the mediation process.
It might be presumed, earlier it is possible to get over the hurtful relationship, it will only hurt less. How true is it about quickly moving on and hurting less? We don’t know. All these words are relatively measurable as per an individual’s capacity. One may move on quickly, and the other may take moderate time. One who moved on quickly could have chances to be emotionally damaged post-moving-on for quite some time. One who took time to move on might have taken things slower and felt it completely before letting go of it. This entire process is like walking on eggshells – not only for the mediator but also for the participants. Anything wrong here, it could all shatter, like the party’s then have disagreed to collect themselves to walk over a bridge, keep aside burning the bridge.
In Mediation, the process needs more than one meeting. Each meeting could take time. One suggests one agenda, and the other the other. It takes time to bring people together on a mutual agenda with agreeable priorities on the discussion proposed. The longer it takes to see the light, the dark tunnel could feel darker and one is about to feel “stuck” and “not going anywhere”. Oftentimes, one proposes an offer to settle, and the other is taking careful time. This careful time for the other becomes taking-forever for the one. It will need immense patience to wait while not seeing what one is exactly waiting for.
Because you will now be fully responsible for your own decisions.
It is easier to disobey instructions than pose a risk to one’s integrity. How will one feel of failure to an announcement made to keep up with something? The accountability is to be questioned. This will further pave the way to have trust issues anymore. Once the trust, hope, faith is failed, this becomes one of the most-irreparable situations in a relationship. There is no going back to the deep roots to find the source of the problems. Even if this said step of going to deep roots is to be taken, a mental health professional and a long-run therapy will be in need in addition to a mere mediation process, for history can bring various mental and emotional triggers.
In Mediation, the mediator refrains from taking any decision or giving opinion on proposed solutions to the particular problem. The participants/ people in conflict together – will be put in a situation where they determine the final outcome and solution that they will now promise to abide by, no matter what. For some of us, it could be easier to have a Judge (referring to the legal courtrooms) to give a judgement with order/ instructions and hold a stick of punishment, if one or the other didn’t abide by the given instructions. But here in mediation, we talk of taking our own decisions and also sticking by them.
Apart from calling out situations that could not work in favour of a mediation process, the idea of this writing is bring out the dirty, uncomfortable, sometime painful, process in front of you so you could make a ideal choice of what you are choosing –
- ALL of This Uncomfortableness in PRIVATE or in PUBLIC?
- ALL of This Hurtfulness for MOVING ON, LETTING GO, or to Keep FIGHTING on it?
- ALL of This Dinginess to CONFRONT or leave it to DENIAL?
It is going to take a run in the mud, to bloom as a flower opening to a new beginning. Mediation can get dirty, because you will take control to FIX IT! So that you can move onto the next enriching chapters of your life. So that you can figure out a new start to your old relationship with appropriate repairs. So that you can let go, in a healthy manner with assistance of a professional mediator. So that you can bloom. Take help! If you think it could be time to run in the mud.
“Out of the mud of your fears, struggles, pain, and confusion, the lotus flower of your inner heart will spontaneously grow.” – Buddha.
To conclude if you asked what happened to the couple with a great past and their triplets as their primary asset? They chose to keep everything private. The content in this writing is inspired by the situations expressed by various users of the family mediation process and their personal sharings given as feedback to Mediation.
You are welcome to write in your thoughts on the writing. This, of course, is one perspective. There could be many others. Every thought in response to this writing will only help to see the other side.