Family mediators get a lot of phone calls from people figuring out how to handle separation or divorce. Often, I wish they had called us three years earlier, when one of them first realized that their relationship was in serious trouble. Then, they could have taken part in marriage mediation, discussing ways to rewrite the rules of their marriage so that they would be glad to stay together. Now, it is too late for that.
Sadly, many people do not know that marriage mediation exists. It does.
Marriage mediation is not the same as marriage counseling. The goal is to plan how to modify some behaviors, not to make deep psychological changes. As mediators, we do not diagnose mental health problems or help people heal from traumatic experiences. For that kind of help, you need a skilled therapist.
Our focus is on the future. What would you like your marriage to be like during the next year? What do you want to do differently tomorrow?
Very often, a couple’s stress and unhappiness come partly from misunderstandings that arise from inadequate communication skills. We help clients listen to each other better and express their thoughts more clearly. Clients in divorce mediation sometimes tell us, “If we had just known how to talk like this before, we would not be getting a divorce.” We can also teach conflict management and conflict resolution skills for future use.
And, of course, we get down to issues. We help couples address areas of friction in their relationships and develop their own personalized guidelines for handling recurring challenges. Common areas of conflict are finances, child-rearing, household chores, and sex.
• Do you want to have joint or separate accounts or a combination?
• Who has to earn how much?
• Who gets to spend how much? For what purposes?
• When do you have to consult each other before spending money?
Raising the Children
• Who feeds them and takes care of them?
• When is one spouse the primary parent on duty? When is the other?
• Who arranges for day care and sitters?
• Who helps with homework?
• Who takes care of health care appointments?
• Who buys food, prepares food, and cleans up?
• Who takes care of your yard?
• Who cleans the house?
• How often will you have sex?
• When is initiating sex a good idea? When is it not?
• How do you make decisions about sex?
Couples often fall into habits with one person not realizing that the other is unhappy about those habits. You may find that discussing these questions with your spouse or living-together partner will help you decide together how you want to answer them. If they are hard to discuss on your own at home, then consider calling a professional family mediator. Mediation provides a safe, supportive, confidential setting for creating agreements about how your marriage will work.
Helping people strengthen their marriage is a happier undertaking for a mediator than helping them settle the terms of their divorce. If you are worried about your marriage, call us.
For more information, visit ColinFamilyMediationGroup.com.