Divorce Mediation-From Hostile to Enthusiastic

Referred for Divorce Mediation

Anna and her husband, John had been referred to me for divorce mediation by their pastor. The pastor had promoted the benefits of  mediation to them and was sure that it was a good solution for them.

Anna had always been the emotionally stronger spouse who prevailed in most of the disagreements that came up between her and her husband John. John avoided confrontation as best he could to the point that his wife thought him to be somewhat of a “sissy”.

Anna resisted the mediation idea and instead insisted that they go see a lawyer together, which they did. The man was an experienced lawyer and told them that he could only represent one side and that John would need to obtain his own lawyer.

Conference Call

Anna was not willing to come to our office with her husband for our usual no-cost get acquainted session. But instead they called me on a conference call. The call was dominated by Anna who sounded brittle, hostile, and intimidating.

At the outset of the conversation, she had no real interest in discussing or learning about the benefits of mediation. (Mediation is cheaper, quicker, and less stressful than the usual two attorney litigation system.) At the end of our conversation, I said that I would be available if and when they wanted to call.

Within an hour, John called back

to talk and it was apparent that he was not in accord with Anna and had lots of interest and questions.

Anna’s Next Call

The next day, Anna called again, this time by herself. She began the conversation even more hostile, accusatory, and argumentative than the day before. In a loud voice, she demeaned me, the mediation process, and especially her husband.

My guess is that she was overflowing with bitterness toward John and his pattern of mistakes, frustrated with all the unproductive quarrels they had had, felt guilty over giving up on the marriage, and a host of other emotions all of them negative. But this time she listened, really listened.

Her view was that John was not ambitious enough, never spoke up and said what he really thought, forced her make all the important marital decisions, and then didn’t stick to anything he had agreed to.

Considering Mediation

We discussed many of the aspects of mediation with the pluses and minuses of each option. I shared with her that my experience indicates that each person in a divorce usually comes to see themselves as the “good guy” and the other side as the “bad guy”. They tell themselves and anyone who will listen to their story so many times that they come to believe it themselves.

She characterized herself as the leader of the couple, more assertive, and decisive than John and confessed that she often bullied him. I responded that anger is a choice and a choice that people use to intimidate and get their way.

Also, when one person is louder, more assertive and sometimes confrontational, the other person may just go along, or pretend to go along.

Later any decisions and or commitments made will probably come “unglued.” She confirmed that that was how it usually went with them.

Anna Changes Her Mind

Over our 30 minute conversation, her attitude appeared to mellow. She talked slower and her voice dropped an octave. She seemed to recognize the value of discussions and negotiations in the presence of a neutral, knowledgeable third party. She moved from hostility to harmony to enthusiasm.

Her last comment was, “Jerry this mediation is exactly what we need. When can we get started?”

Her change of attitude was not keyed by my style or presentation, but by the obvious soundness of the mediation process. The process is so logical and it just makes so much sense that it is difficult to choose any other system when you fully understand mediation.

Jerry Cosby