Conflict is an inevitable and pervasive part of human psychology and social relationships. The traditional approach to conflict is a flight or fight response. The kinds of emotions that trigger this response are hurt, anger, fear, vulnerability and pain, the triggers that can bring a couple or a relationship to the brink of separation and divorce. When the level of conflict is high the fight or flight leads to a situation where the disputants want to fight and win. If someone wins, then naturally the other person loses.
While in the midst of intense feelings it may be hard to believe that things will change, or that one has the power to make a difference. Some parties may flee and seek the courts and/ or an attorney for a remedy. Some may feel stuck and remain in a negative situation until it becomes unbearable. Regardless, the conflict is dealt with, either through avoidance or more directly through a form of dispute resolution. For couples, when avoidance no longer works, mediation should be considered because the possibility of a win/win is better than the alternatives.
Mediation is attractive because it allows the parties to take control of their situation and the resolution of their dispute. In the marital arena parties can go to mediation for division of property in divorce; to work out child support and spousal support; to work on parenting issues around children; to work out custody; and for all of these. Mediation allows a forum for the parties to air their concerns and grievances, to talk honestly and work out solutions that they craft together. Mediation provides a safe place to come to a negotiated agreement and resolve marital conflict in a positive way. When parties can work together to craft either a division of property, or a custody schedule or a support plan this, most importantly, allows for a positive relationship going forward into the future
In a mediation the parties will set out what each wants; what each will or won’t accept; each party will be encouraged to have specific proposals or solutions to discuss with one another; the parties also will be encouraged to discuss the details of their agreements, and also what will happen if they don’t come to agreement. With a skilled mediation facilitator, the wishes, desires, fears, concerns, and details of the items that come up in the mediation will be explored fully. Neither party should feel credited more than the other, and each will come away feeling heard, respected, and valued.
In the traditional adversarial settings win/win is not the stated goal. Indeed, depending upon the level of conflict, or upon the degree of litigiousness of the parties, or their attorney(s), the outcome may be win/lose or even win/decimate, obviously resulting in a negative outcome going forward. When each party hires their attorney, they go in ready to fight for their own rights. The attorney has his/her marching orders to represent the client to the best of his/her abilities. Again, depending upon the level of contentiousness of the parties and their counsel, the focus may be upon how to “best” the other party. While the approach could be upon a positive future relationship for the couple, frequently it is not—rather it just is upon the best resolution for the client. This leads to fighting, and is emotionally costly and can be financially expensive.
If you like the idea of a win/win, give mediation a try. Call our office at 610 565-6200 to learn more at an initial consultation.