The last weeks of the year—Thanksgiving and the winter holidays—often bring to mind the concept of gratitude—appreciation for positive experiences, thankfulness for growth in understanding, and gratefulness for the enrichment of new opportunities. This concept of gratitude often emerges for me in the process of divorce mediation.
I find that couples in a “successful” mediation process express gratitude for arriving at good decisions and having the chance to craft a positive and more certain future for their families with the outcome of those decisions.
Mediation is a profound and often challenging learning experience. We may ask, “What has been learned? And whom can I thank for helping me learn?” I find that couples in a “successful” mediation process express gratitude for arriving at good decisions and having the chance to craft a positive and more certain future for their families with the outcome of those decisions.
The end of a “successful” mediation can be filled with a range of emotions. For you, there is often a sense of accomplishment, sometimes to your own surprise. While your marriage did not work, you were able to team up to make your own decisions for how to co-parent your children, allocate your assets and debts, and create the best possibilities for two sustainable households. At the same time, as the cloud of uncertainty has lifted, replaced by greater clarity about the future, the reality that you as a couple are approaching the “official” end of your marital relationship carries its own set of feelings and reactions, including a need to accept both loss and failure. These are competing emotions, having resolved the issues of divorce but now having to face the fact that the marriage has indeed ended.
From my chair, I always attempt to put the most positive face on what has happened in mediation. While a mediator’s skills—structuring an effective process and facilitating difficult conversations—play an important role in helping you as a couple meet your goals for coming to mediation, the real credit belongs to you. After all, mediation requires the courage to engage a process that involves total transparency and take responsibility for doing the work of gathering information, engaging in challenging conversations with a soon-to-be ex-spouse, and making choices about the future.
And so, along with giving you credit for what you have been able to achieve in mediation, I close every mediation with gratitude that you trusted me to play a role in your transition. Divorce is an experience that most want to forget so you can move on. However, for me, the honor of making a difference is something I continue to remember and remain thankful for.