The end of a marital relationship is a significant life transition.
When I am meeting with a couple, either in mediation or in a collaborative divorce, I describe this transition as the intersection of the “road that got you here” and the “road of the future.” I ask my clients to allow the other spouse to be the sole owner of his or her “truth.”
In looking at their lives, two spouses often have a different picture of what happened in the past, why it happened, what it meant and how they felt about it. And perceptions about the present and future will differ as well.“Truths” will differ.
In our inefficient and costly legal system, much effort goes into the process of persuading a decision maker (usually a judge) that the picture of the truth held by one spouse is the “real” truth. In my opinion, this is a difficult if not impossible task. (Putting a square peg into a round hole comes to mind.) Is there a camera that recorded every second of these lives and can interpret the thoughts of the participants? I think not.
As a mediator or collaborative practice facilitator, I ask my clients to allow the other spouse to be the sole owner of his or her “truth”. Most importantly, I ask permission to enforce a simple rule–that one spouse not attempt to speak for the other. As much as we may think that we know our partner (even as we are ending a marriage), it’s an important boundary to give both partners a safe space where each can speak freely.
When we allow each other to speak our personal “truth,” we in turn can listen and we may even find that “our truth” may change–not through persuasion, but through understanding. This is a key step in moving toward mutually acceptable outcomes that help us to embrace the opportunity in our futures.