Communication in mediation can be difficult. A breakdown of a relationship is never easy especially if you have children.
In my mediations, I allow clients time to develop simple communication rules that will be upheld during the process.
People who decide to separate have usually spent a long time wishing to be away from their spouse. After they announce their desire to separate, it is common for that spouse to want the separation process to be quick so that they can move on. They find dealing with their “former” partner painful. They do want to invest any more time to work at anything with their former partner. They are exhausted and they want out.
Yet, separating a family is complex. The untangling of spouses’ financial affairs and the establishment of a post-separation parenting plan requires tremendous work together. And usually, the way that spouses communicate with each other and treat each other at the time of their separation does not generally foster good relations and may result in increased legal fees.
The best thing to do when you separate is not to blurt out your frustrations and anger, but rather to find ways to communicate civilly regardless of your pain or anger.
I have a client who copies me on most of her difficult emails to her former partner about their exchanges about the parenting of their children 8 years after their separation was finalized!
I saw a client recently whose legal file ended 5 years ago. He needed my assistance to deal with the funding of their daughter’s post secondary education. He reported that he and his former partner have never been able to work together and that co-parenting with his former partner lead to countless disappointments, hurt and misalignment.
If they had taken the time to establish communication guidelines and had adhered to them, they may not have ended up where they are still today.
Here are a few very basic but popular communication guidelines that you and your spouse can adopt:
a. we agree not to raise the past when we negotiate (unless we are not able to move on until our concerns are raised in a respectful manner),
b. we agree not to expose our children to our pain and frustration,
c. we agree not to use sarcasm when we interact with each other,
d. we agree not to try to be right but rather to offer good listening for the other party’s point of view.
I take communication seriously and when possible, I lead couples through some basic steps to facilitate respectful communications. This proves extremely valuable for these families.