I’m going to bust a divorce mediation myth. It is the one called: “My husband/wife won’t use mediation.”
Now stay with me – you don’t want to be making a mistake believing a myth that could cost you thousands and many years of strife? Let me explain:
Your spouse might currently be making mediation impossible – but think about it for a minute: If they were in their right mind, they would know that coming to an agreement with the help of a mediator compared to endless solicitors letters, court battles and years of suffering both financially and emotionally – well, only an idiot would go for the court option, wouldn’t’t they?
But it may be that your spouse is currently not in their right mind, because perhaps they don’t even realise how stupid they are being, because they don’t have anyone telling them the full truth of the situation.
But now they have you. Because you’re intelligent, and you know that it’s pretty obvious that spending vast amounts of money on legal fees just to get to a worse outcome (because now you have less to share as you’ve donated so much to the law firms) – well that doesn’t make sense on any level, does it? Not if there are better ways to come to the same agreement.
And you know this now, so you’re not going to keep it a secret, are you?
And anyway, you wouldn’t have married an idiot, would you? Because you’re smart, and whatever else you might feel about your spouse right now, you know for a fact that they are not stupid. Just temporarily misguided and ill-informed.
So, what is the real problem with the ‘won’t use mediation’ myth? The real problem is, that you may actually believe it.
Because if you can see how only a complete fool would choose court battles over a peaceful mediated solution, or using collaborative lawyers who keep you out of court, or even an arbitrator if you just can’t agree and need a ‘private judge’ to make the decision for you – all you need to do is continue to assume that your spouse will wake up at some point and be back in their right mind. Because if they don’t, that makes them a complete prat – and you didn’t marry a fool – did you?
Of course not!
So, to speed up their return to sanity, you can say things like:
- “Look, if you want to drag this into court and spend thousands on lawyers and barristers which could have been spent on your children’s university fees, go ahead. Meanwhile – because I’m smart – I’ll self-represent with minimal legal back up at a fraction of the cost because I don’t want to waste money better kept for our kids.
- “And I’ll keep holding the door open for mediation or any form of sensible sane dispute resolution that you are willing to engage in. And any judge will be unimpressed by your decision to fight, when I am visibly and constantly holding out a better way to divorce, a more peaceful one, so the judge may also think you are being a bit of a twat.
- “Eventually those voices in your head (lawyers; mates down the pub; work colleagues, more lawyers) will be replaced by the blindingly obvious fact that their advice is largely unhelpful, unless they are telling you to stay out of court. Which from what people tell me, is unlikely.
- “So, I will just hold this space for you whilst you return to your rightful thinking, because it’s really hard for you to fight a battle when your opponent is consistently suggesting sitting down with the peace pipe or other out-of-court solutions. In fact, as the‘war progresses, you will look increasingly silly, like some manic despot firing a rifle at the stars on an empty battlefield, while I’m in the cafeteria biding my time till you return to your senses.
- “I know that you will, because I didn’t marry an idiot. And I’m prepared to hold onto that belief until you come back to yourself again. I’ll hold that space for you.”
I’m not saying that you won’t ever need to use the courts to clarify certain boundaries. You may need to use aspects of legal enforcement to clarify boundaries (Restraining orders, child contact orders for example) in order to make sure your spouse knows where the boundaries lie. But even a narcissist doesn’t want to spend thousands if they don’t need to – it’s just that they need to be right.
I am not trying to pretend that any solution is going to be easy. I’m not trying to undermine those therapists and mediators who ascertain that mediation and other forms of dispute resolution is not appropriate if abuse or narcissism is involved. What I’m saying is that the alternative of court is surely no better if rated on the level of stress and trauma that the abused person may undergo during the experience, so why not at least explore the possibility of alternatives?
Because abusers and narcissists are not all idiots. So why decide on their behalf to only have court as an option and leave them the single choice of the playground of a conventional adversarial system?
And what fuels my confusion with why so many are so quick to dismiss more creative forms of dispute resolution when one spouse clearly ticks the ‘narcissist or ‘abuser’ tick box, is how those same people never seem to offer any other solutions at all. Just going to war in the courts.
Fighting in court is like pointing nukes at each other and believing that this is a viable way to end a dispute. Wars are not ended by both sides nuking each other, partly because there is nothing left for either of them after the battle (which does happen in some divorces) – but because only an idiot would think that responding to a hostile attack by being equally hostile, actually works.
Most wars end because one side becomes so exhausted and fed up that they capitulate. And what kind of a valiant victory is that? “Yay kids! I have worn daddy down to a shadow of his former self, pushed him almost to suicide and now he can no longer afford to have you guys stay over because he lives in a bedsit in a dodgy part of town. What a victory!”
I don’t think the kids will see that as much of a victory, do you?
How do countries that have been at war for years find a resolution? The kind of resolution that leads to long term peace?
They create a Peace Treaty.
People who create peace treaties are generally heralded as brave, visionary, moral. They are rarely accused of being an idiot.
The next time you hear someone claim that their soon-to-be-ex won’t use some form of dispute resolution, which is essentially the creation of a full-on peace treaty, ask them: “Is your spouse an idiot?”
But the real questions should be – though you may not dare to ask it: “If you believe your spouse won’t use dispute resolution, then you must believe they are an idiot. Why don’t you educate them? Why don’t you hold out that opportunity – which can be opted into at any point?”
It’s never too late to change course for the better. Isn’t it better to create your own Peace Treaty rather than to watch your soon-to-be-ex behave like a fool?”
It only takes one person to stay sane to change everything. Are you ready to be that person?
ASM Plus’s Divorce Strategist