Suggesting mediation to your spouse
What should you do if you are interested in mediation but you think your spouse won’t be, or might reject the idea just because it comes from you? How you raise the issue may make all the difference, so plan you approach carefully.
You will have to figure out the best time to raise the subject. You surely know by now that both of you are on an emotional roller coaster, and that some days are much, much better than others. Not only do you need to assess your spouse’s mood and feelings before going ahead with the discussion, but also your own. Are you able to calmly give your reasons for wanting to mediate, and discuss any reluctance that your spouse might have? Or are you likely to fly off the handle if you spouse questions the process or your motivation for proposing it?
If a calm discussion seems unlikely, try writing an email to your spouse. Explain in simple terms what mediation is and why you want to try it and give an estimate of the costs and time involved. Then give your spouse some time to think about the idea. You might suggest that your spouse take a look at my website or download my Guide to Navigating Your Successful Divorce.
Follow up when you think that both you and your spouse might be ready to talk. Be prepared to answer question and concerns you spouse might have.
Being Prepared for Your Spouse’s Concerns
Common Concerns & Possible Responses:
“The mediator will be biased in your favor because you … (fill in the blank.)”
“You can say what criteria we use for choosing the mediator.” (or, “You can choose the mediator.”)
“I’m already paying for a lawyer. I don’t want to pay for a mediator, too.”
“Mediation is usually less expensive than having lawyers negotiate a settlement. Avoiding conflict saves money.”
“We’ve already done couples therapy.”
“Mediation is about resolving issues and moving forward, not rehashing the emotional conflicts of the past. It’s not therapy.”
“It’s too painful to sit in a room together and talk.”
“How painful would it be – for us and for our children – to sit in a courtroom together and battle it out through our lawyers?”
If your spouse is worried about possible bias, you can also explain that mediators are trained to be neutral and not favor one party over the other. On the issue of cost, mediation has the potential to be faster than having lawyers negotiate for you because a skilled mediator can help you cut to the chase, identify the issues, and work together to resolve them. Even if you hire a consulting attorney, the process still may go more quickly and, thus, be less expensive. And whether or not it is faster or cheaper, you always have the advantage of being in control of your won process, rather than turning it over to the lawyers and courts.
Lots of people worry that mediation is too much like couples therapy. While it’s true that one focus of mediation usually is communication, the mediator won’t be trying to help you reconcile or solve all of your relationship problems. Mediation is focused on getting result. It’s designed to help you keep you eyes on the prize: resolving the issues you need to resolve and getting your divorce finalized. It may have the fringe benefit of improving your communication with your spouse, but it’s not therapy.