Mediation (english article)

The couple that has called me for coaching are entering in my practice. As always at this point I look closely for signs in their body language that will already help me understand what it is that I may help these people with. They sit down, a little uneasy, and, relieved that I give their hands something to do, they accept the coffee that I offer them.

‘What can I help you with?’ is my next question. And, sure enough, he gives me his side of the story: ‘She is…’ or ‘… isn’t…’ and her story sounds like: ‘He always…’ or ‘… never…’.

Relationship coaching

When I started this job, I naively wanted to support couples in their passionate intention of improving their relationship through a series of coaching conversations that would touch on deeply engraved habit patterns that all long-married couples experience. Our conversations, and the exercises that I would give them, would get them to discover each other in a new way. They would find new ways of communication that would help them to discuss their irritations and subjects of anger in a constructive and forgiving way. They would leave our coaching engagement full of hope and inspiration of rediscovering their lives together and building a new future for themselves and their household.

As  it was before

More often than not this doesn’t happen. Couples feel relieved to have an outside expert that will structure their conversations full of anger and reproaches that they already have had so often and so without progress to their painful situation. Usually they come into my practice with the goal of having everything ‘as it was before’. Which is unrealistic. During the 15 or so years they have spent together, they have developed as a person, as a couple. Most of the times they are young parents, who never realized that the arrival of a child in their relationship would so fundamentally change everything in their life. You can never go back to 15 years before. But when I try to carefully let them know, they have a hard time hearing me.

Instant change

When couples come into my practice to quarrel for money, they expect things to change after the intake that I have with them. When nothing really happened after the second conversation, where they basically rerun the anger and reproaches, they are very disappointed by my approach. Fortunately they find a common enemy in their coach, so that, for a little while, they don’t need to feel the pain between them.

Mending the relationship takes time. With months or years of bickering behind them, the couple needs time to slowly, slowly take the bend to another loving approach. Time that they may not have, because the pain has already lasted too long and they want out of it. Now.

Exit interview

Unfortunately, in these sad cases, the quarrels and fights have already struck such deep wounds in the trust in each other, that the coaching, to their horror, appears to be an exit interview. It takes a short while of  crushing realization that may end in the decision to get a divorce. It is my hope and wish for them that they will continue seeing me for mediation that may help them, still, to structure their conversation and to support the painful process that a divorce usually is. The nature of our conversation doesn’t really change. The goals and outlook, fundamentally, do.

Mediation is an attempt to bring about a peaceful settlement or compromise between disputants through the objective intervention of a neutral party. I like the word peaceful in this definition.


09 2013

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