After nearly six years of separation and divorce my ex-wife and I decided it was time to go to mediation. In what was the culmination of 6-9 months of getting on really well, it ended with a flurry of anger, disappointment and hurt that led me to pushing the mediation card forward.
With the process now behind us I think we have mended the underlying issues that had been hounding us both for some time. It’s a messy business getting divorced and sometimes it never seems to go away. For those of you on the cusp of separation, try and mend your marriage. Give it everything you have and then more.
This post will focus on the process of Mediation, even though I will use my own experience, its not about me. Its about empowering you to know what you might face if you are thinking about Mediation.
Where do we start…
Quite simply you pick up the phone and call one of the many places that facilitate mediation. They will explain the process, which for me consisted of four stages;
- The initial interview
- Group session
- Individual session
The initial interview for me ran for about 3 hours. It is you on your own with a counsellor and no one else.
I won’t lie, it was really challenging. You are ripping off emotional band-aids that may be new or several years old like it was for me. I decided before I got there that I was going to try and be as open as possible. Answering any questions as truthfully as possible despite how hard they might be to talk about with a complete stranger.
You are asked to explain your family model, who’s who in the zoo essentially. Next you are asked why you are here, how did your marriage fail, what happened, etc. That bit is quite challenging and a little confronting. Trust me, you need to push through!
Lastly we spent some time talking about how my ex and I get on, how we communicate, what starts fights and finishes with the counsellor offering up some idea’s on how some of these challenges might be better managed.
I came into that session with a clear idea of what I wanted from the mediation process. Ensure you do make time to clearly write down what the actual problem is. Turning up and saying it’s all shit and I hate her guts will not achieve anything!
The group session for me was called ‘Kids in Focus’ and puts around a dozen people in the room all in the same boat. You talk a little about your experience; watch some video’s on how kids are affected by parents that are too busy beating each other up emotionally that the kids get left behind. Again it is confronting and emotional. I felt like the old dog in the room, having been separated for many years, most of the people there were inside 12-24 months of losing their relationship. One woman was 9 months pregnant to her ex…a very brave and strong woman! I hope she is ok….
Go with no expectations of the group session. You don’t have to talk if you don’t want, although you will feel better if you do share your story. The best thing about sharing with strangers is you don’t have to face them tomorrow. You can just blurt it all out….
The third session is a review. Both parties have now had their initial session, and group session. This was the quickest session for me and only ran for about 75 minutes, again just one counsellor and me. We went over what I listed as my goals for the mediation process and validated them to ensure they were all still accurate. They ask you if things have improved or worsened and are keen to hear some feedback on the group session about kids. Lastly you are given some information on how to prepare for the mediation. They explain how it will happen, who will be there, how long it runs for and how much it costs.
By this stage it had taken around 5 months to get through those 3 sessions. It’s not fast, so prepare yourself for a process. Of course there are ways to fast track it, I can only assume that comes at a price though. Do your research…
I was nervous and emotional right from the get-go. Having now done it and come out the other side what I can say is that you need to come to that last session with a conciliatory mindset. If you come with a list of must haves, you may leave disappointed. Mediation is about learning to compromise, voicing your opinions and respecting those of your ex-partner. Leave all the anger outside, the mediators can spot it in a heartbeat and will simply not put up with it, nor should they!
All in all we were there for three and a half hours that day. There was no yelling, but there were tears. There was compromise, there were apologies and new understandings built around our children. We had to look each other in the eye and explain our actions, to say sorry, to mend, and to show understanding for the bigger picture. When I finally left I went back to the car and cried my eyes out for 15-20 minutes. Not from sadness, but for relief. It was over, we had done it and guess what, survived! Since that day we have literally not had an issue we couldn’t resolve as adults.
To the people at Relationships Australia I cant thank you enough. I know you would see all kinds of people come through your door. From the violent to docile to victimised to heartbroken. Thank you so much….
So was it worth it?
A resounding yes people. You become vulnerable and then high five yourself for achieving something constructive all in a few hours. I’m lucky I have an amazing girl who supported me through the process. I also had several friends, and my dad who just listened, who said keep-going mate. Without all of them it would have been all that harder!
If you and your ex cannot find common ground on how to raise your children I urge you to consider mediation. My whole family is better for it, we have clarity, we have open communication and we have our kids at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.
Written by Jason Owen, August 2015 whilst working Kuala Lumpur.