That is a shocking statement, isn’t it? “I failed my marriage but I succeeded at my divorce!”
Failing at marriage may generate terrible feelings of guilt in addition to the emotional pain, fear, and anger. The words “succeed at one’s divorce” do not feel right in the context of a separation. How can one talk about success when all is gloom and doom?
Marc* and Sofia* came into my office to work out their divorce through mediation. Sofia’s therapist had strongly recommended that they use the mediation process rather than the adversarial one. Their body language said it all:
- They arrived separately.
- They did not greet each other.
- They sat on the sofa at an angle, their backs almost to each other.
- They looked in opposite directions.
The atmosphere in the room was so thick that I felt I would need an electric saw to get through it.
As I welcomed them and asked each of them to tell me what they wanted to accomplish in mediation, I realized Marc and Sofia could not say a word to each other, let alone have a productive dialogue. All they could do was huff and puff at the sound of each other’s voice. “This is going to be quite a challenge,” I thought to myself, but at least they agreed on one thing – they both wanted a divorce as soon as possible.
After the initial proceedings, we dove into the parenting plan. They had two young children who certainly needed both their parents, but the parents were using their children to get back at each other for what they felt was a terrible betrayal. Getting through each point was agonizing and I could sense the couple’s pain in every word.
With my help, they did map out a tentative plan and they agreed to review it before the next meeting. As they left, I told them how much I sensed their pain and distress, and how I was hoping that as they put their agreement together, things might ease a little. I told them how important it was that they try putting some of their own feelings aside, at least when dealing with their children. And then I said, “You may feel that you failed at your marriage, but maybe you can succeed at your divorce?”
They both looked at me, stunned by this comment. I explained to them the importance of working together while also both enjoying their children. I asked them to look at this day like day one of their new lives. Marc and Sofia were taken aback by my words. They could not really believe that the dark life they were living now could be turned around. I assured them that as they created a parenting plan, all members of their family would find a different but hopefully a better and less stressful way that would allow them to grow and build a positive future.
They came back to mediation, worked as best they could during the following few weeks, and got their agreement done. When they saw the document for a last review, they were both very emotional and teary. It was clear to me and probably to them as well, that they had developed a different way of communication, as a result of working together to create this new road map.
It was a truly moving experience and I believe they are on their path to a successful divorce.
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Comments & Replies from Social Media
Totally agree, Jennifer. Succeeding at divorce is important before moving on to attract a healthy new relationship and to better parent your children!
By Rosalind Sedacca (via LinkedIn)
Yep, just because things did not work out in your marriage, doesn’t mean you have to make each other suffer for years through a painful divorce, you can choose a better way; a peaceful separation and moving on. Thank you Jennifer for sharing.
By Christina Nitschmann (via LinkedIn)
Great way to look at the situation! I will use it!
By Randy Edwards (via LinkedIn)
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on