“Hopeless” has “hope” in it

Jul 9, 2020

Any divorce mediator or collaborative divorce professional who says that he or she is able to bring every case to a complete resolution is either dreaming or misrepresenting a performance record. The process is not perfect, and you have to expect bumps along the road. It’s extremely important not to give up hope. If every couple that felt their case was hopeless in any moment then chose to end mediation or collaboration, there would be a much lower rate of resolution. And there would be a lot more dissatisfied and frustrated clients.

As a mediator, when I hear the word “hopeless”, I think instead of the word “hope.” I remain hopeful that I can keep my clients engaged in a conversation that will help them to make mutually acceptable decisions.

Couples begin the mediation (or collaborative) process as their marriages are ending. Emotions are often running high. Just as one or both are thinking about how they were unsuccessful in marriage, they also may be convinced that they will be unsuccessful in coming to agreement on the decisions required to end their marriage and get on with their lives. Many choose to use lawyers to resolve these issues on their behalf rather than engage each other in conversation.

In several recent cases, my mediation clients were skeptical about being able to come to a full agreement, and, in at least one session, each couple thought their situation hopeless. And yet, in all of these cases, the clients succeeded in overcoming the challenges and reaching an agreement.

When faced with a difficult issue, many clients lose sight of the fact that they may have already made terrific progress on many other issues.

The divorce mediation process involves many decisions covering a range of topics. In some cases, agreement may seem elusive. When faced with a difficult issue, many clients lose sight of the fact that they may have already

]made terrific progress on many other issues. Or they may have narrowed their differences so that they have come closer to reaching agreement. In either case, I’ll be the first one to point out their accomplishments. I am not only a cheerleader for the mediation process itself, I am also cheering for the families in the process.

Here are some tips for seeing hope when feeling hopeless:

  • Pat yourself on the back for what you have already done. I often tell my clients this very simple truth: “You are actually doing better than you think.”
  • Brainstorm and think “outside of the box.” The more ideas you both can come up with, the better chance you’ll find a solution you can both agree on.
  • Dig beneath your position to shine light on your needs and interests. Instead of focusing on what the outcome is that you are looking for, think and talk about why that outcome is important to you. When you can both think in terms of the “whys”, solutions may emerge that can satisfy you both.
  • Take time to process and evaluate possibilities. Many of my clients who get stuck take time between mediation sessions to give thought to the discussion and develop new proposals that allow the conversation to proceed.

The end of a marriage and the underlying uncertainty and challenge to make agreements can lead to feelings of hopelessness. Yet, using divorce mediation or the collaborative divorce process may very well give you the best chance to overcome hopelessness and create hope for moving forward.