Acceptance and Understanding

Nov 11, 2021

Every mediation case is different. I sometimes refer to my cases as snowflakes, as no two are the same. There can be common themes, and yet, since our brains are all wired differently and mediation involves at least two participants, each encounter is unique.

For some, differences between individuals can be exciting, inspiring, intriguing—for others, those differences are frustrating, perplexing and downright annoying.

A relationship may start on the basis of similarities in behavior and/or interests and then face the challenge of changes in the individuals. A common phrase is, “You’re not the same as when I met you,” or “I don’t know who you are any more.” This can be a predictor of failure.

In a marriage, effort by one spouse to manipulate a “changed” partner into becoming who she/he was in the past inevitably causes resentment. Such attempts are usually unsuccessful.

In other situations, partners attempt to understand and accept the changes in each other. Clearly, this is no easy task. Some adapt better than others. Effort by one spouse to manipulate a “changed” partner into becoming who she/he was in the past inevitably causes resentment. Such attempts are usually unsuccessful.

When I experience this dynamic in divorce mediation, it’s difficult, as I often feel the friction when one spouse is not meeting the expectations of the other. Maybe it’s about one of them wanting to move faster and get the process over with, while the other is taking her/his time to make sure everything is thoroughly considered so the individual can make the best decisions under the circumstances.

Recently, I was working with a couple where one spouse was able to articulate specific requests and proposals, while her husband was not prepared to offer any requests of his own; he needed more data to analyze. The tension between them escalated. In my practice, I tend to explain how normal this kind of situation is. I speak optimistically: once there is time for thoughtful consideration, progress will hopefully follow.

While an intact marriage may struggle with the necessary adaptation to changing circumstances of individual priorities and behavior, perhaps the saving grace for a divorcing couple is that understanding and accepting the change in one’s soon-to-be ex-partner are gestures that can be made with the knowledge that you soon will no longer be married to that person!