Contributions Matter

Mar 3, 2023

Each marriage has its own uniqueness, involving two individuals with their own unique identify and style. In past generations, there have typically been assigned roles, like working father and stay-at-home mother, but this division of labor has changed significantly in the modern world. Making assumptions about the current roles of spouses is done at a mediator’s peril!

I have found it important in divorce mediation to consider a critical element in a marriage—the contributions each of you have brought to the relationship, whether positive or negative.

While not always directly related to these roles, I find it important in divorce mediation to consider a critical element in a marriage—the contributions each of you have brought to the relationship, whether positive or negative.

Why does a future-focused mediation process need to consider individual contributions from the past? Here are a few observations:

  • Changing Responsibilities
    In many households, one of you will likely have been the “financial manager,” with the result that the other spouse may have limited financial knowledge and may even struggle with the idea of taking on financial responsibilities. I use the mediation process to level the playing field, eliciting financial information and exploring what each of you can offer the other to assist both of you in taking charge of your finances. Similarly, divorce will often challenge the parent who may have spent less time caring for children in the marriage. Mediation can help you reshape priorities to reflect the new task of being an active co-parent.
  • An Opportunity for Acknowledgment
    Understandably, divorce can invoke a sense of failure and loss. Coping with that pain is difficult and can impede the progress of mediation. A way to deal with such pain is to take time to reflect on how each of you contributed to what did work in the marriage. Sharing this acknowledgment of each other can be a big step toward healthy closure. For example, many clients are able to reflect positively on the important role that the other parent has played in the children’s upbringing.
  • Honest Self-Reflection
    Not all contributions are positive. In most divorces, there is a level of conflict or dysfunction that has caused the marriage to end. When you can each be aware of your part in your broken marriage, this awareness can often help you stay clear of those same negative behaviors while participating in mediation.

It’s often been said that the emotions of divorce are similar to those involving death. When a loved one dies, we are moved to celebrate their lives. As your marriage ends, you can still remember what you both contributed positively to the time you were together.