Preparing for mediation: How to ‘choose your mindset’ for a smoother divorce
Recently I was working with a mother who wanted to mediate with her ex about the arrangements for their daughter. Handovers were proving difficult and Mum wanted to work out a better way forwards. Mum explained how Dad was always late and often changed the plans at the last moment. She was becoming increasingly frustrated and angry.
We were preparing for a mediation meeting between Mum and Dad that was to take place shortly. I asked Mum about her mindset for that meeting and what assumptions was she making about Dad in advance of that meeting. She replied quickly without even needing to consider her answer: “I am furious,” she said. “He’s always late. Always has been, always will be. There is always something else more important than me and our daughter and he just doesn’t care.”
Our mindset towards another person is very important if we are about to have a difficult conversation with them because our thinking about them will anticipate their behaviour before they have even done anything. Think of Mum as being covered in Velcro. As she is coming into the meeting feeling angry, frustrated and unimportant, almost anything Dad does will stick to her as an example of the bad things she feels about him. We have all experienced this feeling. If we are in a bad mood with someone, there is often nothing they can do right.
Of course, our feelings about the other person are likely to have been created over time and through experience. It is completely normal and natural to feel frustrated with someone who is always late for meetings. However, if we want to have a sensible conversation with that person about being late, it is more likely to be an effective conversation if we choose a more helpful mindset than anger and frustration. We have to learn not to wear our Velcro or not to let their behaviour stick on us so that communication becomes even harder.
When couples have separated and want to come into mediation to work out the arrangements for their children, they are doing so within a new relationship. They are no longer in a romantic relationship. They are in a new co-parenting relationship. Bringing hurts, anger and emotions from their broken romantic relationship into their new co-parenting relationship is unhelpful.
They may still need to work through those emotions but this is better done in individual therapy, rather than in mediation. The new co-parenting relationship needs to be a business-like, professional relationship. Approaching mediation and co-parenting with a mindset of being business-like, professional and calm is far more likely to reach a good outcome than one of anger and blame.
So, if you are coming into mediation, or even if you are discussing issues with your ex outside of mediation, think about your mindset and choose one that is going to be most helpful to a good outcome. Choose just three words to describe your chosen mindset. You could choose the ones I have given above (business-like, professional, calm) or you can choose something that is more authentic to you. Choose your mindset in advance and then hold those three words in your mind as you come into mediation and keep them there during your discussions. Don’t wear your Velcro!
If you think mediation might be helpful to you and you would like some help to prepare for mediation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07706 513496.