When I began as a divorce mediator, I had a hope that I might help some couples save their marriage and not guide all those who came to me down the path of divorce. It wasn’t too long before I let go of this. In three years of practice, only one couple has left my office intending to reconcile and save their marriage. That was well over a year ago.
Reconcile in Divorce Mediation?
It seems that once at least one of the spouses is set on divorcing and both are willing to see a professional mediator about their divorce, the die is pretty well cast. Fairly often one of the spouses doesn’t really want the divorce but this spouse is unable to dissuade the other.
It’s not that I do anything to discourage reconciliation. In fact I often ask near the beginning whether there is any hope that they might be able to save their marriage. Even when I receive the nearly inevitable “no” in response, I do my best in mediation to help the couple communicate more effectively with each other and express their real concerns to each other. I try to help them work together as well as possible as a team in our mediation sessions – in part because it is more productive and in part because it honors all the time and goodness they have had together.
For the first time, last week I had a couple come to me for the purpose of deciding whether to reconcile or divorce. They had been separated for a few years after 30 plus years of marriage. My hope was rekindled. Unfortunately there were major obstacles in the way of reconciliation including a new and ongoing intimate relationship. After a couple sessions, it was clear that therapy would be more suitable for them than mediation. They left my office with their core question unresolved but with a commitment to continue the couples therapy they had recently started. Although I wished them the best, I think the odds that they will reconcile are not good.
As a mediator, I will never fully grasp the whole relationship shared by the couple in front of me. It’s not my role to question their decision to divorce or to urge them in a different direction. For the most part I trust that they have taken their decision very seriously. Divorce represents such an upheaval in their lives it almost demands such consideration.
I know that I am helpful to every divorcing couple I work with. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful surprise when that one couple some time ago decided at the end of our mediation session to try to reconcile.
I wonder if other divorce mediators have a similarly tiny “reconciliation rate?”