Mediation only works if you and your spouse -- who will soon be your ex -- can actually get along. With the divorce stays in place, you don't have a lot of options. Mediation gives you a chance to work out some of your issues, especially those involving children, in a complex relationship. But you have to cooperate to do it.
Think that sounds all but impossible? You're by no means alone. A lot of people struggle with this, but it is possible, even after a messy breakup. Here are some key tips to help:
- Give yourself distance when you need it. Some time alone can help feelings and emotions subside. Keeping your distance can help prevent arguments as you both work through some of these things on your own. Don't be afraid to step back and wait. Take a timeout. Tell your ex that you need that time because it's better for both of you in the long run.
- At the same time, be patient with your ex. When you get to a place where you can cooperate and work together, do not assume that your ex simply has to be there at the same time. You both have different schedules and different needs. Express that you're willing to wait and don't rush your ex into these conversations too quickly.
- Remember that you can be friends. All too often, society tells you that you should feel angry or wronged or vindictive. Striving to be friends with someone after a breakup is looked down upon. You may even have friends tell you that they can't believe you still talk. Don't buy into this way of thinking. It's fine to be friends, it's fine to cooperate and it's definitely better for the children if you do it. Put them first.
- Speaking of putting the kids first, never act like they are bargaining chips that you can use to get your way. Keep them out of the discussions as much as possible. Never threaten your ex by saying that you'll make sure he or she never gets to see the kids again. Mediation is about cooperation, not intimidation.
- Keep your voice soft and calm. Be fair and know when to be firm, but do not try to come across as intimidating. You may think that you need to in order to get your way, but it just puts your ex on the defensive. You will actually accomplish a lot more if you show your ex that you're willing to work together.
This isn't to say that cooperation comes easy. It's often quite difficult. But it is possible, it is beneficial and you need to make sure you know what legal steps to take.