How we talk to ourselves and how we talk to others has everything to do with attitude, frame of mind and ultimately our actions. In divorce if we think of ourselves as adversaries and use adversarial language, our frame of mind will be confrontational, adversarial and lead to an expectation of the worst rather than the best from the spouse we are engaged with in a dissolution of marriage process.
This is why as Integrative Mediators; we pay so much attention to the language we use as we frame the divorce process for our clients. In fact, we talk about the divorce process, the process of dissolving a marriage as a transition process and a restructuring of a significant relationship in a way that frees each partner to redefine their needs, their interests and goals as single individuals. We support and encourage each spouse to look towards a future with new possibilities, while gently grieving the ending of the marriage and the associated hopes and dreams.
This is not pie in the sky talk. Divorcing partners are faced with a painful reality that a relationship that was full of hopes and dreams is no longer working and needs to change. It is accepting and facing the reality that life is full of ups and downs, changes and transitions, endings and new beginnings. It is working with what is with an intention not to fall into the trap of blame and resentment. So, we as professionals gently guide our clients to think of themselves as negotiating partners rather than adversaries. We talk about the “water under the bridge” factor without expending time and energy on dissecting what went wrong and who was to blame. We talk about differing perspectives based on conditioning and how that affects how one experiences life. We talk about selective memory that supports a person’s perspective rather than accusatory language that a person is lying when their memory supports a different story about what went wrong. We encourage generous listening and attributing the best intentions rather than the worst intentions to negotiating partners.
Often the result is a relaxing of fear driven defensive, reactive behavior; and better understanding between negotiating partners who can recognize that transitions are challenging for everyone. This can lead to compassion and forgiveness and resulting agreements that are durable and serve everyone’s best interests. And if there are children, how much happier, safer, and more confident and well-grounded they will be with parents who truly wish each other well and support each other as co-parents to give the best to their children that they each have to offer.