Relationship problems suck. They really do. When you are married, relationship problems suck even more. When you have children, the stakes are extremely high.
As a coach, I talk to people who are looking for help. They may want to try communication coaching. Sometimes, one or both partners have anger issues, and they might want to look into Anger Management. They may even be contemplating divorce.
Divorce will scare the crap out of you. Sometimes, it is sprung on you. Your spouse has determined, without talking to you about it, that they want a divorce. They have thought it over for a long time, and come to the decision. You can’t change their mind. It is done.
Other times, you talk together about how the relationship is not working. This is a great time to act. Even if you think this is not a great time because you are on the brink of divorce, it really is an opportunity. There is something positive in the fact that you have been able to talk about this together. That shows promise!
For parents of small children, you really need to see the opportunity in this situation. While some couples will choose to divorce, others may find that they don’t have to. If no one has come to the divorce decision yet, there is still time, and there is certainly a lot of wisdom in waiting to make that decision while you spend time working on your issues.
Relationship problems are a two-way street. It is rarely about the actions of just one person in a couple. The relationship didn’t start out sour. If it had, why would you have gotten married? Why would you have had a child together? There was potential there and most likely still is.
The question you have to ask yourself is this: If I need to make some changes to improve my relationship, should I do it now, in an effort to save my marriage, or should I do it later, to work on the co-parenting relationship? If you and your spouse have a child together, you are going to have to continue to build that relationship, aren’t you? If you have trust or anger issues in your marriage, won’t you still have them in the co-parenting relationship, too?
When a relationship has problems, most people seem to know where their own personal weakness lies. They often know, or are willing to learn about their faults. If the two people are willing to make changes to improve their lives, it would be better to do it now, before more damage is done, than to have to do it later. Just something to consider.
Divorce was a good thing for me. I am not sure my children would agree that it was a good thing for them. Divorce might be a good thing for you but it might be worth really making sure that you cannot salvage that relationship, especially if you have children who end up being part of that relationship forever, no matter what it becomes.
I love inspirational quotes. So often, just a few words, said in the right way, at the right time, make a huge difference in how we go about the rest of our day!
I don’t know who came up with this one, it links to the thingswesay.com. Kudos to the author and artist. This is one of mall time favorites.
Mediation can be an anxiety and fear producing experience. it is rarely something people look forward to. Many of the first conversations I have with people who are in the process of finding a mediator involve the following language, or something similar:
“Well, _________ says we have to try mediation. It will probably be a very short meeting because we can never agree on anything. I just don’t see him/her saying anything other than, “NO!”. That’s all it ever is.”
Still, they are willing to set up that appointment and come in to mediate, and they are usually very surprised at the outcome.
Rarely does anyone look forward to mediation. Usually, the parties have not spoken in quite some time, and if they have, the conversation quickly escalates into an argument. Nobody wants to embrace conflict. Conflict is unpleasant and something most people do their best to avoid. The thought of sitting down in a room with this person seems unthinkable because of the history of the relationship and because you know this person all too well. You can only think of all the mean and nasty things that other person has ever said to you, and every horrible experience you have been through with them or because of them. Those negative thoughts are why it is easier to ignore the problem, rather than deal with the problem. However, if you don’t deal with the problem, it will not go away. Sometimes when that problem is dropped into the legal process, it will only grow bigger. Legal proceedings are relationship problems on steroids.
If you can look at mediation not as a conflict, but as an opportunity to come to resolution, you can quickly see areas where you and the other person have some common ground. A good mediator will point out areas where the two of you are in agreement from early in the process. You need to remember that mediation is not only anxiety and fear producing for you, but also for the other person. They are not looking forward to the experience either.
Mediation can be a very positive experience and it can change relationships for the better. That doesn’t mean that you are going to repair the relationship. That will sometimes happen, but more often, you can bring closure or a new direction to the relationship. That may be a scary thought, but think of it this way, whatever the relationship is right now, if all it involves in not being on speaking terms, or escalating arguments, it is not working the way it is. Putting an end to the conflict and changing the relationship going forward, can put you on a more positive path, even if that means you walk your path, and they walk a different path.
You can make mediation a positive experience for you, by approaching it in a positive way. Don’t assume the worst. Go about it with no preconceived notions. If you come out without an agreement, you are no worse off than you were before, but remember, you may come out ahead.
Mediation is a confidential process so you can speak openly and not fear any ramifications in court later. As a matter of fact, if the issue is taken into court, and the other party tries to tell the judge that you said, “X, Y or Z” in mediation, the judge will stop any further discussion of what was said in mediation. Go into mediation and say what you need to say. That alone can be quite healing for people.
Some other ways to ensure that mediation is a positive experience for you are to:
1. Make sure you are well rested.
2. Make sure that you will not be hungry. If you schedule around lunch or dinner time, eat before the session if you can. If not, bring a snack. Feel free to take a break if you need to. Mediators will usually do their best to make sure their clients basic needs are met.
3. Come prepared with your idea for resolution. Do not think in terms of what you think the other party may or may not agree to. You may come out very surprised. It happens more often than not. Ask for what you need, but also be prepared to compromise.
4. Consider what the other party is asking for. If you need a moment to think about it, be sure to let the mediator know that. You do not have to agree to something that you do not want to do, but sometimes a knee jerk reaction is to say no, when the reality is, it may be a workable solution.
5. Think about your life going forward, not about the past. Even if the relationship was bad, it may improve when you can agree to move forward after coming to some resolution of the issues that have you entrenched in battle.
6. Don’t think of it in terms of all or nothing. Partial agreements can be very helpful, too. You may be able to resolve some of your issues and that is a step in the right direction. You would be surprised how often an agreement on a small issue starts the ball rolling on bigger issues. Sometimes, people return to mediation after coming out of a first session with a partial agreement. After having some time to reflect on a prior session, people realize that they can return to mediation and work out the rest of the agreement.
7. Keep your discussion positive and use I statements. Try not to place blame. How you got to where you are doesn’t have to interfere with a plan that moves you forward.
8. Consider mediation a new beginning. Even when you do not find resolution, the conversation can help you clarify where the relationship is at. You no longer have to wonder if you will or will not be able to have a productive conversation. Let the experience shape how you will go forward with or without the other party. Sometimes relationships do have to end, but it opens our lives up for new relationships going forward. We can take what we have learned to make better choices in the future.
Mediation offers the opportunity to redefine relationships. It also offers an opportunity to be creative when resolving conflict. When you stay positive and are open to the possibility of what may happen, your experience will serve you well, even if you are not able to come into an agreement.
If you enter into a mediation session with a positive attitude, it will often spill over to the other side of the table. You can have a positive, productive mediation, provided you go in with a positive attitude and are willing to sit down for an open discussion. You may not get everything that you hope to, but in most cases you can both come out winners.
This song expresses what I want you to know. Times are extremely difficult for many of you right now, but it will get better. Anytime we experience times of struggle, it can be overwhelming and you might think, “Is this all there is? Is this my life now? Why me? Why now?” All you can do sometimes is pass the time with some simple pleasures.
When I used to feel alone and friends weren’t around, music was always there for me. Those times when I thought I could not live through the nightmare I was experienced, music was healing and allowed me to express my anger and shed many tears. The craziest thing of all is that I went through so much personal growth and if being spared the difficult times would mean that I would not be who I am today and doing what I am doing today and being with the love of my life today, I would choose to go through it all again because of what I found on the other side.
And I cannot forget my favorite Jo Dee Messina song:
As you may have read previously, back in June, my ex filed for custody of my youngest son. My son and I had had an argument over the fact that his room was a pig stye and I wanted it cleaned. That was my only crime, demanding that my son clean his room. I had let my guard down, expecting that my ex would not go backwards and would actually tell my son that his behavior was not acceptable anywhere and would not be acceptable at his home either, instead he filed for sole custody, told the same lies to the judge that he always had told way back when and pulled his poor, poor pitiful me act yet again. I expected the judge to review the case and why I won sole custody, but the judge was lazy and did not want to do his job. The judge did not allow me the opportunity to speak to my son or to allow me to set up mediation. Mr. Judge Supreme wanted to show how powerful he was an after telling me that court orders cannot be enforced, he can uphold laws, such as law 609.26, ignoring the past physical abuse that my ex perpetrated against my son, the same child as was in the middle again, and not follow laws or court orders or even the proper procedure, and granted my ex sole custody.
As I strongly suspected, my ex was only interested in ending child support early. Had he told me so, I could have accommodated him, but he could not admit to that. I did know that my ex has been extremely jealous of me having my own business and being a mediator and divorce coach. This has been driving him nuts and his attack was solely an effort to get back his money that he did not feel I deserved or needed. You know what? He can have it. He is an alcoholic and it will not bother me if I see him drink himself to death with it.
You may think that this is a horror story and that I am upset about it. I am not. I have my son back. I want to give you all some hope for those of you living in fear that your ex will turn your child against you. I always tell people that the children will be the ultimate judge of you and your actions had better be in their best interests if you want to win not just the battle, but ultimately win the war.
I let my son go with his dad. I sent him a few emails about my love for him and my expectations of what it would mean for him to be a man. At the time he was 6 months away from turning 18. I also let him know what truths I knew about him and explained to him that I would always be there for him, but that I would not allow anyone to treat me with disrespect or to lie to me. Then I left him think about things and I completely left the choice of visiting me up to him.
After a period of adjustment, he did get past the fear of making his dad mad at him and started coming to stay with me with great frequency. He learned that his dad is not there for him and he had been used. You see, his dad got to keep his child support money but made my son pay for all of his expenses, including food, and medical supplies and medications for what is a chronic medical condition. He would not help my son get his drivers license or any of the things one would do if they really wanted their child. When he got sole custody, he left me listed as my son’s education coach at school and lead the school staff to believe that my son still lives at my house. Why would anyone who wanted custody and claimed child endangerment (because I told my son to clean his room) not take over these issues for their child? Because even in my case, the coparent’s issue is not about the child. It is solely about control. My son is even afraid to tell his dad that he lost his glasses because his dad is a horrible person when he is angry, even after 2 stints in anger management.
Anyway, it was a difficult period of time and since then my son has turned 18. He is making plans to move closer to where I live. The only reason he hasn’t done so is because he has a job out near his dad’s house. The best part is that he now spends a great deal of time at my house, pretty much whenever he is not working. His brother took him to get his drivers license last week when he was at our house and he passed. Even though his physical address is his dad’s house, his dad spends very little time with him.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that you can win in the end, even if you have lost some major battles during the process. In the end your child will know who is the one who is there for them. The other point I am trying to make is this: you know who your ex is. He or she may perform in front of court authorities or other professionals that are involved with your child and draw people into their pity party or manipulate them into aligning with them, but ultimately there comes a time when the kids are grown. You will find that you were right all along. Your ex is who they are and they can pretend all day long to be what they are not, but where it matters, for example, with their children, they cannot hide the truth.
Another bonus is that I think my son learned some important lessons as well.
As I have mentioned before, I have been very busy working on a couple of major projects. I hope to bring help and guidance to parents who are stuck in coparenting hell and maybe bring some change to the way coparenting conflicts are handled in Minnesota. I am ready to finally announce one of my projects is complete. You will soon be able to purchase my first book, “The Parenting Consultant Nightmare”.
The book is in the editing stages right now, which is taking a little longer than I had hoped, but I do expect that it will be available for purchase within 2 weeks or so. Stay tuned.
“The Parenting Consultant Nightmare” is a simple explanation of the parenting consultant process, the pitfalls, how to avoid it if you can, and if you can’t, offers some communication strategies and coping techniques. I think maybe even a parenting consultant could gain some insight into why parents often react the way they do, but it may be too much to expect for any of them to read it. Time will tell.
Anyway, it was hard for me not to announce it months ago, but I wanted to wait until the time was right and I think it is close enough to fruition that it is time to make the announcement!
If you would like to be notified once the Parenting Consultant Nightmare is available for purchase, contact me. It will be available through my website, Amazon and some select retailers and will cost $19.95.
Every once in a while I hear a song that sounds perfect for the high conflict co-parenting situation and my own metamorphosis from victim to strong outspoken advocate. These lyrics grabbed me. See what you think if you apply them to your own situation.
If you could just see it all just like a fly on the wall, would you be able to accept what you can’t control?
The fights are exhausting and frightening, this I do know. Can you start to separate your life from the high conflict court mind control and time that you hold with your children and not let it in? Sometimes, we create our own prison.