My suggestion is that you review your expectations for divorce mediation to make sure they are conscious, reasonable and realistic.
Sometimes we have expectations we didn’t even realize we had.
For example, someone said after the meeting, “I realized I wanted you to agree with me, not my partner. I wanted my partner to recognize how right I was and then apologize to me. Can you believe I expected that?” and there’s this:
“I was listening to persuade and convince my partner, not to understand him. I wanted reconciliation and to be back in the relationship. Instead, I got a different kind of closure. It surprised me and hurt worse than I thought it would.”
People prepare differently. Make sure you prepare the best way for your particular style. My style is to read as many books as possible until I feel comfortable making a decision. I’ll read articles and delve deeply into it. I put myself emotionally into a situation via visualization, as well. Then, when I experience the situation, it is as if I can be more present. I don’t have to overthink, I can just be. Everyone does it differently.
Prepare yourself emotionally for mediation. It has some similarities to counseling except the goal is different. You are not trying to work things out to get back together, in mediation. You are preparing for your new life, new ways of relating to one another.
The forum of mediation helps you have a level playing field. If you had a hard time communicating, the mediator will help you move toward the mutually described goal- usually with the children’s best interests as the guiding light.
By this time, many people are “done” with their partner.
Emotionally exhausted, seeing the light at the tunnel, they let down… Some people stop fighting and just want to be done, just want to walk away and not have to deal with the other person. The danger in doing this is emotional reasoning, the giving up and not making great decisions. The decisions you make now are going to affect you for a long time. Give them the time they warrant. Don’t walk away from large amounts of money or things without really considering it. Five months from now and five years from now, you will look at the situation very differently than you look at it now.
Maybe bounce it off a trusted friend who has the benefit of emotional distance from your situation. Make sure your lawyer thoroughly reviews what you have agreed to in mediation, in order to make sure you are not giving away too much.
These meetings can be emotional. Tissues, crying, bargaining are common. Often the ambivalence comes back at the beginning. Almost no one wants a divorce. They wanted a happy marriage, more appreciation and satisfaction, but not a divorce. They are painful, messy and affect everyone involved.
No one wants to be married and trapped in a situation that is awful, either.
Prepare yourself for second guessing your decision. Your friends and family might be second guessing you.
Prepare yourself for guilt about hurting your children by separating, hurting your spouse, for not being able to see your children as often as you do now.
Prepare for possible anger at your spouse “for doing this to me.” Letting go is one of the hardest things on the planet. You got this. You can do this.
Emotional self-care is vital right now. Many people struggle with sleep, losing weight and depression at this stage.
Please exercise, eat right, socialize with people who love you, get counseling and talk to yourself with love and respect. How balanced is your life- social, emotional, physical, spiritual, work, hobbies, family, mental etc.
Think about preparing for a marathon and then double the distance- that is what this process can be like. It is a slow, long process, this separation and divorce thing. You must take care of yourself if you want to be successful.
Think about children’s needs for consistency. Consistent rules and expectations, bedtimes, routines etc…
Think about your needs. Unmet needs are likely what got you here.
Think about your needs because they matter to you and ultimately you want your needs met and you are modelling this for your children. Ask for your needs to be met, not at the expense of the needs of others.
You are going to talk quite a bit about what works best for all involved regarding the children and when they stay with you, how you drop them off etc.
Put yourself in your children’s shoes. They are likely going to forget homework, sports equipment, toys, books etc. at your ex’s place. They’re likely going to, at some point, wake up not remembering what day it is or whose house they’re in. Some kids talk about this and some avoid talking about it like the plague. Put yourself in their shoes- they had absolutely no say in this, yet they are affected by it. It feels unfair to many kids, as if their needs do not matter.
Think about what is best for them in terms of spending time with each parent, communicating with each parent. Talk to friends who have been through this and ask them to walk you through how it affected the kids and the adults.
What strategies did they use to cope with their own pain and the pain of their children?
What schedule would work best for your children?
What options do you have?
What have other people done that worked?
Money is the next thing to consider, to emotionally prepare. Fill out the “Statement of Net Worth” a fillable PDF. It is loaded with info you have to provide and starting the process now is helpful.
One of the best things you can do in this process is listen. Believe it or not, this is hard during the mediation process and if you can practice it here, it will help in the future with co-parenting decisions. If you want to learn more about listening on your own-Ury- listening YouTube
Thoughts that are not helpful during this process:
“She made me angry.”
“He made me sad.”
Reason: You giving away responsibility for your emotions.
Remember-you are responsible for how you feel. The other person may influence you. If you feel a certain way, it is your responsibility for getting to that feeling. It is also your responsibility for dealing with your feelings. If you are angry, it does not justify bad behavior on your part. It does not justify punishing your partner. If you are angry, chances are that your needs were not met. Your needs, like your feelings, are your responsibility. Meet as many needs as you can and ask others to help you meet the others.
“He won’t meet my needs.”
Reason: You can request that someone else meet your needs, but ultimately your needs are yours. If your needs were not met, do something different to meet them, rather than blame someone else for not meeting your needs.
“She did that because …”
Reason: As soon as you start assuming something or guessing someone else’s motivation, you are on shaky ground, unless you are psychic. You probably knew I was going to say that. If you have a guess, take full responsibility for your communication, “My guess is that you did that because…” and then ask the person if you are correct in your assumption. That way you are owning it as a guess and calibrating your ability to mind read.
Being with your children
Let your interests, your purpose, your vision of being co-parents for the benefit of your children guide you.
This helps you create a new solution or choose a good option. Think of what needs your children have in this whole process and how out of the loop they were.
The divorce decisions are often made without their input at all.
Their needs do supersede yours. That said, your needs matter, as do the needs of your ex.
In co-parenting decisions, we take into account the needs of the children, parent 1 and parent 2. Ideally, we look for a solution that is win-win-win. Make your decision with the highest good of all as your goal. This is the best possible win-win (google “Nash Equilibrium” for more info on this concept).
If someone “loses” it affects everyone in this long-term relationship. Invest the time in negotiating to get the best possible long term co-parenting relationship. Above all, avoid the win-lose mentality.
Consider a transition time with the kids. They will usually resist going with the other parent. This does not mean they hate that parent or that anything bad is happening. Does not mean the parent is poisoning the children’s mind or turning them against you. Transition time in some families is going out to eat. “Every time I pick you up from mom’s place, we will have a sit down dinner together at a local diner. We will reacquaint ourselves and have no TV distractions. It is just time to catch back up. By the time we get back home, people are feeling okay.” “We never used to have transition time and when the kids got to my place, they were like animals. Their emotions were out of control, they were acting out and my patience ran thin within minutes. I knew they were testing their limits and my limits. I knew they were suffering and just needed reassurance and connection. Once I was able to listen for their needs, I was able to reduce the chaos immediately.”
- Discipline is consistent between the two houses. We predict what ways they will break rules and why and work with them to meet their needs. Breaking rules just means they used a strategy that was unsuccessful in meeting their needs. We have similar expectations to limit their confusion. Kids benefit most from consistency of philosophy and carrying through. One parent is almost always harder and the other is almost always, by definition, softer. Kids will test boundaries more, making life a challenge, if you are not consistent. They thrive on consistency.