Years ago I was the Divorce Coach for a couple going through their Collaborative Divorce. They came back when they hit a communication wall while trying to discuss co-parenting. They did so many things brilliantly in our mediation time that I want to share a few key components that will likely help you with your difficult conversations. To protect anonymity I will refer to them simple as, Mom and Dad.
Tip One: It Isn’t About What Youth Think
We were together to work out a new parenting plan. Enough had changed in their lives that their current plan also had to change, but there was a problem. Every time they tried to discuss things on their own they ended up triggered in the same ways that they were in their marriage.
As they presented their concerns, it became clear that their issue wasn’t just about parenting time. You could say that parenting was like the sputtering volcano. The real issue was under the surface like the molten core of earth. After listening to them for a while it became clear the underlying cause of their conflict was a mutual lack of respect. They both felt it. A deep wound that carried over from their marriage.
Dad is very busy with a ridiculously demanding business. He forgets things. Only so much will fit on his plate and he isn’t always as successful at prioritizing as he’d like to be. He often doesn’t keep agreements he’s made with Mom. Not because he means to but because he’s busy. She feels disrespected. In her attempts to let him know how badly this feels to her, he feels she maligns his character, so he, too, feels disrespected. It’s a vicious circle. They couldn’t see that lack of respect was the root of their communication problem. I could.
“I wanted to thank you both for today. I felt like that was a really powerful session. Jeannine found and went right to the core issue of respect and I feel better in touch with my respect for [Dad] and his respect for me. I’m feeling like a very lucky person.”
Tip Two: If you are digging yourselves in deeper with your own efforts, stop.
Instead, hire someone skilled who can help you get to the core of things.
Even if they happened to get to some agreements around co-parenting, they probably wouldn’t/couldn’t keep them. They would fall into the same-old same-old patterns. Each withholding because they felt entitled to their side because of the hurt; each feeling disrespected by the other.
Tip Three: If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.
Each appealing to the other, getting louder and louder in an attempt to be heard, simply wasn’t working. It was time to access the wisdom of their relationship. I put an empty chair in front of them. I asked them to move their chairs next to each other, side by side to symbolize being on the same team, and look at “their relationship.” I stood slightly behind them. I explained, “That is your relationship. It has its own hopes, dreams, goals and needs. How would you describe your relationship at this time?” They both threw out words. Fun, painful, conflicted, potential. Lack of respect also showed up in its own time. It had to. It was fingered into everything.
This exercise allowed them to see their relationship in an entirely new light.
Tip Four: Be willing to apologize and own what you can.
They both made apologies to the other. Mom cried when Dad admitted he hadn’t kept agreements. “I’m crying because this is the first time I’ve heard you admit to it.”
In a very respectful act, Mom asked if she could put her hands on Dad’s knees. She really wanted him to hear her. “I have sooo much respect for you. Of all the men I know you are the most honorable, diligent, moral person. I know you try. I know you’re busy. I promise to do my best to always hold you with respect.”
I asked them to pause for a few minutes to take in what they’d heard. To really hear it. To allow themselves to feel and be touched by the genuineness of the apology they’d each received. To let it in. This event continues to be a positive influence on their relationship. They both recognized the error, owned it, and apologized. That is a healing formula.
In many ways apologizing is a sacred act.
This couple is real. Their experience as I have relayed it, is true to fact. You can heal the deep wounds in your relationship too. Why settle for less than a respectful relationship? The world “out there” is sooo conflictual, why allow painful conflict to roost so close to home? Call me. Let’s talk about what’s going on in your relationship.
303-746-7000 or email.