by Mordechai Rhine
The story is told of neighbors who were trying to become more friendly. They hired a team-builder to help them make a play which they would act out in front of the greater community. Each neighbor that wanted to participate was given a part in the play. As in all plays, some parts were long, and some were short.
There was one fellow who was a bit forgetful. He was a charming, neighborly fellow, but he couldn’t remember his lines very well. So, the team-builder assigned him the simplest of parts. At a critical point in the play this gentleman was to go on stage and declare, “Hark! Do you hear those pleasant bells?” The line was simple enough and the group really felt that all would be well.
Unfortunately, on the day of the play, this forgetful gentleman forgot his line. When it came time for his part, he walked onto stage, but he forgot his part. As he stood awkwardly in front of a hundred neighbors, their families and guests, his fellow actors tried to prompt him. In a stage whisper they called to him: “Hark! Do you hear the pleasant bells?” Uncomprehending, the gentleman answered loudly, “No! I do not hear them.”
Sometimes in marriage mediation I find that the husband, the wife, or both, know exactly what it would take to rejuvenate the marriage, but they wait for the other to make the move. Only when they hear the love bells ring, then—they insist—they will answer, “Yes, I hear them.” But they don’t realize that a wonderful marriage needs to be created by the participants themselves. It is they who need to exclaim with excitement and joy, “Hark! I hear the pleasant bells.”
If it has been a long time since you or your spouse have heard the love bells ringing, you may begin to doubt the relationship. As you encounter difficulties, you may worry that you might be headed for divorce. This is especially true if either of you hear of a friend that is getting divorced.
The good news is that most disconnects in marriage can be fixed. If disconnects are taken care of right away, they can serve as an opportunity to build a stronger relationship between you and your spouse. But if disconnects are not attended to, they can leave a residue of resentment. In fact, if too many issues are not attended to, you or your spouse might unwittingly be experiencing distancing. This is a stage in marriage where spouses grow apart from each other, sometimes to a point where serious intervention might be needed to save the marriage. That’s why I encourage couples to reach out and meet with me early on, just to help with communication and sorting things out.
For those who want to understand what a marriage mediator can do and how the process works, I developed a roadmap which I call “Y” Mediation. Using the letter Y, it allows us to picture together the different stages in which mediation can help you in your marriage journey.
We start at the bottom of the Y where mediation can simply be a brief intervention to help husband and wife stay strong and understanding in the relationship. For some couples this involves 3-5 weeks of once-a-week sessions; for others it involves an ongoing once-a-month check-in. Either way, marriage mediation invites you to identify areas of disconnect or of weak communication, as well as points of loving connection that you will learn to emphasize and develop. We also explore love languages, and how they are working or not working for each of you.
In this stage we can explore various forms of healthy communication including active listening, empathetic listening, and collaborative conversations. Sometimes we probe a bit to help you both identify your life goals, including career, education, children, wellness, and religious interests. Then we can discuss areas of compatibility and other areas in which respect and boundaries will make both of you most happy.
Discernment: Travelling up the base of the Y, we find that some couples have reached a point where they need discernment. Discernment means getting assistance in deciding if this marriage has a future. Usually this is needed when the word “divorce” has been used by either husband or wife. Often one spouse is hopeful and is leaning in to preserve the marriage, while the other is doubtful and is emotionally leaning out of the marriage. At this time, it is best not to jump to conclusions. After an assessment you will be able to try new styles of communication and possibly resolve many of your differences. With calming often comes renewed affection, admiration, understanding, and love. If your marriage can be brought to a healthy place it is best to do that. This is especially true if you have children. Marriage mediation can help you do that.
The Crossroads: Following discernment, which could take anywhere from 2-6 months, depending on the case, we arrive at the arms of the Y, a crossroads. For some this is when both husband and wife decide to rejuvenate their marriage, choosing marriage over divorce. Specific strategies and scheduled check-ins will be implemented so that you avoid falling back to that hurtful place you were once in. For other couples the crossroads of the Y represents a parting of ways through separation and divorce.
Some people think that they can divorce quickly by just using a lawyer. I feel it is important to realize that marriage is much more than dollars and cents. Marriage is a relationship. That is why if it must be dissolved it is best to do that with a relationship mediator who can work in collaboration with a lawyer. Our model allows for exploring, understanding, and appreciating the feelings of insult, anger, or in some cases betrayal. Such conversations, either face to face or through a mediator, can enable both parties to calm and deescalate the many feelings associated with divorce. The goal is to give each of you the best opportunity to step forward and succeed in the years ahead.
If divorce is a reality for you, it is normal for you or your spouse to go through a grieving process, first of denial, then of anger. It may take time and patience to properly process what is going on. It is worth seeing divorce as a process rather than a quick decision. A person’s feelings are complex. A calmer, more amicable, facilitated divorce can leave less emotional scars for both of you.
If you have children together, the first reaction might be to try to deny parenting time to the other or insist on a perfect 50-50 split. A slower, more thoughtful process might produce an agreement that addresses both of your needs and the children’s needs in a more precise way.
A mediator is omni-partial. That means that as a mediator I look out for both parties' best interests. My goal is to help both of you put your best foot forward to the bright future that both of you deserve.
With decades of life ahead of you, shouldn't we try our best?
So, if you were wondering “Why Mediation?” you now have a description of “Y” Mediation. As a relationship-oriented marriage mediator I can assist you in your marriage journey no matter where you find yourself in the Y illustration. Mediation could help you get your marriage back on track, or by exploring an amicable divorce if that is appropriate.
To find out which type of marriage mediation is best for you, please contact me at RMRhine@gmail.com for a free 15-minute consultation.