Divorce Mediation: Why patience with your spouse is so important

 

cartoon diagram about patience and the difference between the plan and the reality of achieving success

In my divorce mediation career, I’ve learned over the years that people approach divorce from different places.  Sometimes people want the divorce very badly and are happy to get started.  Others are devastated by the breakup.

 

It’s not uncommon for a couple in the process of their separation to move at different speeds.  One party may be ready to move quickly while the other spouse may be having a terrible time and may need to move more slowly.  In my experience, the divorce mediation will only move as quickly as the slowest person.  That can be very frustrating to the spouse who wants it over with.  My best advice is to take your time and give the other person the time and space he or she needs.

Divorce can feel like a death.

In her seminal work, on Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes the “Five Stages of Grief”.  They are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  Divorce professionals have learned to spot these very same stages and patterns when people face the loss of their marriage during a divorce.  (See The Emotional Stages of Divorce: What to Expect During and After the Divorce ProcessThe Emotional Stages of Divorce: What to Expect During and After the Divorce Process)  We’ve learned that people are unable to effectively deal with the present issues of the divorce without reaching the point of acceptance that the divorce is happening.  But to get to acceptance, people first need to travel through the other four grief stages.  That can take some time.  If you’ve sat with your decision to divorce for awhile before breaking it to your spouse, it is likely that you went through the five stages of grief on your own before reaching your own point of acceptance.  Your spouse, who may be just learning of your intention to divorce is late to the grief cycle.  You’ll need to afford him or her some patience and time to work through it.

If you’ve been sitting with your decision to divorce for awhile before breaking it to your spouse, it is likely that you went through the five stages of grief on your own before reaching your own point of acceptance.  Your spouse, who may be just learning of your intention to divorce is late to the grief cycle.  You’ll need to afford him or her some patience and time to work through it.

Forcing a person to complete a divorce case before completing the grief process can be problematic.

First, a rushed agreement is rarely followed.

The person who is rushed will resent the process and will likely make efforts to undermine or to revise the agreement.  Worse, a party who agreed under duress would have grounds to set aside the settlement altogether.  It is better to take the time to get the settlement right so that there is buy-in from both parties.

Second, pushing the slower party often has the opposite of the intended effect.

If you own a dog, you may very well know the behavior that happens when you try to pull on a dog’s leash.  The dog will tug in the opposite direction or may even stubbornly stop moving or sit down.  In divorce mediation, trying to rush a party often has the same effect.  The slower spouse who is rushed may even slow down more.

Third, not allowing the slower spouse room to accept and deal emotionally with the divorce mediation process can lead the pushed spouse to choose more aggressive and expense processes such as divorce litigation.

Trust me, the wheels of justice at court will turn even slower.  So it’s best to work with your spouse to try to reach consensus.  But if that consensus doesn’t come overnight, it’s not the end of the world.  Letting your spouse have the time in a safe space to deliberate, review financials and consult with a lawyer is best even for the faster spouse because pushing a person too hard can lead to a much slower court process.

In Divorce Mediation, Slower is Faster.

So be patient and compassionate towards your soon-to-be ex.  Let him or her have time to deal with the emotional pain of the breakup.  Don’t push so hard that he or she slows down or worse, chooses to litigate.  Sometimes slower is, in fact, faster.

See also these related posts:

Can I Be Divorced Yesterday? Or is Slower Faster? by Shawn Skillin, Esq.

We don’t get along very well. How can we possibly mediate our divorce?

Five Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce

Human Side of Divorcing

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