I’ve seen it in many cases throughout the years that once a couple separates; they become parent of the year, a fitness guru, or a financial planning genius. It is often perceived by the other person to be all for show or even for spite. I hear frequently that a parent is only attending the child’s sporting events, or volunteering at the school to make every one think they are this really great parent. I also have clients tell me that the other person only hit the gym to make them jealous, or exclaim disgust because the spending habits that were a huge problem in the marriage are under control now that the marriage is over. My clients feel it to be a direct jab at them for the other person to be finally doing what they had wanted for so long. Let’s be honest- Sometimes it absolutely is.
I must ask however, why does that matter? I realize its irritating. I understand why it’s irritating. I’m pointing out that it’s not bad. If a person betters them-self, whether for a moment or a lifetime, it’s not bad. There is good available there.
When I drove by the courthouse last week there was a lot of snow on the sidewalk and the man with the hot dog stand was shoveling the walk. Obviously he wants to keep access to his hot dog stand available. So is he selfish? His motive may be, or maybe not. Maybe even if he didn’t have a hot dog stand he would have been out there shoveling the sidewalk in front of the courthouse, but I doubt it. Many people benefited from his act of selfish kindness. We also see it when there’s a national tragedy. I sure hugged my kids tighter in the days before Christmas this year, and I know most every parent did. Did we love our children less on December 13, 2012 than we did in the days after? I doubt it. But I am certain that many families loved stronger the remaining days in 2012 and that was a positive reaction.
What I am trying to remind us all of is that positive outcomes can be derived from quite selfish motives. If we begin acting like a more loving parent, a healthy eater, and a better financial planner- some of it will accidentally stick. While your likely to wish this desirable behavior was occurring already; not much is gained by being angry that is exists now. What’s worse, your spending energy in the opposite direction of moving on.
Its okay to be unimpressed. You don’t need to give bonus points for someone finally doing what they should have been doing all ready, or for helping others with a self serving motive. But let them do it. You don’t benefit enough from disliking the positive behavior to make it worth your time.
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I have another great example of how Mediation is the the best way to Move On in a conflict situation. Disclaimer: I’m changing all the nouns, and substituting the details that have any chance at being identifiable so if you think for one sentence that you know who I’m talking about- give it up. This exact example never actually happened.
Another Disclaimer: When you start to think I made this up and two educated, sober people could not possibly recall the same incident with such impossible discrepancy- I assure you they do.
I was helping this couple, Jane and John of course, sort out the details of their divorce. The item that was the most difficult to “separate” was the china cabinet. They had invested time, and money, and both had an attachment to it. We were on our 3rd session and they had been able to remain in the same room every time. When we discussed the cabinet they got real snippy so it was time to visit with them separately.
John let me know they had paid about $1,500 for the cabinet and the drive to Canada to get it took up a day and a half (fuel, day off work, etc.). He had been the one to purchase all the dishes in it, and they were collectibles for display, not for use. It was John who had wanted the cabinet in the first place and he’d done all the research to find just the perfect one for Jane knowing she would convert to loving it, and he was right. Since he put so much effort into finding the perfect cabinet for Jane’s preference, he wasn’t nearly as attached to it as her but he sure as heck wasn’t going to just give it to her, plus he had put so much research into the collector dishes only to have her actually use them and negate their value that he was fed up and wanted to buy his own new cabinet. The price that met “half way” to him was $1,000. He let me know how much he was displeased with the monetary, as well as non-monetary loss he was taking here but chalked it up to another cost of picking the wrong wife. If she would compensate him in the amount of $1,000; she could have the cabinet and the expensive dishes she devalued in it.
Jane let me know they had paid about $750 for the cabinet and let me know they’d had it shipped. She was pretty sure shipping was in the $200 range. (YES, two people can literally recall the same situation that differently) As for the dishes in the cabinet, she did not feel she had devalued them in any way, and in fact had added to it with her own favorite brand which was usable in the freezer, oven, and looked nice on the table. She was of the opinion that she certainly used it more, and it should go to her but would give it up if it meant being done for good. If John was willing to let her keep the cabinet she was willing to offer him $1,000 for it, since it really belonged to both of them.
Hopefully you can see what we have here. They are coming from polar opposite places of experience, opinion, and input; all the way to the part that matters. If this couple tried to have a conversation to decide who should get the cabinet and how much the other person should have to compensate for it they would have never got past arguing about the day they bought it. If they would have been paying attorneys to have the conversations for them it would have resulted in a court proceeding where they would have produced receipts, records, pictures, appraisals, and possibly statements from professionals or supportive friends. Of course producing such “proof” would have solved some of the discrepancy. The couple would have likely invested a substantial amount of time and money into the fight, and exploited each other’s vulnerable points on the subject to gain a better grip on their own position. Their anger for each other would increase substantially, and a minimum of weeks (since it takes 10 days minimum to get into hearing anyway) would be wasted on boring their co-workers, friends, and family over the details of this wretched cabinet that they both wind up wondering if they even want it in their home anymore for all the trouble it’s caused them. Depending on what the receipts and appraisals showed, there may or may not have been a transfer payment ordered, the dishes may have been separated from the cabinet, or some other solution may have been imposed.
The point here is that they were both happy with the exact same end result. They had very, VERY different reasons and paths to that resolve but were both comfortable with a payment of $1,000 from Jane to John, and Jane keeps the cabinet with the dishes all still in it.
When I brought them back together, I started slowly, but introduced the pieces of information they agreed on and you could literally see the tension leave the room as they both were hearing they were going to get what they wanted. Did the cabinet cost $1500 or $750? Did they drive to Canada, or was it shipped? What brand of dishes are in it? The answer to all of it- WHO CARES. She agreed to cut him a check for 1Large within 10 days and he was already shopping for the cabinet he really wanted which he would fill with dishes no one would use.
Only Mediation offers this type of process where a neutral 3rd party can hear what the issues are, and help the people reach an answer. The Fight Is Not The Answer. That’s not to say the fight won’t ever produce an answer, or even the same answer, but is it necessary? More importantly, is it worth it? Only in Mediation can you really tell your story, in your words, and choose weather or not the other person should be in the room to hear it. Judicial economy does not, and should not, provide for this kind of detail. But it’s your life. You deserve to be heard and have a say in the decision. Mediation offers you that.
After all, if you could come to an agreement, you would have, right? So now it’s time to let a judge tell the other side that you’ve been right all along.
Think again. Not only does the judge not have the opportunity to know the details that got you to the decisions you’re making; common sense isn’t always allowed. Unless there’s a trail of police records **and you’re not part of them**….You may not want an authoritative stranger making life decisions for you.
Remember that in a court setting each party has the opportunity to tell their side of the story- and each story is given equal weight in importance.
“Fair and Equitable” isn’t up to you. It’s up to you to convince a stranger what “fair” in your life should look like. Hey, maybe that’s what you want. Maybe you want someone to tell you what you’re allowed to do; and what the consequence will be if you violate that Order.
But on the off chance that you want to make enforceable life decisions for yourself- Choose Mediation.
Here you can bring your WHOLE STORY and have more than 10 minutes to tell it. Better yet, bring your attorney and let them help you say it right. But in the end- YOU DECIDED.
The best part? You can change your mind…..What??? Life may change in ways you didn’t expect??? That’s right. Change your mind as your needs change and have a say in what you’re obligations should be based on just that.
I’m not a Judge, Commissioner, or Attorney. I’m just one of you. What do I know? Only how it feels to really be there, and have to live with the decisions that were made. When you need an authoritative stranger to let the other side know what’s best- its also being decided for YOU, and you’re just as put in your place as they are. So is Mediation really just giving in? Sure. Giving in to the fact that you are capable of making your own decisions. Maybe that’s not for you.
I am in awe at how much fear can hold us back. We know this of course, and are continuously exposed to cute and encouraging posters, quotes, and other media driven reminders that we need to face our fears. Somehow, even with all this apparent support, we can find ourselves stuck in the very behavior we just posted a sarcastic encouragement of avoiding.
Help me out here if I’m mistaken, but it can happen to anyone. Even the most loved of celebrities have “crash” moments (or years) of not being able to see enough strength in themselves to overcome something. Clearly the cause of being frozen in fear doesn’t have to be the same for everyone, but I think the universal setback experienced is that we are with held from doing something we are perfectly capable (and maybe even overqualified) to do by literally being our own road block.
So let’s knock it off! Easier said than done that’s for sure; but I resolve to find something every day for the next week here that I am the only thing stopping myself from doing. The examples leading me to this range from recalling moments years ago in parenting where eye contact and communication were far more effective than allowing frustration to interfere with communication- to just today when trying to draft a legal document I had myself so worried about the phrases and how to word them that I totally forgot how easily it comes to me once I get the basic facts typed out. Both are simple examples of things I already knew.
What got in the way? Silly Fear. That’s all. Fear that I wouldn’t get out the door on time if my child was in charge (there’s a newsflash) and fear that I would’t be able to complete a legal document. When I break it down and look at that sentence it seems so simple it’s silly.
So maybe once in a while we need more than a cute poster, or quick witted sarcasm to remind us to overcome our fears, and maybe sometimes our fears are less obvious, more debilitating, and more our own fault than we’d like to admit.
On that note; here I go. Legal document typed. Roadblock placed by my own silliness safely removed.