One of the reasons couples choose divorce mediation is because it’s designed to be collaborative and generally amicable. However, it’s not like the communication problems that existed during the marriage suddenly dissipate once you decide to end your relationship—and sometimes it’s all too easy to fall back into old patterns and get stuck on an issue.
But the mere fact that you’re at an impasse isn’t what’s important. Instead, it’s how you—and we—work through it that’s key. Many times, these obstacles bring new opportunities for compromise, greater (and often times better) communication, and the possibility of growth for both people.
Here are the questions I pose to my clients who find themselves roadblocked. If you’re in the same spot, they can help you bridge your differences, too:
If this issue were resolved to your individual benefit, what would that look like? This question helps couples identify specifically what they want in this situation—which may actually open the door to a compromise. That’s because they can each pinpoint the most important element(s) and begin to prioritize from there.
Why do you think you’re stuck on this point? A big part of this process is actually hearing the other person’s perspective, and sometimes the answer to this question has little to do with the problem at hand. Once the underlying issue is addressed, it’s easier to move on from this one.
Rate this issue on a scale of 1 to 10. Again, this is all about helping the couple really zero in on their priorities. I usually ask this at the beginning of negotiating an impasse and again later on. Often, the level of importance drops.
Is it possible to describe a time in the past when you were able to find a compromise? Despite the divorce, all couples were once able to work through challenging issues at some time during their marriage. Thinking back on what worked then can be a resource now.
Can we temporarily table it? Sometimes, you just need time—and distance—to think about the problem in different ways. Time and distance has a way of providing clarity and a better direction. There might still be plenty of work to do once we revisit the issue, but we’ll be able to start from a new place.