Realistic Expectations in Divorce: Do Leopards Ever Really Change Their Spots?

leopards-don-t-change-their-spots_things-wish-id-always-known-menby Shawn D. Skillin, Esq.
Collaborative Attorney and Mediator

As a mediator, I met with a Mediation couple today. I like both of them very much. We
are the same ages, have similar interests and if I wasn’t their divorce mediator, I could be friends with each of them. But what struck me again today, was how divorcing spouses treat each other and annoy each other, and yet at the same time they find this surprising and frustrating.
Shawn Skillin

You are getting divorced. There are multiple reasons why you are getting divorced. Many of them boil down to that fact that you each have a different perspective on various issues. One of you likes the house neat and tidy, the other leaves dirty socks and wet towels on the floor. One of you is fussy about the budget, the other just wants to know if the ATM card works. You each have a different set of expectations for the children and approach discipline in different ways. You both have frustrations, disappointments and hurt feelings. You have argued over these issues many times, you can recite each others point of view word for word. You have stopped even pretending to listen.

Yet when one of you decides to file for divorce there is often an expectation that somehow this will change. The other person will now see your point, change their perspective, after all you must have gotten their full and undivided attention now! Right? Mmmm … not so fast.

In divorce, your individual perspectives don’t magically change. You still see things differently from each other. These differences continue to annoy and frustrate you. Yet, both parties often continue to treat each other in the same way and expect a different outcome. These communication styles didn’t work during the marriage, they aren’t going to work during the divorce. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

This is why I love Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. In Mediation, the Mediator is a neutral third party who helps interpret and re-frame what is being said. The Mediator can put a different spin on the issue, help you both see it in a different way, or at least point out that this isn’t unusual that you each see it differently. The fact that you do, doesn’t make either of you right or wrong, good or bad, just different.

In Collaborative Divorce, there is a Coach, or two, and two attorneys who help each party take a step back and take a fresh look at old issues. Perhaps, even learn a new way of presenting information and proposals to each other. They help you see what you do have in common and how, even with your differences, you can resolve issues, co-parent and work together.

Both Mediation and Collaborative Divorce keep you focused on the present and the future; the past can’t be changed.   How you got here is not nearly as important as where you choose to go now and in the future. In the best Mediated and Collaborative Divorces the parties learn new communication tools that can help them resolve their issues and move forward with hope.

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