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Divorce Mediation: To the Divorcing Couple | To the Divorcing Parent | The Cost of Conflict in Your Divorce

The Cost of Conflict in Your Divorce

Long ago, we got a letter from an old friend. In it, he talked about his experiences as child of divorce. At the time, we asked if we could publish just a part of it on our website, as a cautionary tale. It still tells the story more poignantly than we ever could.

"...if the divorce itself was awful, the years immediately after were—I don't even know what to call them. Chaotic. Painful, painful, painful for us kids. They would fight over the phone. They would carp when they dropped us off or picked us up. Every decision was another excuse to fight. We were too little to have any perspective. It was like our world was exploding and collapsing all the time. They would badmouth each other to us, wanting us to see what they saw, how hateful the other can't imagine how confusing, how discordant it was. How were we supposed to respond? I know I felt trapped, corralled, and really angry at them and at the world. I shut down a lot of my feelings. In many ways I still do. And these were not bad people! They both felt justified. They both had God on their side.

"...when we were older, there were the usual holiday hassles, everyone jockeying for the big holidays, always feeling like we were in the middle. Sarah and I stopped playing the games right after we were married, and sort of became part of her family at holidays. I wasn't willing to foist my family chaos on her, and I don't think she would have taken it anyway, after the torture they put us through in planning our wedding. And Sarah doesn't want the kids exposed to it either. Dad and Mom are always getting their feelings hurt now, but I got used to that so long ago, I don't even think about it anymore. Mom refused to come to Shawn's baptism if Dad were there, and so we didn't even invite her to Tracy's. You get the picture. It's been a mess for years. It's always been a mess, and I suppose it always will be.

"Yes, I blame Mom and Dad for not caring enough to behave better. But I blame the courts and the system and the attorneys too. They just exacerbated everything, played on their worst emotions and fears. They encouraged the fighting, because that's how you win! Neither Mom or Dad was particularly mean or aggressive, but that whole year of fighting through their attorneys made things go terribly wrong. I firmly believe it could have been different with a different process—one like mediation where there is just not the incentive to fight and be nasty."

We get the picture. The cost of an adversarial divorce can be high—and we don't mean the money. We mean the loss of intimacy and connection with your children. The cost to their development as healthy human beings. The loss of the precious experience of belonging to an extended family as you get older. These are the reasons we recommend mediation — the non-adversarial process can bring healing instead of hurting.


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