Divorce poses the very unique challenge of finding a practical way to bring the marriage to an end while keeping an eye to preserving all the other important relationships that have grown over time from the intersection of the worlds of the two spouses. Finding a way to divorce in a healthy way can allow for these interconnected relationships to continue despite the changes that will inevitably take place. Today’s blog focuses on all the relationships that can benefit from couples investing time, energy and resources into reasonable and respectful settlement of the issues of their divorce. These relationships include their own as they move forward in life after divorce, the relationships of the children involved, and the intricate set of relationships with extended family and friends.
As we look at the source of the lasting relationships we have in our lives, many of them arise from chance encounters or from knowing somebody who happens to know somebody else. One of my very good law school buddies has a sister who married my best friend from high school’s brother. The worlds of my law school friend’s sister and my high school buddy’s brother would never have come together without that friendship coming out of my time in law school. Over time we develop our own relationship with our partner’s parents, siblings, friends, etc. I have many friends of a friend that over time have become my own friend and no longer need the other friend to maintain the relationship. With marriage usually comes an extensive mixing of two worlds. With divorce comes the question of what will become of all those relationships that followed from the couple’s relationship with one another. When divorces are contentious sometimes the result is a strain on this web of relationships. I have seen too many divorces end with family and friends being placed in a position where they need to choose sides. Keeping a relationship with the estranged spouse can make family members and friends feel like they are not being loyal to their own friend/family member. Divorce doesn’t have to mean that all the relationships that were built as a result of the marriage need to end. Couples taking a respectful and thoughtful approach to their marriage can go a long way in preserving this web of connections.
Fostering Relationship Preservation Through Divorce Mediation
The Couples own Relationship. Divorcing couples don’t need to be enemies after the completion of their divorce. I have seen many couples decide that they could not make their marriage work but that didn’t need to get in the way of maintaining an ongoing friendship. Navigating what the new relationship might look like can take some time and energy but it can be time well spent. Most couples have had a lot of history together and finding a good way to resolve the divorce can allow for a continuing healthy relationship after marriage. Not everyone is looking to keep some form of relationship with their former spouse, but leaving that option open by avoiding a big battle is a good option to consider.
Children. Accomplishing a healthy post-marriage relationship between spouses can be especially important and valuable when there are children. Finding a good way to resolve divorce issues can place parents in a much better place to co-parent and meet the needs of the children. When communication between parents is strained it is much harder to assure the needs of the children are being met. Having a relationship that is supportive of one another allows for the children to express themselves freely and to be comfortable with sharing their appreciation of each parent. If a child feels like a parent is not supportive of the other parent they may feel the need to downplay their own love and appreciation for the other parent. Conflict between ex-spouses can make things uncomfortable for the children when events take place that require both parents to be in the same location. What a huge gift is given when parents work on maintaining a supportive relationship with one another for the benefit of the children.
Extended Family. Special occasions in life are frequently spent with the extended family from both sides of the marriage and over time lasting and valuable relationships are built. Holidays, family reunions, family trips, birthdays, weddings, weekend BBQ’s and other gatherings result in close relationships being built. The way couples divorce impacts whether there can continue to comfortably be an ongoing relationship with the other side of the family. If couples are able to resolve their conflict and be supportive of one another in life after divorce, there is greater opportunity to maintain these relationships to at least some degree. When there is hostility between spouses it becomes almost impossible to maintain these relationships. I have worked with couples who were intent on preserving relationships with extended family, even to the point where former spouses and their new partners would be welcome to come to certain gatherings. This is especially valuable when there are children from the marriage and being able to be at celebrations together allows both parents to be part of the same event.
Friends. During marriage our collection of close friends is often composed of friends that might have originated from one spouse or the other. As mentioned earlier, a friend of a friend can evolve into a friendship that stands on its own. When the divorce becomes a protracted and contentious battle, these friend relationships that might have arisen from the other spouse can suffer. How dare a true friend show any kind of alignment or acceptance of the other side. Where is the loyalty? Divorcing in a healthy way can allow our relationships with the people that have occupied an important place in our lives to continue even while our relationship with our spouse is changing. I have seen too many litigated divorces where friends get enlisted to provide support for one side and attack the other. It is important to be thoughtful about taking an approach that allows for important friendships to continue despite the divorce and amicably divorcing can let all our friends know that their own relationships with our soon to be ex-spouse can continue uninterrupted.
Preserving Relationships: Empowering Through Divorce Mediation
There is much change that comes from the decision to divorce. There is obviously a huge shift that will be taking place in the relationship between the spouses. Exploring and pursuing respectful and considerate ways to divorce can help couples move to a mutually supportive relationship after divorce that supports positive co-parenting relationships with the children and minimizes the strain on the web of extended relationships that have arisen from the joining of the two worlds. There are many costs to engaging in contentious divorce battles, with one big one being the impact it has on all the peripheral relationships built with one another’s family and friends. Whether or not you are interested in preserving those accumulated relationships with family and friends, choosing an approach such as mediation to tackle things in a good way can leave the options open and all things being equal, it is better to move through life with more friends and less enemies.