Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Marital Mediation

Have you ever heard of Marital Mediation? 

Marital Mediation is a process that uses mediation techniques to open and improve a couple's communications so that they can address areas of conflict and create a plan that outlines what each of them will do (and not do) in the future. 

How the process of Marital Mediation is used will vary, depending on the mediator's skill set and philosophy.   Typically, however, the process is:

*  short term
*  held in a multi-session format (I like a couple to commit to three 90-minute sessions with the potential of future follow-up)
*  focused on problem solving, and
*  concludes with the signing of a written agreement.  (However, the process itself and the creating of the agreement is usually more valuable and important than the actual agreement.)

Recently, one of my Mediation Trainees posed this question to me:

I am working with a couple in Marital Mediation.  The wife wants to include an "infidelity clause," that would involve a lump sum penalty payment in the event that either of them is unfaithful, in their agreement.  Have you ever seen such a clause?  Do you see any problem with including such a clause in their agreement? 

My Answer:

I have never used this clause.  My concern is that it might push an affair further under the rug, where it will do even more damage.  Since an affair is the symptom, not the problem, the idea of punishing the "guilty" spouse might not serve them well.  In my mind there is a big difference between (a) an exit affair (a term coined by Emily Brown to describe an affair that is used by a conflict avoider as a means of escape) that results in the end of a marriage and (b) an affair which is a symptom of a bigger problem that may be repairable while the couple is still emotionally engaged. 

In this case, the wife's request to use a punishment says to me that there is an old wound there that she might want to look at if this marriage is going to work out.  However, that exploration is an issue better suited for therapy than Marital Mediation.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Divorce, TMZ

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are in the news.  Divorce is difficult enough. Do they make it more difficult than it has to be?  Read my advice to them at