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What Is Marriage Mediation?

Marriage mediation can be used in place or or in addition to traditional couple's counseling.
Marriage mediation usually occurs before a divorce when couples decide they want to stay together.
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  • Written By: Katriena Knights
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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Mediation is the process of facilitating a resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. The idea of marriage mediation is commonly associated with mediation undertaken for a hopefully amenable agreement to end a marriage. A trend that has grown from the business of divorce mediation is mediation aimed at settling differences within a marriage and therefore holding the partnership together. Mediators in this situation make use of conflict resolution techniques to help partners settle their differences, find new ways to deal with conflicts and problems and move on, hopefully to experience a stronger relationship in the future.

Marriage mediation has developed because of situations that occur from time to time during divorce mediation. Couples pursuing divorce mediation sometimes discover through the course of speaking with a mediator that they still truly want to remain married, but they need help sorting out certain problems and differences in order to continue with the relationship. From this idea, some mediators have chosen to help married couples sort out problems.

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Traditionally, those suffering difficulties in their marriage consult marriage counselors or therapists. These approaches certainly are viable, but in other cases, couples feel it is more expedient and relevant to consult with a mediator. Typically, a mediator will deal directly with very specific problems without exploring causes or history that would be addressed in a therapy situation. Marriage mediation works similarly to the way divorce mediation works, in that counseling and therapy are not necessarily used, but direct, immediate solutions to problems are put into place.

In order for marriage mediation to be successful, both parties must be willing not only to air grievances but to pay attention to the concerns of the other party. They also must be willing to make changes in individual behavior in order to reduce the friction and difficulties that have brought stress to the marriage. A family mediator sometimes can help, as well, to work through issues that involve more than the married couple alone.

The goals of marriage mediation are not only to keep the marriage intact but also to strengthen it and also strengthen the bonds between the couple. For those truly committed to preserving their marriage, mediation provides an alternative to long-term, extensive and costly marriage counseling or therapy. Therapy or counseling might still be necessary in cases where problems stem from past abuse or other complex psychological issues, but in many cases, marriage mediation can help a marriage get back on track.

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anon307328
Post 7

I am a marriage mediator, I've been doing it for 10 years. The process I do is very different from divorce mediation or marriage counseling.

When I was studying to be a mediator, I noticed that some people who had conflicts had ongoing relationships, and so what they needed wasn't just an outsider to help them resolve their presenting issue. They needed to learn the skills of mediation so they could make their relationship work in an ongoing way.

So in my six session process, I do just that. I use the couple's presenting conflict as data to teach them how to speak about what they are needing without the other person feeling judged, and how to listen for what their partner is needing, so they can co-create a resolution that creates more connection and intimacy.

Conflict, it turns out, in close relationships, is just misunderstood difference. It occurs because the relationship is trying to go deeper. So my Teamwork Marriage Mediation isn't just conflict resolution, it's skill building. After all, becoming a professional mediator in small claims court was a 30-hour training. I've pared that down to nine hours for couples.

These are skills everyone should know, especially people who are married, because we marry someone who is different than us, and then blame them for that difference.

mitchell14
Post 6

@feruze- One of my best friends had to have counseling because her parents divorced, and she had a similar feeling- she was asked very often all of these deep identity issues, but often not simple things about how she felt about her parents.

It is unfortunate, because she has since been diagnosed with anxiety issues, but it took her almost 20 years after her parents' divorce to consider getting counseling and other psychological help again, because counseling bothered her so much as a child.

strawCake
Post 5

@starrynight - That's nice for your parents. I think in most cases the mediators should try a little harder to help the couples work out their issues.

Sometimes, like in your parents case, the couple really should get divorced. But in other instances I think mediation could really help couples work out their issues and not get divorced at all!

starrynight
Post 4

My parents used mediation when they were getting a divorce. They were both set on ending the marriage (and for good reasons I won't get into) but the mediation helped them split up the assets and decide child custody issues.

Since they were both in agreement about all but a few issues, mediation was really helpful. They were able to do that, and take care of all the legal stuff themselves instead of hiring lawyers and going to court.

I know they were both pleased with the way it turned out.

bear78
Post 3

I've been to both marriage counseling and mediation and I think mediation was a much more realistic and fast approach.

In counseling, we often delved into identity issues and there were times where I was asked to question the kind of person I am. I didn't find this very helpful, it was a distraction away from the real issues at hand.

At mediation, my spouse and I were able to put all of our problems on the table and discuss them one by one. There was no accusations or psychological analysis. It was very realistic and really helped us concentrate on what was important.

serenesurface
Post 2

@turquoise-- I do agree that if both partners go to mediation willingly, with the intention of making it work, it will be more successful. I still think that mediation can be a good option even if that's not the case though.

I mean, if a couple is almost ready to divorce, what harm could marriage mediation do? There would be a benefit in it and nothing to lose. There are even talks in the United Kingdom about making marriage mediation a requirement before divorce.

I think that's a great idea, it's about giving the marriage one more chance before calling it quits. I'm sure there are a lot of couples out there who improved their relationship before it got to the divorce stage thanks to mediation. It's also great for the kids, because the kids get hurt the most when a divorce happens.

turquoise
Post 1

I'm seeing quite a few couples in my friend group who are seeing marriage counselors and mediators. One of my friends say that they really benefited from it and it helped her and her husband be more open and honest with each other. They also put in a lot of effort and tried to continue what they learned about each other and communication at home.

The rest of my friends who tried this technique don't feel that it worked for them because either their husband or their wife wasn't ready to make the changes that were necessary.

I think many times, what happens is that one spouse convinces the other to go to mediation even though that spouse is really not interested. When this happens, the sessions are not fruitful and they're not able to solve their problems.

I absolutely agree that for marriage mediation to work, both partners need to be interested and ready to try it. Both of them need to be willing to change themselves and their relationship a little bit. Otherwise, it doesn't work.

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