The anger and other emotions that are usually a part of divorce make it pretty hard to be respectful—Can the Collaborative Divorce Process enable the parties to find some level of respect for each other?
There are many metaphors people use to describe going through a divorce–one is the “leaver” and the other is the “leavee;” one is the windshield and the other is the bug; one is the bat and the other is the ball. There’s a lot of high emotion that’s flowing throughout a divorce; having the coaches in place really allows clients to deal with they must deal with in a constructive and productive manner. In stark contrast is the court system, where the clients must be ready to plow through on the court’s time schedule making decisions that they may not yet be in a good emotional place to be making.
(1) First, the Collaborative Divorce process allows clients to make decisions on their own schedule when they are ready to process that information and make those decisions.
(2) Second, in addition to each client having their own legal advocate (their lawyer), the Collaborative Divorce process provides clients the support of a coach who can help them manage their emotions, learn coping skills, recognize and articulate their priorities (their goals and interests) and teach them how to implement good communication techniques in their negotiations. Lack of good communication with each other is often what brings clients to the conclusion that they need to be divorce.
The communication skill building that goes on the Collaborative Process usually leads each client to a better understanding of the other client’s perspective—not that they agree with them but they better understand where they “are coming from,” which often leads to respect.
This is not to say that a husband all of a sudden sees things the wife’s way and shifts his perspective or vice versa; they often don’t shift their perspectives on certain issues at all. For example, if one of the clients was a spender and one of them was a saver those kinds of philosophies don’t usually change. But at least the clients can arrive at some understanding of why the other person is the way they are or a level of acceptance that that’s just the way it is even if we can’t live with each other. And just that little bit of understanding often does lead to a certain level of respect.
As you’ve done this through the years do you have a favorite story to tell about the end results, in terms of how the couple emerged on the other side?
You know I’ve had several couples that come in terribly frustrated with each other and with the situation, especially with the parenting situation with the kids, but by the time we get done, both parties have calmed down; they have been able to realize that they can work with each other as co-parents in an effective way and allow each other to do some things their own way without having to be critical and change each other. They have ended up in a much more relaxed, comfortable, respectful relationship than they were when they came in butting heads all the time, and they’re very grateful for that. Clients come in disillusioned and disoriented, really worried about how this is going to affect their future, their kids, etc. but by time they are done they can see that there’s not just a light at the end of the tunnel but some positive stuff that’s coming out of this, that things are actually better and things are going to be okay.