High levels of conflict

Some people feel that they will not be able to go to family mediation because of the high level of conflict in their relationship. It can be very difficult indeed to decide on fair and reasonable solutions for the future when dealing with a large number of very negative emotions – grief, blame, anger, guilt and shock, to name just a few.

In some cases mediation will definitely not be the right way forward. If someone does not feel physically safe with their partner, or there is a very marked imbalance of power, family mediation is not going to work for that couple.

Conflict is normal

However, conflict is a normal part of all family life, and when a family relationship breaks down it is natural for there to be unusually high levels of conflict, perhaps even very high levels of conflict. In those circumstances it can be very helpful to have a neutral space, with clear guidelines of behavior, in which a couple can explore new ways of resolving the very understandable conflicts that often arise on separation and divorce. Family mediation can provide such a space.

Mediators can help

If you try to deal with the conflict without help, you may end up in a conflict loop, in which each of you expresses more and more anger about the causes of the problems, without every finding an opportunity to stand back and focus on solutions to your problems. Fear of conflict can lead to a refusal to communicate at all, which in turn leads to mistrust and misunderstandings. Finding a way to resolve conflict and to focus on the future will be particularly important when children are involved, but is always likely to be a better outcome for both the individuals involved.

If the conflict is left entirely to the lawyers to resolve, the adversarial nature of the legal process can make matters worse, making it more difficult for the couple to communicate and resolve their differences. Our family mediators will be able to help you set rules for ‘containing’ conflicts within safe boundaries during the mediations, and if you would like them to can also discuss ways of resolving conflict with you as a couple in some detail. However, family mediation is not the same as counseling, and if you are finding it very hard to cope with the levels of conflict and stress you are dealing with, you may want to consider separate counseling.

Some suggestions

Try to maintain the levels of courtesy and civility that are normally expected from you outside the family.

When describing a problem try to phrase it in terms of what the impact is on you, rather than in terms of what the other person is doing wrong.

Try to avoid focusing on the past and on who is responsible for the situation, and try to think about what needs to happen now and in the future.

If you decide on reflection that you were wrong about something, consider apologizing, or at least acknowledging that you may have made a mistake. Think about whether a compromise might help the situation.

'You see, a conflict always begins with an issue - a difference of opinion, an argument. But by the time it turns into a war, the issue doesn't matter anymore, because now it's about one thing and one thing only: how much each side hates the other.'

Neal Shusterman, Unwind

Turner & Johnson Mediation