By Lara Traum
“There are men who can think no deeper than a fact” – Albert Einstein.
We live in a world of absolute truths. History, math and science tell us that facts exist, that questions have answers, and that formulas can be applied to resolve many of life’s mysteries. We make firm projections about the future just as we reflect with conviction on the past. We rarely pause to wonder whether the way we experience a situation is indeed that objective – whether the person sitting next to us who has lived on the same block and eaten at the same diner and talked to the same street vendor for the past ten years has experienced the picture entirely differently.
Vantage point is the depth beyond fact that individuates personhood. But what happens when one identity has been enmeshed with another for years? You often hear husbands and wives lovingly relate that they can’t tell where one person ends and the next one begins. They feel they are supposed to say this – that this is a necessary aspiration. A fortunate few may be able to thrive in that dynamic, but then there are the rest – the people who wake up one day and wonder:
“If we’re supposed to live as one, why do I see the world so differently?”
“Why can’t we communicate any longer?”
“It suddenly seems we don’t care about any of the same things!”
They struggle with these torn expectations and create a framework for broader value differences, causing them to drift even further.
“He doesn’t love the kids as much as I do.”
“She doesn’t value savings and spends all the money I earn.”
The tensions build.
Mediation is a self-selected process. While couples walk through the door with varied abilities to engage with one another, there is most often a recollection of a time when they were indeed able to communicate, excited by their similarities and respectfully intrigued by one another’s differences. Over the course of time and erosion by the realities of experiencing life together, something snaps. The expectations of being entirely unified are inevitably left unfulfilled. The similarities seem fewer and further between. The differences become irritating.
A mediator does not preside as a judge. Mediation is not a process of assessing fact. Rather, it is a safe space in which each couple can say, with open candor and certainty of being respected, what it is that they truly care about. They are able to reacquaint themselves with their individual truths, ceasing to exist merely in reaction to one another. In this space of clear identity and genuine interests, intelligent decisions can be identified.
“So it seems that you both care about the best interests of your child.”
“So it turns out that only one of you really wants to stay in this house.”
The years of antagonism that evolved from unmet expectations are set aside and the couple is able to approach the impending dissolution of their relationship with new clarity.
Empirical facts may surely exist, but life as we experience it is individual and varied. It is only through the empowerment of this individuality, and respect of everyone’s entitlement to it, that we can hope to address life’s challenges with dignity and identify the best possible outcomes.
Lara Traum is pleased to be joining the Law Firm and Mediation Practice of Alla Roytberg, P.C. as a mediator and project director of the Moderate Family Mediation: Low Budget Family and Divorce Mediation Project. Lara is a certified Family and Divorce Mediator, integrating her background of working with teens and members of the music non-profit world with her own experiences as a child of divorce. She looks forward to providing people with a constructive and understanding framework in which they can work together to resolve their family conflicts, achieve a healthy divorce, and move on with their lives. To learn more about Lara, please refer to her bio on the Our Team page of our website, www.goodlawfirm.com.