Most people think of mediation as a route for property disputes and the divorce alternative to the expense of lawyers and family law court, but what if mediation was your new go-to for working through conflict and discovering new skills in communication and deepening intimacy in relationships? Rather than approaching your relationship as a zero-sum game that either benefits you or does not benefit you, wouldn’t you like the relational and sexual aspects of your life to be vibrant and more in alignment with the rest of your self-view?
Longtime family advocate (now mediator and social science researcher), Amy Baker, has developed some new methods for helping you get what you and your partner want, to understand why you want them, and to begin to unfold more direct access to ease and loving kindness (and probably passion and connection, too). These are skills we don’t tend to learn in U.S. culture, and they are skills that hold the promise of more personal and intimate wellness.
How does it work and why is it a worthwhile option?
In any number of scenarios, couples play out their lives together until one or both reaches an impasse in their own feelings of anomie within the couple dyad—and then they dismantle whatever structure they might have spent years building. They may do this literally, such as in cases of divorce, or they may do this figuratively, such as in cases of long estrangement and family obligations. It may be lonely, or both parties may suffer little as both have resigned themselves to this path.
They may have tried couples’ counseling, and they may have decided, tacitly or not, to leave the hot potato alone so that whatever semblance of a marriage, partnership, or family operation can continue. But if it there is a niggling feeling that this is not all you’d wanted out of your marriage, and you’re not willing to completely throw in the towel, why not try a different method? One that helps you build skills in your current function within the relationship and the family, while also helping you to gain access to understanding in yourself and your motivations as well as your partner?
Couples’ mediation is mediation that is designed to rebuild and repair. It is case specific and it deals with the presenting issue(s) as well as their underlying unspoken needs and desires. It operates rather simply on functionalism, self-determination theory, and conflict theory, and it augments personal work rather well. I say this because couples’ mediation is not therapy, though it is founded in credible social science research (sociology, psychology, family systems, attachment theory).
Research shows that individual therapies amongst couples can have outcomes that are detrimental to the whole system because the individual is the client who the therapist is advocating for. When our work scratches on the surface of something deeper and more personal, it is important to have a personal advocate for that. The second thing I want to address about therapeutic modalities is that frequently what gets treated within the various models available for couples are either the individual or the relationship itself. Couples’ mediation addresses all aspects of the relational trinity: Self, Other, and the Relationship Itself so that you can, as individuals and a couple, begin to negotiate a life, marriage/partnership, family that suits both of you.
Bad habits can take a while to unravel and identify, and it can take a while for other members of a family to learn a new normal, but the potential for living a life of your own design, as two architects of the structure of your life, is well worth unlearning bad habits and taking the seat of the driver.