Divorce mediation is now gaining popularity as an effective alternative to divorce litigation, but most have never heard of “marital mediation” or “mediation to stay married.” A relatively new application of the mediation, marital mediation is the use of mediation to help couples work through marital difficulties and preserve their relationship, rather than sever it. Entirely different from marital counseling or marriage therapy, marital mediation does not delve deeply into family issues or complexes, nor does it focus on what the couple thinks is “wrong” with the relationship or how one person thinks the other person must change for the relationship to work. Rather, mediation tools such as reflection, reframing and active listening may be used to facilitate communication, help the couple negotiate issues they are unable to do alone and gives the couple tools to use when they are not in the mediator’s office.
Why seek out marital mediation rather than counseling or therapy? Well, for some, the idea of mediating marital difficulties may be more palatable than attending therapy, where therapy is viewed as too invasive or too ‘touchy-feely’. Additionally, marital mediation focuses on the here-and-now and offers a resolution-oriented framework, and for this reason may be more effective for some couples than therapy. Finally, many marital mediators are also lawyers, who can both provide insight to the couples of what might happen if the couple did decide to divorce, and can draft marital contracts for the couple which, if drafted properly, are enforceable in a court of law.
For more information about marital mediation, please see the Marital Mediation website. On this website you will find resources about marriage, staying married and mediation, both in written and video form. On that website you will also find a video interview I conducted in December of 2010 with attorney and mediator Laurie Israel about marital mediation – the video interview and transcript is available here. The Boston Globe also wrote a wonderful article about marital mediator John Fiske and post-marital contracts, available here.