Preventative Mediation: A response to a "More Perfect Union" which ran in the New York Times Magazine

Married (Happily) With Issues or A More Perfect Union, was published in the New York Times Magazine on December 1, 2009. Here is my response.

As a mediator experienced working with families in the midst of crisis and relationship dissolution, I have long encouraged the use of mediation in a more preventative way. Unfortunately, for the many reasons Weil outlined, particularly the fear that “[it] carries not only the threat of learning things about yourself that you might prefer not to know but also the hazard of saying things to your spouse that are better left unsaid” (p.42) most people wait until the point of crisis to get help; a point at which they have already said many hurtful things to one another which cause irreparable damage to the relationship. Mediation as a preventative measure may be a more manageable option for some couples than therapy, since facilitative mediation has at its foundation a practical, problem-solving approach. Weil states about her marriage to Dan: “we never discussed, or considered discussing, why we were getting married or what a good marriage would mean” (p.38). This is true for most couples. Couples with different, un-communicated expectations regarding marriage, children, careers, retirement and many other important issues in the course of a life together, will inevitably build resentment toward one another over time. Thinking that love is the great equalizer, although idealistic, is unrealistic. Love does not ensure that we want the same things or expect the same things from our partners. Therapy delves into emotions while mediation deals with life’s practicalities. Both processes are important to creating a more perfect union, but depending on the couple, one process might create “the capacity to allow spouses to keep growing, to afford them the strength and bravery required to face the world” (p. 52) better than the other.

By Laura L. Noah
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