Within the past year I served as the divorce mediator for a couple in which the wife was broken-hearted. Her husband had cheated on her and she confronted him with her proof: a shareholder certificate showing that the husband jointly owned a co-operative apartment with another woman who was unrelated to him.
The husband denied having any romantic relationship with the other woman. His explanation for the shareholder’s certificate, which he had tried to conceal from the wife, was the following:
1. he needed to make more money than he earned at his salaried job in order to pay for college for the couple’s two children and maintain the family’s middle-class lifestyle;
2. the other woman was a real estate broker who showed him the co-operative apartment, they jointly invested in it because it was such a golden opportunity, they never had sex or lived together, and she now lives in the mid-west;
3. the husband never told the wife about the broker and the co-operative apartment because he knew the wife would object to him making such an investment;
The Husband’s above explanation made the wife furious. She believed it was a total lie, and that he thought she was a fool for thinking she would believe such a story. Then, she looked at me with eyes full of sorrow and said, in her husband’s presence, “but it’s not like I don’t love him.”
This reminded me of a case study in a book entitled “Inside Out” by Gary Friedman, a highly regarded California mediator. Gary Friedman describes a divorce mediation in which he sensed that the couple had some hesitancy regarding the divorce and that there was a chance that the marriage could be saved. So he offered to facilitate a dialogue with the couple regarding why they were considering a divorce.
Gary Friedman and I are lawyers and mediators, not mental health professionals. We don’t do marriage counselling, but we can ask such a couple if they would like to discuss their feelings about their marriage and the possibility of a divorce to enhance their understanding and communication.
I asked that question after the wife confessed that she still loved the husband despite his infidelity and financial deception, and they agreed to have me facilitate a dialogue about their relationship.
I listened to them empathetically, and used active listening and reframing techniques, which is essentially paraphrasing their statements and reflecting back to them the emotions expressed.
The upshot is that the marriage was not saved, but the couple did reach a meeting of the minds for a separation agreement. What I will never forget is what the wife said to me at the end of the mediation session: “you are a good man and I am glad we selected you to be our mediator.”
© Arnold D. Cribari 2018