by Lucy K. Wright
I looked up “mediation” today and this is the first thing that appeared:
Intervention in a dispute in order to resolve it; arbitration.
“The parties have sought mediation and it has failed”
…”and it has failed…” could be the statement for my attempt at mediation with the N-Ex last week, but I’m going to think otherwise and say it was victorious; because one more person, who just might have some influence and make a difference in my case one of these days, saw my N-Ex and his true controlling colors shine.
I decided to approach my second go-around in mediation last week with “cautious optimism.” After an entire day going back and forth, and back and forth again, and yet again, we finished the day with absolutely no agreements, nothing different than what we started the day with. Did the mediation “fail”? I am seasoned enough to know, because I’ve been down this road just a few times before, that the “win at all costs” party is not interested in solutions. He would rather continue to create conflict and thus keep all of this going. I left that day knowing that my attorney and I had done our best to extend the olive branch and try. Was this session a failure? Well, financially it’s always tough. But big picture failure? No way. It is just one more yellow brick added to paving the way to the Emerald City – or at least to the year ahead when the kids are both 18 and I don’t have to legally deal with the N-Ex this much anymore.
I spoke with my counselor earlier in the week and told him how much I really hoped that the N-Ex and I would be able to work some things out this time. It has been almost six years since the divorce after-all, would this, could this be the time we could actually “co-parent” (the N-Ex detests that phrase) and keep the best interests of our children and their futures in mind?
My counselor, in his fatherly way (he has become somewhat of my adopted father since my own father turned the other cheek on me in support of his twin-like, attached-by-the-umbilical-cord, N-Ex-SIL) looked at me above his glasses and didn’t have to say a word. He knows that despite how much I really try not to be the fixer and the pleaser in relationships, it’s pretty much my inbred nature, and he always takes his cue to say just a few words: “Remember Lucy, John will never change and you cannot fix that.” I know. He’s told me this a hundred times, and I’ve repeated it to myself even more. But I will probably always have that small bit of hope that maybe “this time” things will be different. I am lucky to have this counselor in my life. I don’t seem him often, but he is always there for me when I need him most. He’s a good person, he gets it, and I value his perspectives. His words tend to stay in my head, sometimes whether I want them to or not.
My counselor knows John. We started off in marriage counseling together – John’s choice. This counselor, along with the two others we went to, looked at John and in using different words than the others, but reciting a similar message, basically told him to “look in the mirror” and “take some ownership for the demise of the relationship” as it clearly wasn’t just one person’s fault (i.e., mine). When we walked out of that session John was furious and announced we were done with that counselor and never going back to him – just like with the others. Same scene. In their own unique ways and words, they all told John to take some personal responsibility. And that is when we were done with each of them. Period.
So, the mediation… I met with my attorney for a few hours the day before so we could talk about the details, what I was willing to negotiate and what I was not. Combined, the two attorneys had submitted a list of 17 items to the mediator that we were hoping to cover. Seventeen. In a one day mediation session. Knowing the molecular detail my N-Ex generally likes to debate on any given topic, I fully suspected we might tackle about three, maybe two, of these issues and would have to table the rest for another session. I was right on that, even though we pretty much spent the day “tackling” yet never reaching a final agreement on anything.
I actually had some hope during the morning of mediation – “cautious optimism” hope that is – that we could work a few things out. I could tell the mediator was really trying to help us get some things resolved; he was strong, professional and seasoned in his career. I had hope.
In looking back at the first mediation attempt we ventured into several years ago, I was extremely naïve. I trusted my then-attorney to lead me, advise me, guide me, and to an extent she did, but given the decree that resulted from that session (which I’m pretty sure the N-Ex must have laminated and hung on his walls the way we still live and breathe by that document to this very day), it all didn’t fare so well. At the end of the day of the first session, when my attorney and I thought we were actually going to reach a settlement on a few things, the N-Ex tabled the whole attempt and said he needed “extra time,” to think about everything again and we would need to schedule a follow-up session. Of course. And two weeks later when we met and endured this expensive lengthy process again, he wanted everything changed. We basically started at ground zero sitting with two impatient attorneys and an impatient mediator as the N-Ex picked at every detail for a second time. I signed off on things then that I never would sign off on today, knowing so much more about the process and system now than I ever thought I would. I take ownership for that, and for learning so much that has brought me where I am today – no longer naïve and not willing to be bullied again by the N-Ex. Ever.
After the several attempts and interventions, the N-Ex and his attorney asked my attorney to “write up” everything so they could review it once more; only they did not want it written up on a potential legal document that we might actually be able to sign off on that day and agree and move forward. They wanted a simple bullet point list that they could “think about” before making a decision. That was a good clue that all of our time, energy, effort and money was basically going no-where. Since my attorney was going to be writing up this document, on my dime, I asked the mediator to request one simple thing from Team N-Ex before giving the green-light to proceed. He left the room and came back with their answer – NO. I said that was unfortunate, but fine. I was done and we packed it up for the day.
I know they are angry. I am waiting – even at this very minute because I know it’s coming – for their next filing of Contempt charges on me. I plead “Not guilty,” just a few months ago for something else unreasonable that the N-Ex was insisting on. When I told him No, following my motherly-instincts and knowing 110% it was in the best interests of my daughter, he filed Contempt; his way of thinking he was going to manipulate me into doing what he wanted. Two days prior to the court date last time, I was barraged with emails from him saying we could both “save a lot of time and money and effort,” and “begin to really co-parent” (I love this one!) if I “would just sign the paperwork and give him what he wanted.” I didn’t. I went to court, held up my right hand and said the words “Not guilty.” And I will do that again this time without one ounce of hesitation to once again protect my children.
I am pro-mediation and the concept of attempting to resolve issues amicably… IF and WHEN there are two parties involved who are “willing” to bend a little, understand the notion of “you win some, you lose some,” and genuinely try. I do think it could be that simple. I’ve worked with two great mediators, but I’m now two-for-two in a dictated-by-the-courts process that has not worked because I’m dealing with someone who is too controlling to tolerate a fair outcome. I’m dealing with a Narcissist who believes his needs are more important than anyone else’s, he is more intelligent than anyone else, and it is just plain unacceptable for anyone to disagree with him. He has no boundaries or respect for the needs of others, particularly those of his children. He would rather continue to relish in his anger towards me than ever do what is right for them.
~ LLS ~ Lucy
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