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  • Richard Brydson

My Spouse is Against Mediation or is Reluctant to Move Forward

The time leading up to a client revealing that they want to separate is a difficult time filled with much uncertainty. Rebalancing your attention to focus on your self-care, rather than keeping a relationship together, is fraught with confusion and hesitation.


I want to help you make this choice and am here to support you until you become more clear about the best way to move forward. 

In this blog I will talk about one of the main concerns a parent considering separation has: How do I manage with a spouse who is against or at least not ready to move forward with family mediation? I will also discuss how you can work with a reluctant spouse so that they come around to agreeing to a mediation, as well as the signs that indicate a mediation may not help you reach your co-parenting and settlement goals. 

I have come to see the emotional impact of relationship breakdown as a time of grieving, as not only the impending loss of someone we care about, but also the loss of a part of ourselves that seeks recognition. 

Grieving in a way that leads to wellness can only be learnt by experiencing and moving through your feelings. 

If you or your spouse have not learned how to grieve in a way that supports your wellness, then this time of separation is an opportunity to start. If you have already passed through your grieving in the months leading up to now, and you suspect that your spouse will not grieve this loss well this could be their first time they do. But before we get into that topic, first we need to see if mediation is something you can motivate them towards considering. 

The best way to solve a conflict is to seek to understand and include the other. I don’t want or expect you to shoulder their feelings for them, but be mindful that they are there, and seek to manage this awareness as a separated spouse. In my practice I help co-parents look for a shared balance between these seemingly contradictory needs and emotions. 

Now that you know why and what, we can talk about how to proceed with mediation

In my experience the two most common dispositions are a withdrawn and uncommunicative spouse and one with a more actively resistant and reactive disposition. Your spouse may display both, but you will likely have noticed an emphasis towards one or the other.

Working with either spouse you will need comes with accepting two equally important commitments: (1) to know what you need and be willing to assert it,  as well as (2) be empowered by information on what mediation techniques and family law rules will help you secure those needs. In this blog I will focus on number 1 as it relates to advocating for a family mediation.

If your spouse is prone to withdrawing–and time seems to be slipping away after you have told them you want to separate using family mediation–you may wonder if they are ever going to agree to your request. 

There is a delicate balance to be felt between asking them often and providing enough space for them to come around. I would suggest not just asking if they are going to reach out to a mediator you have spoken with, but find out what is preventing them from contacting anyone. If you find yourself building in frustration it’s ok to tell them that you are not going to change your mind this time as well as the reasons why mediation is important to you.

When dealing with a more reactive spouse, I will not ask you to put yourself at risk of further emotional harm. At the same time for a mediation to take place you need their voluntary consent to proceed with the process. If you are clear that you want to try to work collaboratively with them there are ways to reduce contact once they have agreed. 

The process will be designed with your safety as its first priority 

Making sure that you don’t have to meet with them in person or see them in an online meeting are two options available to you. If you feel unsure that you can speak to them about moving forward, we may need to discuss some conflict coaching to help you push for what you want, or I refer you to a lawyer for advice so that you can decide which process suits your needs. 

If there has been any violence or the level of contempt in your partner's speech has been consistently high since you told them you want to separate please consult with me before proceeding any further. I will help you assess whether or not your intention to negotiate a fair and balanced binding agreement will be possible in mediation. Negotiating in good faith and without coercion is a requirement of all clients. If we find that your spouse is not suited to this process it does not mean that you are automatically headed to the family courts. By the end of our first consultation I will make sure you have a plan to move forward.

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