Marital Mediation (To Stay Married)



Marriage requires constant peacemaking - that is, “processing differences in a way that results in continual resolution.” Some of my favorite books are by Willard Harley on Marriage Builders and another by Larry Stallman entitled The Marital Arts.  Both describe a very essential component of marriage: the ability to negotiate. That means to know what your interests are and those of your spouse; to try to meet those interests; and to continually make tacit and real agreements. It’s constant bargaining.


Therefore it makes sense that a mediator can help bring light to the necessity of negotiation, teach negotiation skills and act as a facilitator when necessary to help couples come to agreement. Doing so early and often just might make a marriage successful and avoid divorce.


In this manner peacemakers as mediators can:

  1. Help couples resolve ongoing specific disputes and negative recurring interactions.
  2. Analyze communication and train couples to have more productive styles of negotiation.
  3. Help couples uncover differences in financial behaviors, and bring light to and mutual understanding of financial realities.
  4. Show couples what would likely happen in the event of divorce.
  5. Normalize conflict in marriage, train in the steps of interest based negotiation and provide a recipe for peacemaking in the family.

Prenuptial Agreements:


Prenuptial Agreements are no longer deemed "unromantic." They can give a couple an opportunity for a healthy start with financial knowledge and understanding the interests of each other.


“A prenup functions as a catalyst to communication because it requires a critical examination of sensitive issues, such as children and money, and a resolution that’s acceptable to both of you. You become conversant in compromise. In addition, a prenup precipitates openness since it requires full financial disclosure. Talking about money is tough, but once you’ve opened this door it leads to communication in other areas. Thus, you establish a precedent for dialogue, enhancing the prospects for a happy marriage.” Prenups for Lovers, Arlene G. Dubin


         Both parties need to be represented for a prenup to be enforceable and there must be full and voluntary disclosure of all financial information. But it can be done as a collaborative process with collaboratively trained attorneys.


Postnuptial Agreements.


         Mediation can also be used to facilitate the making of agreements after marriage, perhaps to outline what would happen in the event of divorce.   They could be used to memorialize agreements made in connection with behavioral modification or financial planning or a myriad of things that help a relationship move forward with less fear and mistrust. Having a witness to your agreement; making commitments with accountability and consequences; and agreeing about how things would look if divorce is the consequence sometimes frees couples to do the work required by being in relationship.


Separation Agreements:


         If couples want to separate for a while, are not ready to divorce and want agreements for managing assets, income and debt, and children’s issues, a separation agreement can be negotiated to cover those issues. This can either be filed with the court as a formal legal separation or not. Under many circumstances the agreement can become the divorce settlement agreement if the couple decides to go ahead with divorce.


Mutual Financial Understanding:


         Most often we find that the first time couples really look at finances from the viewpoint of budgets and planning is at the start of a divorce.   Financial problems and disagreements are very often what causes those couples to divorce.


         Looking at finances together with a neutral, with both parties fully informed,  understanding the cost of living and actual after tax income and doing some planning is like having a health check up on a regular basis. It makes you feel better to be out of the dark and will likely lead to a longer and healthier life together.


Discernment Counseling:


         There is now a discrete form of couples counseling for a set period of meetings to explore whether or not the couple wants to pursue reconciliation.  It's best done with a counselor who has been trained in this type work.

         A peacemaker will make recommendations for this and other relevant coaching and counseling, including meeting with a child specialist.


Special Needs and Elder Care:


         Mediators help with planning for other family issues including caring for family members with special needs, elder care and probate and estate planning concerns. A neutral facilitator who has a network of providers with expertise in various areas can be a great asset to a family for planning, conflict resolution and conflict prevention.