February is the month for Valentine's Day and we’re all bombarded with images of hearts and flowers, sweethearts and promises of eternal love. But for too many women Valentine's Day is nothing more than a reminder of lost love, broken relationships and on-going battles with an ex over the kids and child support. Many women think the best way to handle their personal anger is to get into a huge, ugly court fight.
The problem is that the desire for revenge totally blocks out the need for calm reasoning and common sense. Gail Towne, a Kalamazoo Family Law practitioner, says, "Revenge has no place in divorce proceedings, especially where minor children are involved. When you get into a divorce battle to satisfy your anger, the attorneys are the winners and you and the children are the losers. Too often a great deal of the marital estate goes to put the lawyers' kids through school, not yours."
But it doesn't have to be this way. Anger and revenge should not lead to a fight that hurts you and the kids more than it does your spouse. Attorney Towne recommends mediation in divorce cases where emotions run high. "Parties need a forum where they can vent their grievances in private, and not put their children in the middle".
A trained mediator can defuse the anger and help the parties concentrate on the real future needs instead of rehashing the past. One effective mediation technique is to make the couple imagine the conversation between their children at high school graduation about how their parents raised them after the divorce. Did they put the kids first and develop an effective parenting plan or did they use them as pawns in their personal battles? It can be a sobering exercise.
The mediation process allows the divorcing couple to work out a parenting plan that will work best for them, and most importantly, their children. Statistics have shown that parenting plans worked out in a mediated divorce have a much higher compliance rate than those imposed by a court.
What about those of you who may not be in a big court battle but are still depressed over a lost relationship - Valentine's Day is only one more reminder you’d rather not have to deal with. Catherine Ellis, MA, a psychotherapist in Kalamazoo, recommends this: "Identify and acknowledge your feelings; give yourself permission to have them. Remember that time lessens and heals even intense emotions. When the feelings are intense, take deep breaths, exhale slowly and try to use relaxation imagery to divert your thinking. Take a hot bath, get a massage, find a yoga class. If you're still experiencing emotional difficulties, consult a psychotherapist and or join a support group."
When working with couples in mediations where the anger and tension is high, it is important to provide a controlled way for them to express their emotions so they feel that they have been heard. Each person must have the sense that they have had the chance to vent their grievances. The benefit of mediation is that the venting is done in a private setting without the extreme tension and expense of a public court fight. The process lets them go forward to create a better working relationship for their future and the future of their children.