Generosity and Gratitude: The journey to healing can begin before your divorce is finalized

By, Felicia A. Soleil, Attorney at Law/Mediator

Generosity and gratitude.

Not words you often think of when hearing about someone’s divorce. Yet, in my divorce mediation practice these two values show up more frequently than you’d think.

When couples present for mediation, as opposed to individual legal representation, they have made a decision to navigate the journey of disentangling their marital life together. I describe this as becoming “unmarried.” Many times they need to maintain a parenting partnership, and want that to go well. However, couples who only need to separate their financial lives often assert they want to end the relationship respectfully and figure out the challenges of separating together. Sometimes, they even hope to maintain an enduring friendship and family ties.

Of course, there are times in mediation when one party wants the divorce and the other party has agreed to attend mediation in the hopes of reducing not only the financial cost, but the emotional cost as well. Their brain may be screaming “fight,” but their heart knows otherwise.

It is this head-vs.-heart conundrum that most often drives the divorce mediation process. As humans, we are taught to look out for ourselves, while also looking out for others. During the breakup of a marriage, your natural tendency may be to barricade yourself in your corner and come out fighting. This usually comes from a place of fear (although your ego has a role in this, as well!) The result may not be what you wanted, but, by gosh, the fight sure felt good.

People who can engage in self-regulation and self-reflection recognize that the breakup of their marriage is stressful enough without adding attorneys and courts and more angry feelings to the mix. When I am asked about what it is like to be a mediator, I often explain that I am always heartened to see two people from an intimate partnership able to express gratitude to the other at the end of settlement negotiations for generosity that has been extended by the other.

Of course, not all couples are in this place and they come to mediation for various other reasons, number one being cost avoidance. They still show up, do the hard work, and are seeking quick resolution so they can get on with their lives without each other. Sometimes, the best I can do with these folks is to encourage them to not let bitterness and resentment rule the day as we sort through creating their financial settlements and parenting plans.

However, more often than not, divorcing parties want to look out for themselves and find a way to make sure that it is not done at the expense of the other party. As we ease through the mediation process, I often see one party slowly consider giving something back they thought they were otherwise entitled to, something they recognize would have been at the expense of the other party. In truly transformational cases, a party may voluntarily offer up even more than would otherwise be expected. Either way, generosity makes a lasting impression, and recognizing that generosity with gratitude, even a simple “Thank you. I know you didn’t have to do that,” can go a long way toward healing. 

If you’ve reached a decision about separation or divorce, Felicia Soleil can help.  Through her practice, Family Law Resolutions, you can achieve an outcome that fosters both a compassionate ending to your union and a healthy new beginning for you and your family.  Her goal is to help you focus on moving on, rather than simply moving out.  Felicia can be reached at 253-853-6940.  All consultations are strictly confidential.

Published on August 1, 2019