Mediation To Stay Married

What’s That You Ask?

Starting out in the mid-1990’s as a Certified Mediator through the Staten Island Community Dispute Resolution Center, my classmates and I were considered “Pioneers” in the arena of mediation. ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution was gaining momentum for years through arbitration. The courts were getting clogged with matters that could and should be handled in a non- legal way, if possible. They then introduced and started to have mediation training programs. The matters that worked best for mediation were considered:  family issues (family court) and neighbor disputes (small claims court). These lawsuits are extremely personal, (non-business and non-corporate) and considered best served when the parties resolve the issues together through the assistance of a trained, neutral third party.  If parties resolve their own issues and come up with an agreement where there is understanding, empathy and a give/take, the odds of them lasting are extremely high. When you go to court, there is only a win/lose outcome, so how can that help personal relationships move forward, especially when there are connections that will be there for life?

Training to become a Certified Divorce Mediator and then Certified Divorce Coach seemed like a natural fit. These are peaceful processes for un-peaceful times. As a divorce coach, individual clients come to me while they are still deciding whether to stay in their marriage or split apart. They desperately want to keep their marriages or relationships together, especially for their children. While I work with my clients to improve their communication skills, address the areas of friction in their relationship and develop new skills, there is always the missing piece… the other party. As a divorce mediator, many of my clients, upon completion of their divorce, told me they wished if what they had learned about conflict resolution was earlier on in their relationship, they might not have needed to end their marriage.

I am so pleased to learn about Marital Mediation, or Mediation To Stay Married and be able to offer this new practice to people going through rough times in their most important relationship. 

Marital Mediation is a mediation process for couples who are experiencing problems that want to stay together and work through their issues in a constructive way, utilizing forward momentum. This is a practical, solution-based approach to conflict resolution in which the couple identifies, brainstorms, negotiates and comes up with their own solution(s) with the help of a trained mediator.

A couple will typically see a Marriage Mediator at the same time they are in couples or individual counseling. While trying to save a marriage, it is important to utilize as many professionals as possible. This offers the couple the opportunity for healing, learning new coping, communication and conflict resolutions skills. This is not about choosing one method over another.

Common themes that destroy a relationship can be dealt with in mediation to save your marriage. Financial issues, job loss, bankruptcy, inheritance, spending patterns and adultery can cause distrust. Moods, emotions, different patterns of communication, problems with children, problems with mingling new families in second and third marriages can be managed. These can all be discussed and resolved in mediation.

By working with a mediator to save your marriage as opposed to a mediator to end your marriage, think about the following:

*Divorce is expensive and everyone in the family’s standard of living will be impacted.                         

*Divorce wreaks havoc with your emotions.                                                                                  

   *Divorce (in most situations) has parents putting their children in the middle.                                           

   *Divorce has friends and family taking sides.                                                                                               

   *Divorce has you looking into new relationships. Is the grass greener?                                                          

    *Divorce just brings out the “ugly” in good people.

Why do folks feel that they have to make a choice: Stay in an unhappy marriage and have happy children or leave the marriage and the children will somehow be okay? (Statistics don’t bear that out). Marital Mediation is an important, effective Alternative Dispute Resolution Process that is worthy of continued practice and development. Marital Mediation has often succeeded in resolving relationship/marital conflicts when other interventions have failed. It helps mediators put a marriage back together instead of being part of its demise.

Grey Divorce, Is This The New Trend?

One would think that divorce in couples over the age of fifty, together for years, would not be as common as for younger couples; however, statistics say otherwise. Grey Divorce is now a trend in the 21st century. In the 1990’s; 1 in 10 couples over the ago of 50 got divorced. Now; 1 in 4 people are going through Grey Divorce and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

As a Certified Divorce Coach and founder of Better Path to Divorce, I have seen an increased number of couples seeking my services after making the conscious decision to end their 20, 30 and even 40-year marriages. Unfortunately, divorcing at this later stage in life is particularly challenging. The experience is emotionally and financially traumatic. With that number of years under your belt, truly believing your relationship stood the test of time, and then to realize that what you thought was normal marital dissatisfaction turns into an intention to file for divorce can be earth shattering.


With retirement looming, and the number of available working years growing ever shorter, the analysis and assessment of whether they can each retire (now separately) becomes one of the most pressing issues.  Where they may have once planned on retiring, collectively, under one roof, as their resources were jointly pooled together; they are now faced with how to provide and pay for separate residences. This places a heavy burden on couples divorcing in their late 50s and 60s. The all too often result and the only option; rather than retiring is working well beyond retirement age.  

Pensions and/or Retirement Accounts

One or both parties that have accumulated hard earned pensions, retirement accounts, etc.; (which was considered a joint asset), is now subject to division post-divorce. This becomes a major challenge to the partner that was the major wage earner during the life of the marriage, as the plans for a comfortable retirement has just been cut considerably.  On the other hand, the spouse that wasn’t working for many years, also planning a comfortable retirement, might have to now re-discover the employment market. Clearly, 50% of planned retirement funds may not be sufficient to cover the bills of the now two individual households. Can you feel the resentment at what should be your comfortable retirement years?

Division of Assets

It is a real challenge especially in a Grey Divorce. Property owned prior to marriage usually remains with the sole owner. It is much more difficult to identify marital and pre-marital property in a Grey Divorce due to the length of time the couple is legally married. The value each party places on marital and non-marital assets is a cause for conflict as the couple tries to claim exactly what belongs to whom and the dollar amount. Please note if this goes to court, the division of all assets will be determined by the judge, not by what your lawyer will tell you is “fair”.

Health Insurance

Health insurance issues come up when only one of the parties is employed. The spouse that is not working will have their health insurance terminated. As we age, we are aware that this is when we need health insurance more than ever; as our health deteriorates and costs rise.

Life Insurance

Ouch! Yet another blow. Once a divorce is finalized, the individual holding the life insurance policy can, and usually does, remove the ex-spouse from their list of beneficiaries on their life insurance policy.

Adult Children

You would think that the adult children of Grey Divorcing parents wouldn’t be as affected as younger children. Not so. The adult children put their lives on hold in an attempt to handle this family crisis, at the expense of their own families and careers. The parents also have a tendency to lean on their adult children emotionally and sometimes financially. In many cases, the children are forced to take sides. This typically occurs when there are uncomfortable or embarrassing details of the split.  If your parents came to you today, and told you they were getting divorced, what do you think your reaction would be?

Mediation As A Quicker and Less Expensive Way To Divorce

Not all divorces have to be acrimonious, and, in fact many couples who divorce later in life do so as a result of a gradual growing apart.  As a result, they place a higher emphasis on amicable resolution, healthy dialogue and a positive post-divorce relationship with that soon to be former spouse; rather than an all-out “War of the Roses”. While seeking legal and financial advice from professionals, many of my clients work with mediators. A mediated divorce can be resolved in less than one year and save a considerable amount of money and emotional pain and turmoil.  You need to grieve but realize that your life goes on. The pain is normal and part of the healing process. It helps you to let go and move forward. 

 Having Been A Casualty of a Grey Divorce Myself

 My best professional and personal advice is as follows: Avoid getting too emotionally caught up in blame and anger. Take this as an opportunity to live out your very own passions and desires. Be selfish. You are no longer a “we and us” but a “me and I”. Maintain your health as this will help you make the right decisions for your future. Working on yourself is your new mantra from today on. Life is short and this is your new beginning.

What Lit You Up

On your wedding day, divorce was not on your mind. In fact, it never crossed your mind. However, 50% of all first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages.

So now you find yourself here, dealing with divorce, whether you are deciding to get divorced (stressful), going through divorce (the big, black hole) or completing the process, how can you re-discover YOU?

Think about those activities, hobbies and/or passions that lit you up before the chaos of divorce set in.

Here is what I did and still do to re-center myself: Get an inflatable pillow, sea salts, a glass of wine, smooth jazz,  scented candles, and close the bathroom door and enjoy my own thoughts, let my mind wander to those places of just me…

What lights you up?

  •  The great outdoors and hiking
  • A few hours of smelling the ocean air and feeling that breeze
  • Yoga on the beach
  • Reading a good book of your choice
  • A day on the golf course
  • A sporting event
  • An evening concert in a stadium under the stars
  • Bowling with friends and just being young again

The choices are limitless and have no boundaries, but you need to get into your “bathtub” and “dream.” And after that dream, put that dream into motion. These little personal acts of kindness to yourself, and for yourself, don’t completely take the stress and anxiety of divorce away, but they are a reminder that there is and will be a better life ahead.

Appreciate The Little Things In Life

Life’s lessons come in all shapes and sizes. As we go through them, we don’t understand the “why” quite yet. I am thinking about a particular life lesson that you may already know: “Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them.”

After an extremely difficult first marriage, I remarried and obtained “sheer bliss.”  However, my husband’s business got hit hard due to 9/11,  then the real estate crash of August 2007 hit my mortgage industry job. No more vacations, theater, concerts, dining out, gym membership, personal trainer. etc.

After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I put on my thinking cap and re-arranged our entire budget.  I made many changes to make me feel whole and stable again. I watched for sales at the grocery store, and started cooking; not basic cooking but  real cooking. We invited friends over for dinners and had small house parties. For the holidays with our children and family, I suggested re-gifting. How easy is it to purchase something somebody wants, but ooooh, to take a possession that is near and dear to you and give it to someone you love. That ended up becoming more loving and so powerful for each giver; those feelings inside, money could never buy.

It took about 4 years to feel financially whole again. The changes we made during the hard times have taught me powerful lessons and have stayed with me. As an example, we do much more home entertaining, cooking and opening up our home to all. It is personal, intimate and has a warmth that no restaurant can duplicate.

I have learned that life throws everyone punches and we don’t know why at the time. Life’s lessons, that I still carry through to this day, never would have happened without our own “financial crisis.”

“Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them”.