This election season has gotten me thinking about the concept that “words do matter.” This is especially true, but also more challenging, when you are talking to people with whom you disagree or who are your “competition.” My idea of a good politician is someone who can respectfully put forth his or her point of view, without degrading the other. Sadly, this election has reached a new low, where unspeakable terms have been uttered, with total disregard for the humanity of the other. I fear that boundaries have been crossed, opening up the opportunity for people all over the country to think that they too can talk whenever and however they want because it has become socially acceptable to do so.
While the divorce process differs from the political process in many ways, there are some similarities. People typically have fundamental disagreements and perspectives, and don’t get along well. As in politics, “words do matter.” Just as the discourse that has taken place in this election may have a long lasting an impact on our country, destructive and hostile communication in the course of a divorce often has negative consequences for families, sometimes for years afterward.
Collaborative divorce offers the opportunity for people to dissolve their relationships with dignity and respect. With the help of a team or professionals, people are encouraged to both listen and be heard in the context of what may be the most stressful time in their lives. Many people feel like they want to “let it rip” but as mental health coach I’ve seen them turn it around so that they see the value of speaking calmly, choosing words carefully, and focusing on what they want to accomplish. Likewise, by working with parents and children, in my role as a child specialist, I have seen children’s point of view brought to the attention of the parents, so they are able to consider what will work best for their sons and daughters. This is especially valuable because the only divorce process where children are guaranteed to be involved is when there is a highly contested litigated matter involving custody. This invariably puts children in the middle of their parents’ fight, sometimes to the point where they end up having to go to court.
While most people have little control over political discourse, there is a choice about how to communicate when marriages end. In my view, collaborative divorce offers the best option, because respectful communication is put at a premium, and sets the tone for families going forward.