Martha and Robert Anason were the picture perfect couple. To all outward appearances they had it all; they were a handsome couple with terrific jobs and a beautiful home in a suburb close to Boston. Robert was Vice President of sales for a major medical supply company. At age 38 he had managed to curve out an indispensable niche, earning over $300,000 year. Martha was also quite successful, having started her own business three years ago. Each year sales had increased along with the hiring of new staff, the moving of the company from the basement of their marital home into the city, not to mention profit projections for the next year looking very rosy.
Yet not all is as it appears. Neither Martha nor Robert was happy, at least not in the way that they each wanted to be, not in the way that they had envisioned when they married in Paris ten years ago. Martha suggested they go to marital therapy. Robert saw little point in the counseling. “How is anyone going to help with problems we cannot even define? We need to do the work ourselves,” lamented Robert. But Martha did not buy Rob’s argument; she knew that they would never get to the core of their problems, even if there were a core. But regardless, she felt they needed some expert help and soon.
And so they went to counseling. It did help in clarifying their differences, in resolving some of their conflicts, but still neither one felt the old commitment to work on the marriage. Something was missing and though not clear to either one, they both agreed, with the therapist, that divorce was the route to pursue. To be honest Rob was much more hesitant than Martha; to him they were giving in too soon. He really never wanted or expected to be divorced. But one person cannot hold a marriage together or refuse a divorce. And so hesitant or not, Rob agreed to pursue divorce. Here the therapist gave them some more guidance. She suggested that they were really a perfect fit for mediation.
Neither Robert not Martha knew anything about divorce mediation, but they were savvy researchers, hitting Goggle and then checking names of local mediators. They also asked the marriage counselor for a recommendation, which coincidently was the same name they had liked the appearance of in their Internet search.
Why was mediation so right for this couple? Why did the marriage counselor not suggest that they pursue more traditional routes? This was a couple with assets and high income. Didn’t they each need to secure separate, opposing assistance? The answer is really rather simple. Rob and Martha were used to making decisions, of taking charge. Neither one liked the idea of surrendering control of their future to a third party. And, no matter how hurt or disappointed or sad they were about the breakup of their marriage, they did not want to work at destroying each other. Mediation provided them with guidance and help in thinking of options and alternatives, while leaving the decision-making and control of the outcome to them. By no means did this mean that they did not require information on the law, the divorce process, and help in crafting an agreement that would be comprehensive and take into account the future as well as the present. The big question was could that be done in the mediation setting? Could this couple work together with the guidance and input of a mediator to decide how to structure an agreement that was fair to both parties and would actually work?
For Martha and Robert the answer was a resounding yes. With the help of their mediator, the couple decided that Rob would keep the marital house, buying out Martha’s interest. All other assets were valued and discussed, including Martha’s business. Methodically, the couple considered their needs and priorities and worked to structure an agreement that would ensure that each one would be able to live individually in a manner that mirrored that of the marriage. The end result made both Rob and Martha feel that they had been fair to each other but also fair to themselves. Neither felt cheated. Their needs and fears had been heard. Indeed each one hoped that they could be friends in the future. That, most of all, was a feat that most couples do not achieve. For this couple, mediation was empowering and productive, a major savings of money and anguish.