We’ve had many dogs and cats over the years and we’ve learned a thing or two. One is this: When a new animal joins our home there’s a point at which we need to let them work things out on their own with the ones who already rule the roost. If we keep intervening we throw off the relationship structure they would naturally establish and we get in the way of their progress.
If you want to work things out in your own relationship, and are thinking about hiring a mediator to help, be sure to pick one that won’t get in your way by trying to force peace instead of helping you sort through the muck that’s creating the conflict.
There are mediators who see their job as getting you to an agreement (who will clean the bathrooms, who’s responsible for what tasks at work) and there are mediators who see their job as helping you work through the larger issues that are often behind the presenting problem. In other words, there are mediators who can help you with a specific dispute and mediators who can help you with a state of conflict.
While it’s tempting to focus on a specific dispute because it feels more manageable, working things out in your important relationships usually means doing the more important work of talking about how you argue and how you navigate your disagreements in general. A good mediator who does this work can help you make a huge difference.
And if you want to work things out on your own, without the help of an outside professional, you need three fundamentals:
- Real commitment. Commitment to the relationship and to the intention of working things out. If you’re really thinking that you don’t need or want to stay in the relationship but gee, maybe you’ll give it a last try, I doubt you will accomplish real resolution of the issues that divide you.
- The ability to manage yourself well enough to bring your better self to the conversation or walk away temporarily when you can’t.
- An understanding of the real issues that are dividing the two of you and how to best approach those issues.
It’s work and it’s worth it.