We recently talked about university-based programs that promote the health of family-owned businesses. In that blog entry, we cited Ira Bryck, the executive director of the UMass Family Business Center, and his method for determining how his program may help a business family in need: find out first, “where does it hurt?” Mr. Bryck’s methodology is a useful way to conceptualize our role in small and family business mediation. This family doctor-like gateway to diagnosis reminded us of our job in marital mediation.
Marital mediation occurs when clients come to us, not to facilitate a divorce agreement, but to make structural changes in their marriage that will promote continuing their union. It can include a formal agreement to avoid or minimize contention if the marriage, despite the parties’ mutual efforts, ultimately does fail (often called a “post-nuptial” or more recently, a “martial agreement”); but often it does not. And, marital mediation clients would not be in our office unless something hurt!
Sometimes the hurt is painfully obvious but sometimes it is subtler: not necessarily fully or openly known to one or both of the spouses. The knowledge, and hopefully, the mutual acknowledgement of the symptoms of the marital troubles can lead to greater understanding. In turn, this can lead to corrective action that may save a marriage. Like a family business, or the human body, without knowing where pain is, the cure will be equally elusive.
Through “active listening” and facilitated conversation, we aspire to help people become more aware, and more open to deciding for themselves, just what might help.