Divorce Mediation Blog

It's not a world war, after all

Thursday, September 17, 2015

One of us has been listening to a multipart podcast about the First World War. The podcast may be as long as the war itself, but it makes a workout seem quick, by comparison!

In describing the siege that took hold in the fall and winter of 1914-1915, the narrator describes the phenomenon of European powers having invested so much in blood and treasure that no one was willing to consider any form of withdrawal from the winter stalemate, let alone a nuanced solution to the conflict.

This description resonated with many seemingly endless experiences of clients who enter into divorce litigation with black-and-white views, and goals to match. Sometimes, like quicksand, the deeper the descent, the stronger the pull. The more invested, the less the inclination to compromise. As time and costs increase, perspective, empathy and the ability to listen to, let alone hear or consider the “opponent’s” point of view, diminishes proportionately.

Until, that is, someone is broke or broken, or the clock runs out.

The comparison between divorce litigation and the conflict that introduced a level of lethality previously unknown to human warfare is fraught, to be sure. Divorce litigation almost never kills anyone. Too often, it does, however, diminish people, their coffers, their ability to co-parent and their dignity. Strategy and tactics replace perspective and understanding.

In our practice, we mostly see people avoid the carnage, and we work with many who are in the midst of it and are looking for a way out, sometimes desperately. We preach, at all times, the need for clients to be wary of conflict, and to review every stage of their divorce matter from the perspective of cost-effectiveness, both financial and relational.

Most listen; some cannot. For the unfortunate few with whom we work who cannot, many are condemned to ignore Santayana and reenact their own personal version of the European siege one hundred years ago. The hope that these numbers will become fewer and fewer motivates us to do keep at it, every day.

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