From Separation to Liberation

Jaw jaw better than war war


Image converted using ifftoanyAs the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill is remembered, to whom the above quote is attributed, I recall being asked recently what I did for a living. When I replied that I am a family mediator, the reply was ‘oh marriage guidance’. ‘No’, I explained, family mediators help people separate and make the practical arrangements for their separation, such as sorting out financial settlements and deciding on the arrangements for their children. ‘Oh’ he said and after a little pondering on this asked me what I thought the main cause of marriage breakdown was. I was about to say ‘unreasonable behaviour ‘is probably one of the most common reasons given for divorce but thought a while longer and said that possibly the main reason for marriage or relationship breakdown is that people fail to communicate their needs to each other.

In the early stages of a relationship we may overlook or turn a blind eye when our partner does not live up to our expectations . Maybe we think, well in time they might change or they will eventually come round to my way of thinking. Perhaps couples used to be frank with each other but after a while take each other for granted and assume the other understands or just give up caring. Time goes on, not much is said and resentments build up for one or both parties, ‘they must know how I feel about this or that’ expecting our partners or spouses to be mind readers. On relationship breakdown, sadly for at least one party, matters have become intolerable, and to the surprise quite often of the other, because they hadn’t been told there was a problem, one party can no longer carry on with the situation and wants out .

When people come to mediation this is frequently the first time for some years that they begin to communicate their needs to the other, albeit with the help of the mediator. Some clients will say to me they couldn’t possibly be in the same room as their ex as they haven’t seen or spoken to them for ages. With a few exceptions, such as in cases of domestic abuse, I will ask clients if they prefer their lawyers to communicate on their behalf at some considerable expense or whether they are willing to give mediation a try. When people give it a try they are often surprised that talking to their ex with the mediator’s help is not as bad as they thought.

Family Mediation helps people going through relationship breakdown have a conversation about the practical arrangements that need to be made for their separation in a safe and confidential space. It’s not a shouting match, not a war, not a contest to find the winner. So often when we are feeling very emotional or strongly about an issue we don’t want to listen to what the other has to say. However, with the mediator’s help, each party in turn listens to the other, a dialogue begins, the ice breaks and a greater understanding emerges so future arrangements can be agreed.The family mediator is future focused and helps parties consider solutions, not whose fault it was. Each party can move on with their dignity intact at a fraction of the cost both emotionally and financially had they had chosen a different route. So jaw jaw really must be a better way forward than war war.

Jane Busby is a family mediator and the director of Accord Family Mediation: and a divorce coach at



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