Susan K. Boardman, Ph.D.

Marital Mediation creates a template of future interactions and behaviors addressing areas of conflict in the relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why the need for Marital Mediation? 

Frequently people face issues in their marriage that prove difficult to resolve without outside assistance.  Many couples handle conflict by ignoring it, yelling, or some combination of the two. Rarely do couples sit down and directly negotiate with each other about what they find frustrating in the other person's behavior and what behaviors could be substituted to ease the friction.  More often couples learn through osmosis the behavioral "rules" of their relationship.  Given that this is not usually directly discussed, it's no wonder when a breakdown in understanding and agreement of the rules leads to a breakdown in the relationship.  People frequently make assumptions that prove inaccurate and exacerbate the problem. 

What Does Marital Mediation Involve? 

Marital Mediation is a series of guided negotiations in which couples are helped to craft concrete, practical solutions to  issues troubling their marriage. Couples create explicit guidelines, on which they both agree, to resolve areas of conflict, and taught communication skills that help support the guidelines thereby improving their ability to negotiate constructively in the future. Underlying issues are identified, interventions are developed, and agreements couples can live with are reached.  

Why Marital Mediation instead of marital counseling or therapy? 

While the end product in these processes is a stronger, better marriage, the focus is different.  In marital mediation, the primary focus is not on the feelings that surround the points of marital friction nor on the underlying psychological explanations for those feelings.  Instead, a practical and concrete plan for new behaviors around the issues in conflict is negotiated, using mediation and dispute resolution techniques. 

Traditional marital therapy usually requires time to develop therapeutic insights, and frequently delves into the psychological underpinnings of the couple's relationship.  Months or even years can be spent in marriage counseling or couples therapy without noticeable improvement. Sometimes, however, couples just need to learn how to communicate, interact, and negotiate with each other more constructively to start the healing process.  Marital Mediation is a pragmatic, short-term intervention that helps couples ease their immediate points of friction, and teaches them constructive conflict resolution skills. 

What are the benefits of Marital Mediation?  

Marital mediation can help reduce marital conflict by breaking destructive cycles of behavior, protect children from the stress of witnessing marital discord, prevent separations that might not have been necessary, and teach conflict resolution and communication skills that can avoid the reoccurrence of problems in the future. 

What types of conflicts can Marital Mediation address? 

Marital mediation is ideal for addressing: communication difficulties, financial disputes over handling money, allocation of parenting responsibilities, difficulties in dividing household tasks, stress created by intimacy issues, conflicts over religious practices, career conflicts, conflicts over living arrangements, healing the relationship after an extramarital affair, and conflicts with in-laws, relatives or friends. It can also be used to help couples who are uncertain of their future to explore whether it makes more sense to separate or work on their marriage by addressing behavioral and emotional changes that would need to take place to improve the marriage.

How long does the process take? 

Depending on the complexity and nature of the conflicts, the process usually takes between two and six sessions of approximately an hour and a half each, with additional time between formal sessions spent in discussions and exercises by the couple. 

Do you have to be married to go to a marital mediator? 

No. Marital mediation works as well for unmarried couples. 

Are there circumstances under which marital mediation may not be appropriate? 

Mediation may not be appropriate when there is ongoing domestic violence that could interfere with both parties being able to fully participate in the process, or in cases that involve impaired cognitive function due to substance abuse or a psychological disorder that might affect rational decision-making.