At the end of 2010 the decision was made to completely dedicate Bridal Tribe to Love. Since then I find myself in daily conversations about what love is, how do you find it, how will you know it, how does it work, how long does it last and so on. Some of these questions were asked by me while others were asked of me. Though there were many kinds of Love that were named, the one that always came up, and the one that everyone seems to want to participate in was a Mature Love. Of course that lead to listening to different opinions of what mature love is and somewhere mixed up in all those answers was an answer.
But people are not always mature all of the time, and what happens when both people in a Love relationship are not being mature at the same time? Someone gets hurt goes into attack and defend mode, the other knowingly or unknowingly keeps pushing sensitive buttons. Sometimes it spills over onto friends and family and things really get messy.
On the way to being in a great Love relationship maturity levels can rise and fall and without a good support system we abandon the reality of true mature love just to start the journey over again. So the question becomes how does one manage the challenges that appear on a Love journey? I turned to professionals for some answers and the first was mediator Bathabile K. S. Mthombeni, J.D. She has been a mediator for 7 years and specializes in helping her clients to sort out messy, tangled relationships. Her unique multi-partial approach enables her clients to experience clarity, progress, and closure. She is dedicated to her clients’ wellbeing, and guides them through a process that can empower them to see the problem as the answer.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process that allows people who are in conflict to talk through the issues, be heard, understand the differences between positions, needs, and interests and also separate intent from impact. I focus on my clients’ needs and their interests so that they can create solutions for all of the people involved.
Mediation is driven by people having disagreements about whatever, like putting the toothpaste cap back on, or putting the toilet seat down, hanging the toilet paper from the outside as opposed to the inside, and there are more serious disagreements such as or whether or not your mother comes to live with you.
I don’t know if we chuckled about the notion that these could be serious problems or because we happen to know that these are serious issues in some relationships. But as Bathabile states "arguments about “little stuff” can be huge flags warning about bigger stuff".
In Mediation how do you guide the participants to a resolution?
When people have arguments they tend to state positions and one way to understand positions is to think of them as demands. When a person in an argument states a demand and states it forcefully it puts the other person on the defensive. Now the interaction is not about negotiating a solution, it is a disagreement/argument over who’s wrong and who’s right. To circumvent that you ask: why is this position so important to you and what need will it serve? The answer to the question Why? is very crucial to someone finding the mental space to be able to let go of the anger and focus on addressing their needs and their interests.
Sometimes the problem is just a feeling for revenge, so what do we do with that?
A reality test for the person often works; so the question becomes, will getting revenge solve the underlying problem? Will it get you what you need? And some people will say yes but as a mediator it is not my role to talk them out of it, it is my role to help them think through the potential outcomes.
Is Mediation the same as seeing a therapist?
Mediation is not therapy but it can be a therapeutic experience. In mediation people often discover that it isn’t the thing they’re arguing over that is so important, what they really are seeking is recognition and acknowledgement. Hearing that a person recognizes the part they played in the conflict and also acknowledges the impact on you is important.
For instance in situations where people are fighting over a material object, the emotion that is attached to that object and to winning the argument over the object is actually transferred from the emotion they feel about having been hurt.
We live in a culture where we are encouraged to suppress that kind thing. We can show anger but dare not cry or show sadness that you feel hurt about being mistreated. In mediation I encourage my clients to talk about the impact a situation has had on them and often they find that when the “offending” person acknowledges the hurt, the injured party feels so much better that they really aren’t so invested in the object anymore.
There’s a chance for them to feel a certain catharsis having had that part of themselves acknowledged, validated, and recognized. That is where the therapeutic feeling comes in. When someone is afraid to admit the part they play in a conflict it causes a conflict. Everybody wants to be heard and there’s a special thing that happens when a skilled mediator is able to listen to what that person is saying and is able to paraphrase it in a way that emphasizes the feelings that are actually important to that other person. It is no longer about right or wrong, it’s about examining what caused the hurt feeling.
Would you consider that outcome a success?
Success is an interesting concept in mediation because different mediators determine success differently. I look at success as being about a useful process. Did I do my best job to make the process as useful to the parties as possible? For me, a mediation is successful if the parties have had the best opportunity possible to sort through the issues and decide what works for them. The parties are responsible for the outcome.
I never seek to give answers but to help my clients understand that they have the answer. They are the answer. The answer is in you but it’s all tangled up in the emotions that come from misperceptions and assumptions about intent. My role is to unravel a situation that seems to be knotted up.
I help my clients to understand the differences between an assumption, a belief, and what is known. I also help them to understand what is possible, what works for them and what might end up blowing up in their faces. I teach them skills to pull all of those things apart and examine them systematically and ask, “Is this actually working for you?” And nobody is qualified to know what works for you except you.When you put everyone’s interests and needs on the table then you are able to find creative ways to resolve the issue.
What I gathered from our conversation is that a negative or positive outcome does not determine successful mediation but finding the right process to help them through the conflict. To me this conversation was not just about engaged and married couples but about friendships and family ties too. After all Love is learned within family first but if family was not your first experience of great Love, then I hope that you fearlessly seek to know Love. Make a commitment to yourself to work through challenges and experience great Love even if you are the challenge.
What is your definition of Mature Love? email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bathabile K. S. Mthombeni was born in South Africa during the Apartheid era, and, early on, she became curious about how and why people do and do not get along. Raised in sunny Southern California, Bathabile first moved to the East Coast to attend Princeton University where she majored in Sociology and graduated cum laude before returning to California to work in the health care industry. She returned to the East Coast and earned her law degree at Columbia University. She has lived in the New York area ever since.
Bathabile is a gifted speaker who has developed and presented numerous workshops, seminars and panel presentations at venues like Columbia University, Princeton University and the New York City Bar Association. She developed a class called The Fundamentals of Organizational Ombudsman Practice for Columbia University School of Continuing Education's Master of Science Program on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. She edits her company’s e-zine, the “Problem is the Answer” http://www.123untangle.com and hosts a radio show, also called “The Problem is the Answer” which airs at 5pm on Sunday afternoons on www.blogtalkradio.com/bathabile. Her book with the working title “Networking in Color” is in progress.