My Spouse or My Kids?

My Kids or My Spouse?

You married for love. You married forever. But you never expected your marriage would involve having to choose between your new spouse an...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oh, the foolishness of man

A story in the August 25 Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper tells that a Vancouver couple, married for 42 years, spent over $1,000,000 on their divorce. Good Grief! This couple "fought vigorously over almost every item that was part of their lengthy marriage: an inheritance that the wife believed was a personal, not a family, asset; expensive items such as works of art, jewellery and gold coins; and minor assets such as airline points."
They have three children.

How sad. Almost every aspect of this case could have been dealt with more reasonably, more sanely through mediation. Division of property is usually the easiest to mediate, as it deals strictly with numbers and opinions. And, although this was apparently a very wealthy family, money is rarely the motivating factor in a divorce. It's a matter of the heart.


Our court systems (including Canada's) were not designed for domestic matters. They were set up, and work fairly well, for criminal or civic cases, such as one company suing another over a matter of contract. But divorce and family matters following divorce are essentially matters of the heart.

The couple may not love each other. They may hate each other, but these are still matters of emotion. Especially in cases where there are children in the family. Families begin in love and often end at the opposite pole, at hate. And, while the loving beginning should be a public affair, including at least friends and family as witnesses, the end is most effectively managed privately.

Privacy is a keystone of mediation. Not only do the mediation sessions take place in secret, between only the two separating spouses and the mediator, but all records of the discussions are private. In fact, they are protected from public record by law. As a licensed mediator, I am restrained by law from letting anyone know who is meeting, much less what they discuss. I cannot even be subpoenaed by a court to reveal what is discussed. And I make it a firm practice to destroy all mediation notes in front of both clients at our final session.

This Vancouver couple opened their bank accounts, business dealings, their closets, attics, and basements, and their hearts for all the world to examine. Every dirty secret, every private moment, every broken promise and crushed hope became public fodder. Mediation would have protected them and their whole family from this humiliation.


The story tells of the wife in this case that, "Despite her success, [she] felt the results at trial were disastrous for her and the appeal court ruling scarcely any better. She also was not pleased with the high cost of her divorce."

And that's pretty typical for litigation (lawyer-based court cases). National statistics show that around 85 percent of domestic litigants feel like they lost. Wait. Shouldn't that be 50 percent felt they lost and 50 percent felt they won? But it's not that way. Litigation drags the disputants through so much negativity and so much anger and hurt that they almost all feel it was a loss for them.

Mediation clients state almost the exact opposite feelings. Nearly 85 percent state they feel they won their cases through mediation. This is because - whether the couple is sorting through a full divorce, some part of their divorce, or the many conflicts that come up in the years following the divorce (child support, visitation, medical expenses, etc) - whatever the conflict, the solution is created by the couple. That means, when the dust settles, both members know exactly what they agreed to and they created the settlement.


So, what have we learned at the (very high) expense of this poor couple from Canada?
  1. divorce is a painful, expensive process, best avoided if at all possible
  2. litigating your divorce (dragging it through courts) is damaging all around
  3. litigation leads to disappointment, even when you "win"
  4. mediation saves money, time, and dignity
  5. whether before, during, or after divorce, mediation keeps the couple in charge
  6. mediation is better for families than court-based litigation
If you have questions about how mediation can help to improve or preserve your relationships, or how you can use mediation to settle a family conflict, or any other questions about mediation, please feel free to visit my private site or email me directly.

Bob Collins, Pontifex Familia

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who Am I Casting Crowns

Enjoy! This is a group wearing all black clothing and white gloves, in front of a blacklight. The performance was done by the youth of Oslo UPC Norway from United Pentecostal Church.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Teach Kids Decency & Self-esteem

Summer time and the livin' is sleazy. Sitting at my office-away-from-the-office, Panera Bread, I am reminded again that it is summer in the South by the outfits worn by far too many, far too young women.

Good grief! Didn't these girls' moms or dads look at them before they left the house?!! Yes, it's hot (107 yesterday), but stripping down to your underwear is not the way to keep cool, girls! In fact, most accepted advice on keeping cool suggests wearing light colored, loose fitting clothing that covers your skin to protect from the sun's rays and direct heat. So don't tell me your daughter has to strip to stay cool. She's trying to be hot!

Before you start firing off replies about half-naked guys ... yes, I see guys immodestly dressed, too, and I'm against their lack of decorum too. But the guys I see lean more toward ugly ripped, hanging off their rears, torn and worn styles that actually cover quite a bit of their bodies, when their shorts aren't falling down around their knees!

The game the girls play seems to be: "look at me! look at my body! look at the sexy words on my butt! What? why I didn't even notice I was naked." Come on Dad. Come on Mom. Do you really not care so much that you don't mind your baby girl flaunting her body like a ... well, like a not so nice girl? Most cities have laws against prostitutes dressing too provocatively to solicit business. What if they applied those same guidelines to what your daughter wore to the mall yesterday? Would they be calling you to pick her up?

"B-b-but ... but ... but everyone's doing it!" they cry. (Please don't say that yourself.) Yes, it is a cultural anti-fashion thing. But - must I say it? - if all their friends decided it was cool to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would your teen strip down to her undies, parade through Walmart, and jump off, too? Just because other parents don't care enough to teach their children decency doesn't mean you can't teach yours how to look nice.


Which beings us to the crux of the problem: what are you teaching your daughters and stepdaughters? We have an epidemic of suicide and drug usage and casual sex among our children. Much of this is because of lack of esteem and a general malaise brought on by a disconnect between you and them. Kids, regardless of what they may mutter behind your back, really want your attention. They have craved your approval since you gushed over their saying "Mama" or "Dada" the first time, and your excitement over their first steps. Your children desire (yes, desire) your love and affection. In fact, some social scientists say they literally need your approval to properly develop into healthy adults.

Think about a young girl, say only 14 or 15 years old, who makes a choice to wear some of those ultra short shorts with a team name or some other lettering stretched tight across her bottom. What is going through her mind when she picks that outfit to go out in public? "She's just dressing like her friends do, is all," right? Sorry, that kneejerk response doesn't hold up. Her decisions about who to emulate are developed long before she meets those girls the first time.

You are her model. You are her ideal. You are the one who sets her standards.

Yes, she may fuss if you insist on decent, clean clothes in public. And yes, she may tell you you're ruining her social life by making her cover her body when she's around boys. But most teenage girls I've talked to after they became young women have confessed that they understood Mom's or Dad's insistence on decency. And, although they felt compelled to object, they were relieved to have an actual bona fide excuse to say no to their friends. "My Dad is insane. He doesn't understand fashion. But if I want to keep my cell phone, I have to do what he says." Bummer.

What does that teach them? First that you care enough to notice what they're wearing. You're not so absorbed by work and your own concerns to take a moment to really see her. Second, it tells them there is some order in their world. It can be scary out there for a teen. Knowing that Mom is still keeping a watchful eye can be comforting. Knowing that Dad is still holding her hand, so to speak, may be the encouragement she needs to avoid drugs or alcohol or the back seat of a boy's car.

And it also teaches them some self-respect.
"If you can keep your clothes on, when all about you are losing theirs ..." to plagiarize Kipling, she will be more of a woman within herself. Help her understand that she doesn't have to dress exactly like Brittney or Paris to be well thought of. In fact, boys appreciate girls who stand out in a crowd by looking better than others. They may ogle the naked chicks, but they'll more seriously consider a relationship with a mature, decent girl. Help her see the value of thinking for herself.

We are in danger of losing a generation to slovenliness. Sloppy dress habits equal sloppy morals. Just ask that teen boy drooling over your baby's barely covered bottom. He's thinking how much he'd like to get some o' dat. And how ready she much be to let him. "Clothes make the man." Well clothes make the woman, too. Think, Mom, how you feel the first time you wear a new outfit that you know looks great. You feel more beautiful, more together, more alive. Help your little girl learn that feeling.

Girls who dress like a _____ (pick your adjective) tend to more easily act like one, too. It's easier to fall into unwise behavior if those around you are expecting it. It's easier for others around you to think poorly of you if you're dressed to indicate your attitude toward casual sex.


What really appalls me is when I see a mother and daughter (or stepmom and stepdaughter) both dressed scantily. Sometimes the mom is even more trashy looking than the young lady with her. Believe me ladies, no one is impressed. At least no one you want to impress. The only men who appreciate seeing that spectacle are the type guys you don't want to notice your little girl. And none of the women are impressed. None.

And what have those moms done? They have not only allowed, but encouraged their daughters to look trashy. How much do you want your baby to get a lousy reputation? Remember, how your daughters look reflects on you directly. Bad raising shows.

I don't know if those moms are afraid of appearing to be adults (horrors!), or if they have self-esteem issues themselves, but guiding your teen and pre-teen daughters to look like that is tantamount to child abuse. You're contributing to the delinquency of a minor, at the very least.

Kids have so many challenges these days. Especially stepkids. Please do them a favor and teach them how to be self-respecting. Teach them how to look and think like decent young adults. Teach them to care about themselves. You and your grandchildren will be glad you did.

For a good article on this topic, and a world view of the issue, follow this link to The Weekly telegraph online.

Show your STEPfamily Pride!