I was pessimistic. I told my lawyer that scheduling just one day of mediation would be a waste of time, knowing the excruciating level of detail that my narcissistic X2B likes to go into on any given topic, especially these topics. So we scheduled two days of meetings with the mediator, a few days apart.
We wanted to attempt to settle the financial and custody parts of my divorce so that we could avoid going to court. My lawyer told me at a high-level how the day would go. But my X2B is difficult to negotiate with, has unmanaged emotions, and he often sabotages discussions at the very end, after hours and hours of work. It’s typically “his way or the highway.” So I could not imagine what mediation would actually look like for me.
As a Christian woman, I wanted to apply my beliefs. My beliefs that I should fair, respectful, honest, and try to honor God through a difficult day. I wanted to trust God, and believe that He would give me a peace that passes understanding. (Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”)
I read what I could on the internet about mediating with a narcissist (not much there). I talked to other friends who had gone through divorce mediation. I prepared the documents my lawyer requested. I thought about and wrote down what was really important to me and what was not so important. My lawyer and I met a few days prior to prepare.
And I prayed. I texted my friends to pray during the mediation for peace and wisdom. Then the day came.
MEDIATION – DAY ONE:
My lawyer and I met at the mediator’s office. We both brought our computers and lots of files. These documents included a list of all the assets we had, including bank accounts, cars, home, retirement funds, stocks, etc. For our debts, I had a list of credit card balances, our mortgage monthly payment and balance, business loans, and private loans from family. If you have other debt, like student loans or car loans, list it here. In addition to listing this on a spreadsheet, I also brought statements showing balances in these accounts. I spent a lot of time collecting all this information for my lawyer ahead of time, and I brought copies of everything to mediation. This is the time to be super-organized. (See Mediation with a Narcissist-II with more information on what I did to prepare before mediation.)
I also brought things to help me be comfortable, like drinks or food that I liked, as well as comfortable shoes. I brought something to read. I dressed professionally but comfortably in pants and a smart top. I didn’t wear a lot of jewelry.
We started the morning by meeting all together with the mediator and my X2B and his lawyer in a conference room. (It would be the only time I saw my X2B all day.) The mediator talked about the process for the day, and encouraged us to work together and stay out of court. I was relieved when the joint meeting was over and we all retreated back to our separate conference rooms.
I walked through my conference room and living area and prayed over the room. I really did have a peace that passed understanding. I also had low expectations that the day would bring resolution. As I write in my post on Negotiating with a Narcissist, they don’t really negotiate, they win. As a lawyer friend bluntly told me prior to the mediation day, “There is NO WAY he will come to an agreement at mediation. He’s just incapable.” Can’t get much lower expectations that that….
I was glad that I had spend time prior to mediation organizing my documents and files. I was able to show the mediator several bank statements that contradicted what my X2B claimed. I had my accountant on notice and was able to contact him to get additional information needed. The logistics went well. I knew what was important to me, and as we sent proposals back and forth between rooms, I stuck to what was important to me.
During mediation, there is a lot of activity when you are reviewing the other side’s proposal and working on a counter-proposal. Then there is a lot of waiting while the other side works on their response. During the waiting period, I always got a drink of water or tea, went to the restroom, and prayed. It was a time to regroup and calm down.
Throughout the day, the mediator encouraged both of us “Don’t react. Respond.” Respond to the proposals with a “Yes” or “No” or “Maybe”, but don’t waste time and energy getting offended or angry at the proposal from the other side. Great advice that helped me settle myself down instead of reacting to what I felt were artificial negotiating positions and selfish proposals coming from the other room.
When we finished Day One, we were still very far apart on the issues. After an entire day of going back and forth, and back and forth some more, we finished the day with absolutely no agreements. But my expectations were low, so I wasn’t disappointed or surprised. I knew that negotiating with a narcissist would be difficult because they are out to win at all costs and low on empathy when it comes to children and custody issues.
MEDIATION – DAY TWO:
I have to admit, as I walked into Day Two of mediation, my hopes were up. I had a false hope that my X2B would be reasonable, want to save money, and come to an agreement. But instead of being reasonable, my X2B began texting me and emailing me how offensive my earlier proposals had been. I showed the mediator and she encouraged me to ignore the emails and texts. It was totally inappropriate and just his way of trying to gain an advantage by criticizing and shaming me.
I continued to pray throughout the day and had friends praying. I tried hard not to be outraged over my X2B’s lack of movement and lack of empathy for what was best for the kids. It felt like the game “whack-a-mole”: every time I said ‘no’ to one of his custody ideas, he countered with several more equally unacceptable ideas. The mediator actually made a joke that there was “no lack of complicated custody proposals coming from the other room.”
The day seemed to fly by and all of a sudden it was 4 pm. The mediator had done her best to get us close. But we were still apart on both custody and property. The mediator sat down with me and my lawyer and helped me craft a final offer. I gave more than I wanted to give, and complained about that to the mediator, but the mediator encouraged me that it was better than drawing this out another 6 months waiting for court. I agreed, and gave the best offer I could give. In retrospect, I believe I gave too much due to my fears. Fear of man. Fear of court. Fear of my X2B telling people that I was unfair and worse. Now that I look back, now that I’m healing and stronger, I probably would have not made the offers and concessions I made.
However, I gave an offer that day. I hoped. I prayed. But at the end of the second day of mediation, when we thought we might actually reach a settlement, my X2B refused to sign the agreement. He said he needed time to think about everything again, and he would be in touch in a couple of weeks through his lawyer. Of course. Just as my friend predicted, my narcissistic X2B was incapable of coming to agreement in this mediation process.
I WAS disappointed but not surprised. I was tired after the full day. I went home, expressing my gratitude to God for whatever I could think of to be grateful for: dear friends, a good lawyer, a reasonable mediator, a beautiful day, sunshine, kids waiting for me when I got home. Smiles. Kisses. Love. Serenity. A broken heart that was looking to God for answers instead of depending on myself. A new heart in Christ. A new day. Hope for my future.
For more thoughts and musings on this topic, see the follow-up post: Mediation with a Narcissist-II.
Love and blessings,