It’s estimated that as many as 90 percent of all conflicts result from misunderstandings. Irrespective on the actual percentage, a great deal of conflict does stem from misunderstandings. As such, I’m going to assume that communication issues contributed in good part to the breakdown of your marital or romantic relationship, assuming the two of you were ever involved in such a relationship with each other.

 

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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “Misunderstanding is a failure to understand, or an argument resulting from the failure of two people or two sides to understand each other.” Meanwhile, unless the level of conflict (hurt feelings) from a misunderstanding is such that it can be swept under the proverbial rug, it tends to fester if left unaddressed. Tragically, the discomfort associated with conflict is such that it is often left to fester. In his book, What Predicts Divorce? The Relationship Between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes, world-renowned relationship expert John Gottman found that, “the single biggest determinant [as to whether or not wedded couples will divorce] is the ratio of positive to negative comments the partners make to one another. He found that the optimal ratio was five positive comments to every negative one. For those who ended up divorced, the ratio was something like three positive comments for every four negative ones.”

 

Since poor communication most certainly led to the breakdown of your marriage or romantic relationship with each other, at this point there’s even less incentive for the two of you to communicate well with each other. Both of you made choices that that led to your child’s birth. Your child, on the other hand, didn’t make any such choices. When parents are no longer married or romantically involved with each other, to the extent they ever were, they tend to think in terms of their parental rights. What about their parental responsibilities?

 

Almost all parents claim that their children mean more to them than anything else in the world. Yet, inadvertently, many of those same parents cause their children trauma. High levels of parental conflict can cause childhood trauma. In marriage or divorce, it is the chronic and/or toxic parental conflicts that are extremely harmful to children – not the divorce or breakup itself. Do parents have a parental responsibility to not cause their children trauma? If so, regardless of their feelings toward each other, do parents have a parental responsibility to do everything possible to improve the manner in which the communicate with one another, assuming that’s been a source of conflict?

 

In her book, The Reflective Parent: How to Do Less and Relate More with Your Kids, psychiatrist; therapist; and founder and co-director of Center for Reflective Communities Regina Pally said the following: “Whenever a person performs an action, there is always a reason why. There is always some intention or purpose underlying the action. As important as it is to know what action a person is doing, it is even more important to know the intention or purpose of that action…Think about how you feel when your own intentions are misinterpreted…

 

All your relationships will be smoother if you can see the other person’s perspective as well as your own… Too many happy and loving marriages and other parenting partnerships end up having so much extra conflict because each partner gets bogged down in thinking their own perspective is the right one or the best one. Parents don’t have to see eye to eye on everything, but they do have to see where the other person is coming from and to respect and value their viewpoint. Generally, parent couples are better able to compromise and find agreement if each parent feels understood by the other parent…

 

Reflective parenting is designed to help parents resist the urge to be convinced that they are absolutely right about their perspective by helping them to reframe their observations and remain open-minded to other possibilities…” Since your child’s existence is the result of choices you’ve made, do you owe it to your child to try your best to practice reflective parenting? If the trauma you may otherwise cause your child isn’t incentive enough, how about the fact that children benefit when coParents resolve conflict and model mature problem-solving? As Dr. Pally says, “Children learn more from imitating the social and nonsocial behaviors of others than they do from instruction and being told what to do. Your child will observe you and copy almost everything you do, both your social and nonsocial behaviors.  As much as possible, behave the way you want your child to behave.”

 

Healthy conflict is inevitable and, when handled skillfully, is growth-producing for kids. Children need parents who are bigger than their problems. The end goal is to be better parents to your children and manage conflict constructively. Not surprisingly, fighting against each other isn’t going to help to improve your ability to coParent with each other. In fact, it tends to exacerbate the conflict level, worsen communication, and make coParenting much more difficult. The good news is that well-trained and experienced mediators should have the knowledge and skills to help open and improve the lines of communication and foster understanding. That is just one relevant, unique value added that mediators with the right expertise can provide.

 

Might I suggest you find yourselves a well-trained and experienced facilitative mediator?

 

 

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About Mark Baer

Mark BaerMark Baer is a lawyer, mediator and conflict resolution consultant. He has decades of experience in family law and has crafted a reputation within the industry for his psychologically-minded and child-centered approach.

Mark is also a well-known writer and columnist for a number of publications on the interplay between psychology and conflict resolution within the field of family law, as well as familial and interpersonal relationships in general. He has had a regular “Psychology and Family Law” column in the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association’s award-winning bimonthly newsletter since 2008. A member of Psychology Today’s expert community, Mark also has a blog column titled “Empathy and Relationships: Fostering Genuine Open-Mindedness.” He is also a HuffPost Blogger and a number of those blog articles have been referenced in books, law review articles, by evidence-based public policy think tanks, and elsewhere. Mark has written extensively for a number of other publications, as well. His material has been used and shared by law school professors, and by some of the highest ranked dispute resolution organizations in the country, such as the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law and the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program at Harvard Law School.

He has also presented on several occasions at the California Psychological Association Convention, the American Bar Association Section of Family Law CLE Conference, and the Southern California Mediation Association Conference, among other such organizations.