Michael Goodwin, a syndicated columnist, once wrote a piece in which he accused President Obama of getting the teaching of President Teddy Roosevelt backwards. He accused him of being soft on dictators and international critics and having a “Big Stick” when it comes to domestic politics. Do bankers, for example, truly deserve more hostility than the world’s most prominent villains? But this is the impression that President Obama sometimes creates. This article was written 3 years ago but recent events in Egypt and Syria bring this back to our collective minds.
The valuable point of Mr. Goodwin’s piece is that we need to truly identify the real enemies we face before we enter into a negotiation. When a couple with children undergo divorce, they will be co-parents for the rest of their life. Is the ex-spouse really to be treated like the enemy? This seems to be the inevitable outcome of litigation that has the “scorched earth” principle behind it. Even where children are not involved, isn’t it better to “speak softly” than to be shrill and accusatory? It is possible to be a vigilant guardian of our rights and yet be civil and even approachable. The method that actually makes this combination of behaviors a possibility is known as Divorce Mediation. If you can get to Win-Win by civility, you truly do not need to adopt the posture of the heavyweight champion stalking your prey. It is indeed possible to win by “speaking softly”.
A breakup of a marriage is a heartbreak. Is it necessary to find a culprit and punish him or her? What happens to children when unbridled enmity takes over? What happens to children when a Get becomes a pawn in negotiations? What happens to individual standards of propriety when the battle of “who is to blame” spills over to months and, sometimes, years of confrontation? It is helpful to read the findings of Judith Wallerstein about children and divorce. The child you save, in seeking a civil divorce format, may truly be your own. Indeed, speak softly and carry no stick, if you are so capable. It may change the rest of your life.