Happy Valentines

Is there any way of ensuring you never need the service of a mediator? Whilst there can’t be any guarantees, there are some pretty good tips for making your relationship resilient.

The first is to talk to each other about some pretty basic things before you marry or start living together. It’s quite stunning to me that it never seems to have crossed some people’s minds before they make life time commitments to bottom out whether they both want to have children, whether they will have a joint account, what their respective attitudes to money are, how much involvement they each want or don’t with extended family and a whole host of other fundamental issues. Living with another human being day in day out is a challenge in itself. Couples should give themselves a chance by making sure that they agree about the basics or at least work out what might be an acceptable compromise.

Then there is the way in which you each approach disagreements. There are multiple variations but I guess two broad personality types. On the one hand we have the Vesuvius who explodes, is very up front about what they feel about things but who quickly subsides and resumes normal service. On the other we have the person who bottles it all up and finds it very hard to open up about what is bothering him or her but who probably broods about it endlessly. Put extreme versions of those two types together and it can be a recipe for disaster unless the recognise the problem caused by their two very different styles. The exploder can end up eternally frustrated and increasingly explosive. The quiet one is often driven deep into their shell scared by the explosions. These two need at least to recognise that they behave in fundamentally different ways and that it’s not personal. Even better they will talk about it and negotiate a way to be together.

Perhaps one of the most surprising issues is an inability to talk about sexual problems. We are all supposed to have shed our inhibitions in the 1960’s. Most people assume that all other couples are having a riotous and fulfilling time. What I know from what I have heard in my many years as a divorce lawyer and mediator is that we are probably just as bad at talking about problems with our intimate relationships as we always were. However an ability to talk about what is usually the bedrock of a committed relationship is fundamental.

There are so many dissonances. I lost count years ago of the number of people devastated that a soul mate has said they’ve had enough and are leaving. That immediately begs the question of whether those two souls ever were twinned when one of them fails entirely to notice how unhappy the other patently is.

So do sort out how you both feel about the basics. Do recognise your differences and address how you will handle them. Above all never stop communicating.


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