The Unexpected Path to Peaceful Divorce: Participation MedalsJul 06, 2020
Have you ever questioned the childhood sports competitions in which participation guarantees the child will receive a medal? Not because they won or placed in the top three. Because they participated in the competition, full stop.
If you’re like me, you have judged this practice. Believed giving every child a medal makes the children less able to cope in the adult world. Believed that this approach means the children will be less able to handle disappointments as adults. Believed it makes them weak. Because they never experienced true losing in sporting competitions.
I have been wrong about participation medals. Instead of making children weak, participation medals make these children better prepared to resolve conflict effectively and collaboratively as adults. Such as the conflict that is part of divorce.
As I work with more couples in their 20s and 30s who are divorcing, I see a pattern emerging. I am observing people who are collaborative. People who believe everyone in a family can win through divorce. People who are less concerned with strictly following legal rules and expectations. They want to improve their relationship for the sake of their children. It is as if they want everyone in their family to receive a medal.
These are not people who are divorcing because they profess to hate each other. They are doing so because they are tired of the tension and conflict in their homes. They may still love each other but they recognize that living together is poison for them and for their children.
These are people who know their own worth. They exist. They participate. Thus, they are worthy. Participation medals foster a sense of worth. Winning does not build self esteem and feelings of worth. Participation does. Nothing more is required.
They don’t want to settle in a relationship. They do not believe a relationship gives them worth. They know they deserve more. These are people who want to model self care for their children. They know that finances and property are not the most important matters in their marriage. Their children are.
These people are going to transform separation and divorce. They know it matters not if their spouse is a narcissist. They know it is foolish to spend most of their savings on lawyers. They would rather be able to spend Christmas together. Perhaps even travelling together as a family.
Those participation medals they received as children are paying off, for them and for their children. These medals can be the basis for approaching conflict, creating a peaceful path in which everyone is acknowledged and validated. They can be used to ensure that everyone in divorce wins.
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