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Peace Talks Radio Guest Special Correspondent Sasha Aslanian reports on the divorce and aftermath of Peace Talks Radio co-founders, and former spouses, Paul Ingles and Suzanne Kryder
Sasha Aslanian: Paul Ingles and Suzanne Kryder divorced in 2004 after a 20-year relationship. They were married for 13 years. I interviewed them separately and together. I wanted to hear the story in their own words, and see their dynamic together. They’re relaxed in each other’s company. The first thing you notice when they talk about each other, is how much they still like each other:
Suzanne: I feel amazingly grateful to have lived with Paul for 18 years. Paul is the kindest person I’ve ever met.
Paul: We liked hanging out with each other. We made each other laugh a lot—and still do. You know, I mean, I did a Skype call with her just the other day and we were joking about there had been an earthquake in DC and she was sitting at the chair and she made like the earth was opening up beneath her and she just sort of slipped from the screen with her hand like grasping up at the camera. She’s just funny.
Sasha: Paul and Suzanne said what had worked about their marriage, was that at its core was that they were friends. And they pushed hard to communicate honestly, even when it was difficult. One tool they learned at a couples’ retreat even before they were married was something known by the acronym “GRAF”:
Suzanne: G was each person expresses something they’re grateful for. R was each person makes a request. A I think was acknowledge: “Gee, you’re having a hard day, or you’re not having any time to do anything fun.” and F I think was feeling. I’m feeling blank. You could start with one of the four and maybe each person would do a back and forth and it would only take 2 minutes or 5 minutes, or it might start with one and take two hours to just discuss one thing. That tool got us through a really rocky time.
Paul: Suzanne was the architect in terms of saying, “I’d like the relationship to be better, let’s do something about it.”
Sasha: One of the things Paul remembers that Suzanne called him on was he didn’t want to try her ideas. She wanted to go on a local television dance show, something Paul didn’t feel comfortable doing. But the disagreement spawned a novel solution: Fun night. Every other Wednesday night, they’d take turns surprising each other with something fun to do, that the other couldn’t veto:
Paul: It created this sort of adventurous mystery night really because often one or the other of wouldn’t reveal until the very last moment where we were going or what we were doing. I took her to a batting cage one time. I think a lot of times for me I was trying to think what did I used to do as a kid that I really liked?
Suzanne: He had all these elaborate ones like when it was the end of Seinfeld, there was an article about Seinfeld that had all the photographs of the main characters. He cut out their pictures and put them on little sticks so they were like little puppets almost and then we had to write our own ending to the Seinfeld series because—yeah—we hated the ending to the show. So it was just super-super creative.
Sasha: Paul and Suzanne’s fun night is a bit ironic because novelty-seeking together is one of the tips for keeping a strong connection between partners. But connection might have been something of Paul and Suzanne’s downfall too. They were each other’s world: self-described introverts who were each other’s best friends. They had built a house outside Albuquerque. It was a refuge…at first.
Paul: Essentially what we created was this sort of boat out in the ocean in this house that we had committed to building together and it was sort of the dream house, but then we were sort of out there on our own and the relationship was all there was and I think that’s kind of a dangerous place to be.
Sasha: Suzanne experienced moments --on meditation retreats and at her high school reunions-- that made her reflect on her life. But then an event happened that changed everything. Her mother called to tell her she had a terminal cancer diagnosis:
Suzanne: I thought, gee, what do I say to that? I’m going to talk to her like I would to her like I would talk to a friend. I just said “how do you feel about that?” She said, “I have no regrets about my life. I’ve gotten to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do.” Then the conversation was all about me because I realized I couldn’t say that.
Paul: I think that set Suzanne sort of looking at her own mortality and looking around and wondering if this was the future that she really wanted and if she was going to blossom enough as a human being in this marriage.
Suzanne: Not that I wasn’t married to a wonderful man, but that I hadn’t lived the dreams that I wanted to live in terms of what I wanted in my own life not what I wanted in my marriage.
Sasha: One of Suzanne’s main dreams, was to pursue Buddhism. For 15 years, she'd been going on meditation retreats, staying for weeks and even months at a time. But she realized she wanted to go even deeper into monastery life. She wanted to ordain as a Buddhist nun.
Suzanne: It was one of the main reasons I wanted a divorce.
Sasha: Suzanne had told Paul she wasn’t happy, and she wasn’t going to fix their marriage. He suggested seeing a marriage counselor together, but weeks later still hadn’t lined one up. Suzanne decided to move ahead with her solo voyage:
Suzanne: I remember I was really nervous and I had known for a couple of weeks I was going to tell him and I was feeling upset I hadn’t told him yet.
Paul: She just sat down and said, you know, “I want a divorce. It’s not about you, it’s just really what I need to do.”
Suzanne: And what I recall is when I said it, the first thing he said was something like, “I’ve been waiting for you to say this to me since the day we met.”
Paul: The room just sort of froze, you know, it’s one of those moments that’s like people describe things moving into slow motion.
Suzanne: He never tried to stop me. He said, “I would never ask you to stay if you’re unhappy.”
Paul: If you love someone, set them free.
Sasha: They describe a lot of tears flowing in the days and weeks that followed. Sorrow more than anger seems to have been the prevailing sentiment. Their coming apart involved lots of honest conversation about the hurt and pain, and very little drama. The check-in strategy that Suzanne said got them through rocky times earlier helped them again in the months before the divorce was official. They do admit to one flare up. There was confusion on just how fast Paul might begin dating again. Suzanne insisted he wait until the divorce was final. She admits being a bit taken aback by how easily he seemed to move on. They didn’t get lawyers involved. They split the sale of the house down the middle and divided their possessions:
Suzanne: I think the hardest thing to do was to split up the stuff in the kitchen…And the toughest one was we had this old, old stainless steel pot that my dad had used to make popcorn from when I was a little kid and I inherited that from my parents. And Paul would always make popcorn in it so it was really lovely and I remember just holding it and thinking, “If I tell my siblings that I gave this popcorn pot to Paul, they are going to kill me! But I just couldn’t keep it so he got the popcorn pot. There was just like absolutely no acrimony. If anything it was like “you take this. No YOU, take this.”
Paul: But yeah, we did cooperate on you know, trying to find apartments for each other. I can remember riding around looking at places and trying to imagine where stuff was going to fit.
Suzanne: and the first week in those apartments, we had dinner every night that week together and then I think we went down to every other night. So it was literally this very sweet sort of painful letting go.
Paul: You know, we still like hung out together. We still went to ballgames together. It was sort of like, “Well, we still like doing these things and we don’t want to do them with anybody else—yet.”
Sasha: At one of those ballgames, Paul even remembered Suzanne turned to him and said “If this divorce thing doesn’t work out in 5-6 years, can we sort of revisit this?” Paul and Suzanne worked over several months to recast the inner world of their marriage into something new: a warm friendship between two people who’ve known each other 20 years:
Paul: There’s all that shared history, those family stories and your shared experience with those people you can’t really just erase, nor do you really want to.....Life’s hard. Why should we run away from things that could make it just a little bit easier? and I think if we’re a little bit unconventional in our thinking and what other people might expect or going against the grain a little bit, we might welcome something in that really helps us.
Sasha: Paul and Suzanne set the tone for friends and family for how to deal with divorced people who didn’t want to trash-talk each other.
Suzanne: I think that was something really great—another great thing about our divorce and I tip I would give—is to really have a lot of integrity about your privacy about your divorce which we did. When we told people we were getting divorced I would say I would really appreciate if you would respect our privacy. They want to get in, get all the details, they want to turn it into a drama.
Sasha: A few months after the divorce, Suzanne went off to Burma. She ordained temporarily there as a Buddhist nun...and turned 50.
Suzanne: I took picture of myself on my 50th birthday with this little shaved head and pink robes. I showed it to Paul when I got home and he said, “that’s the happiest picture I’ve ever seen of you” which by the way would have included all our marriage photos. And it was really true. I was just ecstatic. I think. I really think that’s a lot about what middle age is about. It’s about asking the questions of our life and then doing whatever we can to answer them. The answers might not be what we think they’re going to be. Mine certainly wasn’t. But wow. Just to be able to not to have to keep saying, I can’t do that because I’m married or I can’t travel because I’m married or I can’t fill-in-the-blank because I’m married.
Sasha: Ultimately Suzanne discovered the monastic lifestyle wasn’t for her. But she kept traveling, checking things off her life to do list: The divorce “honeymoon,” if you’ll permit me to call it that, didn’t last. Suzanne was uneasy. She realized that if she really was going to work on herself as an individual, she needed to separate more from Paul and not decide in advance where their relationship would come to rest.. In their second year of divorce, she asked for six months with no communication.
Paul: And that actually really hit me harder maybe even than the request for divorce. I can remember just feeling completely cut adrift then, because to me, that sounded like the friendship was going to end. When she asked for the divorce she said, “Paul, I want to be friends forever, but I don’t want to be married anymore.” And the “friends forever” meant a lot to me.” She ended that planned 6 months about 5 months, sent me an email, we sort of picked up the friendship again, and restructured it, and have been sort of shaping it as we go. I mean there have been moments when I think that each of us would sort of ask the question, well, how much is too much, how often should we be talking?
Sasha: Paul and Suzanne view their divorce not as the breakdown of a marriage, but as the end of a good marriage. Neither wants the old marriage back. Both entered the middle-aged, online dating scene. Paul discovered the tremendous awkwardness people feel trying never to mention their former partners again.
Paul : when I would date someone else who had an ex or former spouse, they would use that world a lot, they kept using that word a lot, my “ex” at some point I said, “what’s his name?” Couple times they said, “yes, thank you, his name is such and such” they sort of actually felt relieved, didn’t have to use this code, right? That it was a person.
Sasha: While Suzanne used stronger relationships with family and friends, world travel, and growing her business to help build her inner peace, Paul mixed dating with therapy and developed a comfort with solitude, which, he says always gives one a safe fall-back position. Today he’s in a committed relationship.
Paul: I don’t think about getting back together with Suzanne. I think about the wonder about being able to still have this really comfortable relationship with her and really appreciate that my new partner sees it as really the time in my life where I became the person that my new partner’s fallen in love with. And I think she recognizes and thanks Suzanne for helping me become a more complete person, and a better listener, and a better partner. so, you know when you sort of look at those good outcomes, wishing it hadn’t happened tends to fade away.
Sasha: Ok, So now you might be thinking, ‘only on public radio would you hear such a kum-by-yah- divorce,’ but here’s the thing, these people might not be as uncommon as you might think:
Judy Osborne: Everybody in the United States knows somebody like this that has a connection after divorce.
Sasha: Judy Osborne is a family therapist in Boston who’s says a peaceful divorce is a lot more common than you might think, although many still regard it as an oddity. She’s written a new book called “The Wisdom of Some Separated Parents.”
Osborne: “Every single person that I interviewed said people always said that to them—this is so unusual!”
Sasha: She interviewed 55 people who had been separated more than ten years. And their divorces weren’t all as smooth as Paul and Suzanne’s—at least to start with. In fact, some of their divorces had started out horribly:
Osborne: The kind of hurt, and anger, and sense of abandonment that’s often there at beginning of a separation and a divorce, it changes overtime, especially if you have children that keep you connected. And you find a way to fill that space that was filled with anger and sadness and abandonment, with a more benign space of connection between you that on depends on your relationship you’ve had for a long, long time.
Sasha: Osborne says it usually takes some time for people to get established in their new lives before the benign space can happen. Sometimes they’re brought together by life events—oftentimes around their children--and emotions have cooled enough for a friendship, or some means of understanding to become possible. Just as Paul would remind his dates it was OK to mention the names of their former spouses, Osborne is making her own push to change the way we talk about divorce:
Osborne: All of the ways we live in families now are outpacing our language, so I’m proposing using the language of untangling for separation, and rearranging for whatever you do after that. …rearranging and that untangling I think—if we can find a way to use those-- it will mean that the partners don’t have to think about ending, or erasing it, and neither will the children and rest of the family or friends.
Sasha: Osborne focused on couples with children, and Paul and Suzanne are the first to admit that not having the pressure and emotion of kids involved certainly made it easier for them to end their marriage peacefully. On the other hand, people without kids could just go their own separate ways and never see each other again, and that wasn’t something they chose to do either. A big part of that, is their shared commitment to making this radio program.
Paul: …and being very committed to its success, and its continuance. That whole year when we were breaking apart…she was still the host of monthly program and we were doing programs every month…so that was a real important piece of it that kept us communicating and cooperating to create something that we felt very strongly about.
Suzanne:… because we decided never to have kids, I felt like Peace Talks Radio was our only child. It’s this amazing thing we created together.
Paul: We accepted an award for Peace Talks recently that Suzanne couldn’t be at. So she recorded her comments and we played them back and after I heard them and had to speak again, I broke up. And some of the people in the audience knew us, and I imagined if you took a poll, most would say, he’s not over her, sounds like they should be together. It’s ok for them to think that. I knew that when I got emotional, that it wasn’t about that longing to be married to Suzanne again, but it was about what we’re trying to do now, and being emotionally connected to value of that for the world, really. But I don’t think people understand that very well.
Sasha: Well maybe now, a few more people do. For Peace Talks Radio, I’m Sasha Aslanian
Peace Talks Radio Host Paul Ingles talks with Samuel Roll, Professor Emeritus ~ Psychology, University of New Mexico
Samuel Roll: When most people enter divorce, it reminds me of the quotation in the play I Never Sang for My Father. It begins with the line “Death ends a life but it doesn’t end a relationship.” Marriage begins a life together. Divorce ends a marriage but it doesn’t end the relationship and it’s the unfinished components of the relationship that end up being the major cause of conflict. People have unfinished business. First of all it involves a relationship to each other. People are angry. They had illusions of how wonderful it was going to be. They had expectations. People feel betrayed, they feel cheated, they feel that something nasty was done to them and then also then there’s children. Now when you get a divorce you’ve pulled back some of the investment, some of the confects as the emotional investment to each other but you’re still invested with the children and two things happen. First of all you want the children. They’re your children and people will often say they’re my children. They’re my children and in addition to that they want to win and the biggest prize is the children. I won the children. People say I won the divorce. I won custody like it’s a bet that you made, like it’s a gamble like it’s the stock market. I won the lottery. I won the children. The very language of it reveals that people think of it as a contest and as one person winning and the other person losing.
Paul Ingles: Right, so this idea too and I want to talk more about children but I also want to go back to the unfinished business part. Is this something that is a bit of a surprise to them or that they hadn’t thought about?
Roll: Sure. Some people recognize it and some people see when you point it out. They say I’ll never forgive him for not traveling with me when my mother was dying of cancer. I’ll never forgive him for that. Well that’s unfinished business. He said that he would take care of me and I got sick and he didn’t take care of me. He didn’t have any respect for my career. She didn’t respect how hard I worked. All of those unfinished business and there’s still love. You know there’s that line from Edna St. Vincent Millay, she says: “Yes my earth while love, yes my once befriended. Must we say it was not love just because it ended?” The marriage ended but the relationship continues often with no way to resolve the bitterness left over because there is no context to work on the bitterness. It’s over now.
Ingles: So when you’re mediating this and you see what you’ve described, how do you therapeutically nudge people along a path towards a peaceful place?
Roll: Well in all conflict resolution and all peacemaking, people benefit when they realize that in spite of their hostility, they have a common goal or a common enemy. I think one of the things that helps couples who have children is when I point out that the research is very clear about children of divorce and it’s not that children are sometimes hurt by divorce, children are always hurt by divorce but it doesn’t mean that they’re hurt more by divorce than by a bad marriage but they’re always hurt by divorce and children recover but they only recover to the degree that two things happen; there’s frequent, predictable contact with both parents and there’s reduced hostility. One they realize that by not reducing their hostility and resolving their conflicts they will hurt what they love most in the world, their children. They sometimes then become determined to work things out. But sometimes they don’t care if they hurt the children. They are so angry, they are so angry that they’re willing to destroy what they love most in the world, to hurt what they love most in the world in order to win, in order to hit back, in order to express their bitterness.
Ingles: So how do you work on those competitive elements?
Roll: Well there are a number of things at the rational level and some things at that are unconscious. At the rational level you help them see concretely how it is that they’re hurting the children. That is a wakeup call for most people and you help them see, you help people see or you help them discover how it is that by not giving up their old anger and hurt, they are continuing to hurt and they’re tying themselves together in the shackle of animosity and hatred. It’s not as simple as telling them a story but I think the story that the Dali lama told, one of the stories he told I think contains it, he tells a story of two monks who were going to a shrine to clean it up and keep it looking nice so that the people who meditated there could be at peace and it was high in the mountains and so anytime it rained, any little creek became a river. And when they were on their way they met a woman who was sitting by a river, a creek that had become a river and she was sitting with a basket of food and she was crying and one of the monks said to her what’s the matter? She said well I crossed the river to buy food for my children for the week and then it rained. If I try to cross the river, the river may take my food and my children won’t eat this week or the river will take me and they won’t have a mother. One of the monks said to her listen, my brother is big and strong, you give him the basket and he will hold it on his head and he will cross and your children will eat. And he said I am even stronger. You will sit on my shoulder and I will carry you across and you will be safe and your children will have a mother. When they got to the other side of the expanded creek, she gave him a little token, a little money to take to the shrine in honor of their loving kindness. An hour later one monk turns to the other and says you know when we became monks we said, we vowed that we would never touch a woman, even the hem of her garment and now you had the softest, most tender part of a woman’s anatomy on your neck. And his brother said, ‘that’s true. But I put her down an hour ago and you’re still carrying her.’ Carrying old hurts repeats the hurt and it is the responsibility of the person carrying the hurt to set it down and it’s not only their responsibility it’s their vested interest to put down the old hurt or else you can die of the poison of carrying around vengeance. Nations have done it, people have done it, religions have done it. And so I think it’s not that you tell them then it happens but in your work, the delicate work of therapy, their individual therapy, couples therapy, you help them learn to do that.
And there’s another thing that every divorcing couple has to go through and I think it’s touched on when Robert Frost’s son died and he buried him. He became very depressed, despondent and thought he was going to die and he may have been despondent but he was still an author. He was still a poet. He wanted to get the credit for anything that got writing on his tombstone so he wrote his own epitaph. He said forgive oh God my many tricks on thee and I’ll forgive your great big trick on me. And the big trick that God plays on us is that we human beings are the organism made for love. Unlike kittens we don’t come into the world looking for a nipple. We come into the world looking for a face and to be held. We are the organism made for love and everything we love we lose.
Now the blessing is that within this bizarre organism called human beings that’s made for love is also built in the capacity to grieve but you have to do the grief. Every separation, as Schopenhauer said before Freud, every separation is like a death and every reunion is like a resurrection but every divorce is like a death but it’s like a death that you can’t put away in the graveyard because the foot keeps on coming out and so dealing with the illness aspects of the marriage, dealing with the investment in the children and then dealing with the grief or not dealing with the grief because if you don’t deal with the grief it becomes in bitter depression and raging anger. So if you take care of those three things, you come a long way towards being able to have a relatively more peaceful divorce and a relatively more peaceful recovery because divorce is an assault, not only on the children but on the people being divorced.
People sometimes hold onto each other by fighting. If we can’t love each other let’s fight each other and often the fighting is a way to hold on because fighting is also relating and for most people, the cleaner the break the better and especially if there are children. So if you are a divorced couple and you come over to pick up the children and you sit and have coffee and doughnuts with your ex-wife, what are the children thinking? They have a fantasy. Maybe they’re going to get back together and every time the children think you’re going to get back together and you don’t, it’s a new injury. So especially when there is children, the cleaner the break the better. If you have to be with each other, it’s better to be with each other absent the children except if you are with each other for example both go to a child’s graduation or a child’s play but children – I have worked with hundreds of children whose parents have divorced and when I say what are your big wishes the first and second big wishes are I wish my mom and dad would get back together. One little boy said I know they’d kill each other so they can’t but I still want it. So every time you flirt with children, if you don’t have children it’s not such a dangerous thing but when you have children, if you go out together, you go to movies together, you go to dinner together, the children think my God, if I’m a good boy, if I do it right, my mom and dad will be back together and I’ll have a family again and that’s not fair to the children to do that.
Ingles: What about the other side of that equation though, what’s the message to the children if the only thing that can be worked out is that they get dropped off in a public parking lot and run across to another car?
Roll: Well of course that’s horrific. That should not happen because that’s not a human relationship. The best is for the children to see that their parents have a benign, non-hostile relationship with each other and so that means – I call it the K-Mart model. You say good morning, she says good morning. You say goodbye, she says goodbye. I say you know, I broke my leg you say I’m sorry to hear that and then you leave because the children need to know that you have separated. They do not have that family and they do not need to be tempted but they do not have, they don’t have to have a say. Let me tell you how it was summarized in the research, this was from longitudinal research following now over 30 years where the parents got a divorce. There are only a number of variables that are important, not who has the horse, not who has the most money, not who goes to church more often, not who reads books with the children, these are the variables that are important on getting the children from the trauma of the divorce to recovery to pre-divorce level. The variables are: children do better to the degree that there is reduced hostility and that’s reducing the hostility to zero. It doesn’t mean moving it over the positive side. As nice as that is in fantasy that often has been more harmful to the children and more harmful to the people because the children aren’t the only ones that think maybe we’re going to get back together. In every divorced persons heart there is some hope, remember the hope that was lasting that was left in Pandora’s Box. And so the best thing for children is to reduce the hostility to zero. It doesn’t necessarily help to move it over to the other side. And the other thing children need is fixed, predictable contact with both parents. The third variable, one that you don’t have any control over is that boys recover faster from divorce than girls because girls have a harder time with every social stigma and divorce is still a social stigma. It doesn’t matter if it happens to the majority of people it’s still a social stigma. It’s a failure.
Ingles: But I’ve been divorced twice and I don’t consider it a failure either time. I consider it the end of a chapter and you know with my more recent marriage it was the end of a good marriage.
Roll: Well and that’s fine because it can be that way but you didn’t get married with the intention that this might end in divorce. You got married, you wanted it to last. So it’s a failure in the sense that you did not fulfill your initial plan in the marriage. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure, it means you got married. Everybody who opens a business wants the business to succeed. That business may come to some period where it ends. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t good to have that business but the business has now failed. Nobody opens a business saying in five years I’m going to go bankrupt. Most people who get married say I want this to last and it doesn’t. So it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure but it means that intention was not fulfilled and for children it’s seen as a failure and it’s seen as a deprivation. They think that the family is over and of course they will have a new family but before you have something new you have to mourn for the old thing that ended, right?
Ingles: Well it’s sort of spreading hairs. I liked your phrase that it’s an intention that isn’t fulfilled.
Ingles: Failure, some words just have such heaviness to them and are associated with emotional states.
Ingles: You know depression like heaviness and a number of the people that we’ve talked with in the program talk about language being important.
Ingles: Samuel, can I give you like a hypothetical in a child custody situation. Even among couples who are trying to cooperate, one is okay with video games for their boy, one is not. One is okay with one extracurricular activity, one is not. One doesn’t like the kids spending time with an in-law, a certain in-law you know, one obviously is happy with that. So what tips do you have to address things like that? How do you come to peace with? How do you either come together or if it doesn’t go your way and you are the spouse that doesn’t see it go your way, how do they come to peace with it?
Roll: Well first of all, and this is reviewing some of the stuff we talked about earlier, once the parents can be shown that children recovering from divorce didn’t depend on whether [xx] video games or not. It depends on reduced fighting. The most important thing for you to do for your child is to reduce the fight.
Ingles: So even if they feel like these are value choices?
Roll: That’s right, unless they cross some line. Unless they cross some line that somebody independent of you is saying this is really harming your child. Let me give you some examples. In one case people had to go to court because one parent was feeding the child yogurt three times a week. Well first of all I admire – who in the hell can get a child to eat yogurt once a week much less three times a week. Unless there a physician, a doctor, a pediatrician that says this kid is getting too much calcium and protein, let it go. You supplement his diet, you supplement her diet by whatever you think makes sense but fighting over the yogurt is going to do worse for your child than eating too much yogurt. People have fought over whether or not a child has to go to church. This is my favorite. Fighting for Christ, right? Hurting your kid on Christ’s behalf; you can’t take him to your church. You have to take him to my church. It matters more that the children see you angry and unchristian in your behavior no matter what your faith is.
So sometimes it will help them see that but a lot of times when you have such strong reactions, one of the things that you can help, most reasonable people do is agree to disagree and when you agree to disagree there are peacemakers in the world. If you’re a Navajo there are real peacemakers. They call them peacemakers, right. If you are a non-Navajo they would call them mediators. We call them arbitrators. So you give up some control in order that you do not fight because fighting is going to be the worst thing and so somebody will talk to you, talk to the children and then help you mediate it. If there is something that so severely interferes with your child’s health, with your child’s well being and you can’t get it mediated then last resort is you go to the court as the last resort. The courts don’t like to be involved in these things but they will if they have to and they should. They are the last resort for settling it but there are a lot of things to do before hand including consulting each other, consulting counselors, consulting mediators, finding arbitrators and the last resort going to the court.
Ingles: How do you think the court system in general serves couples who have to take that step in divorce disputes?
Roll: Well first of all they try to get people to do something else first. They try not to be in business. I have been amazed, impressed, pleased, awed by how hard domestic relation judges work so that children will not be harmed by continuing battles. [inaudible] Why? Because it’s very very very hard and it’s no glory and people are always angry at you. But so the judges who end up staying of their own free will in domestic relations and family court are the most dedicated people I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot of people. That’s what I do for a living is see people, right?
Roll: But they’re there but they have to operate under the law and they have to operate under a system and they cannot force people to get along any more than anyone else can force people to get along. One judge said she didn’t realize how impotent it made her feel to be a judge because here she was wanted to help children and all she had to do was stop the family from fighting and she couldn’t.
Ingles: And in general, you feeling is that they all work pretty hard and have the best interest of everybody at heart when they’re actually pulled into these situations.
Roll: Well they’re human beings with multiple limitations like all of us have. This also is not just the judge. In most domestic relations most divorce attorney’s, most divorce attorney’s in spite of the image of it they want to fight so they can make more money, most of them want resolution and many of the clients end up fighting with their attorney’s, not because they’re not fighting enough but they end fighting with them because the attorney wants a resolution. The attorney – how can we resolve this. So there are limitations, there are scalawags, there are people who lose their way, but by and large, as a group, attorney’s, [xx] mediators, court clinic and especially the judges are working I think remarkably well with an impossible situation. There is a saying that criminals when they go to court look their best. Divorcing couples when they go to court look their worst.
Ingles: We try to be solution based here on Peace Talks Radio, Sam Roll so even if it means repeating some of what you said, what works best to reduce conflict when couples are clashing, usually over kids years after a divorce?
Roll: This is what I think works best for some reason, I think it works best first of all you take a look at the unresolved issues between you; what sadness, what anger, what resentment, take care of that. Take care of the stuff that you’re carrying then the other ingredient is to remember that you have both a vested interest in the well being of the children, that fighting, even if you’re fighting for something good is usually going to hurt the children more than if you find some way to compromise. The other one is that we don’t like to deal with grief. We don’t like to deal with sadness but every loss implies a sadness. So if you deal with your grief, you’re less likely to act it out. And then after that if you recognize that there are resources around to help; resources for you to help you with your own grief, with your own resentment, resources to help the two of you talk better together about the children and there are resources. We can’t stop the conflict but you can help resolve the conflict. You can’t pretend there is no conflict sometimes, right? The Palestinians and Israelis cannot pretend they don’t have horrific conflicts. They both want Jerusalem. They can’t pretend they don’t but they could find some way besides destroying each other and the city they both love so much and that is to use peace makers. And by use peacemakers, some may be in the legal arena, some may be in the psychological arena and maybe within your religion, within your tribe, within your people and all of those have as their aim the reduction of the hostility between the two people and the reduction of the fighting because the more fighting you do when you get a divorce, even if the children don’t see it, the research is clear, the more hostility you have between two parents after divorce the more your children are impaired, damaged, hurt and your love for your children has to be the overriding motivation against your own injury, against your own hurt, against your own resentment and against your desire to win.