On the Home Front

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Liz Merrill

If stay-at-home orders have put a strain on your home life, you are not alone. Tensions at home brought on by enforced proximity combined with financial stress and increased anxieties due to the Covid-19 pandemic are resulting in some very distressing figures.

Since Stay at Home and Safer at Home directives went into effect, domestic abuse has risen sharply. Lack of privacy, inability to call for help from work and 24-hours-a-day contact often in cramped quarters, means that public statistics may not accurately reflect what is happening in homes across the county. Furthermore, physical distancing has also reduced access to support networks making it more difficult for victims to get help.

Even in relatively healthy marriages where physical or emotional abuse has never been an issue, in unparalleled circumstances such as we find ourselves in today, tensions can flare and push people to a breaking point. Forecasts predict a spike in the divorce rate, even as family lawyers are coping with the same decline in business that other attorneys are reporting. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that despite the demand, pandemic-related circumstances such as court closures and general financial insecurity make it difficult for clients to take action to pursue divorce at this time — and that may be a good thing as life won’t always be this stressful and relations between a couple may improve.

Here are some simple things you can do today, right now, to reduce homebound stress between you and your loved ones. Consider using these simple skills to reduce tension and ease communication with the people who matter most.

1. The Mirroring Technique: In a calm, reassuring voice, try repeating the last three words of what someone has just said. The intention behind this should be “Please, help me understand.” This can create trust and signals respect and concern for the other person.

2. Slow it down: Take a deep breath. You don’t have to resolve a conflict this very minute. To create a reasonable outcome for you both you don’t have to change the other person’s mind.

3. Beware the F-Word (not the one you expect): If someone says “that’s not fair” ask them how it is not fair rather than try to argue. Or use the word “fair” proactively to create a more collaborative environment. Try saying something like: “I want to make sure you feel you are being treated fairly. Please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair and we’ll address it.”

4. Begin questions with: “how,” “what” or “tell me about” rather than “why” as “why” can make people feel defensive.

5. Reflective listening: When someone tells you something they want you to understand, respond with “it sounds like (you are really feeling hurt)….” or “it feels like…”, or “it looks like…” (some call this ‘tactical empathy’). Listening carefully and allowing the other party to feel heard goes a long way in soothing emotional upset.

Currently, there are so many unknowns in our future. It’s just possible that many of us will spend the rest of our lives coming to terms with the implications of this pandemic on our relationships, our society, and our psyche. One thing we can predict with certainty is that when our family courts fully reopen they will be extremely busy. The courts are expecting a tsunami of new cases once they open back up. Therapists, attorneys, and social work services will be needed more than ever.

If you fear you may be facing divorce (or if conflict in the home has simply reached unmanageable levels), it may be a very good idea to consider alternative processes for conflict resolution. Most courts will give deference to cases that have already undergone attempts at mediation over those that have not.


Liz Merrill is a divorce mediator, mother, and a musician. With a background in nonprofits and mothering, she has years of experience navigating conflict between families, co-workers, and beyond. She believes in the power of skillful words to produce empowering resolutions to problems and conflicts, within the reach of anyone who is willing to open their heart and learn a new approach. She recognizes the stress of conflict and that in life it’s inevitable for most people somewhere along the way. Liz has made it her mission to help people choose words that strengthen their relationships and reduce conflict and stress in their community.

To learn more about mediation, contact Liz at Open Space Mediation at: www.openspacemediation.com

Resources

Larimer County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.larimer.org/sheriff/i-want-to/frequently-asked-questions/domestic-violence-resources

If you are a victim of domestic violence in Larimer County, you can contact our Victim Advocates at: 970-498-5149.

Crossroads:https: //www.crossroadssafehouse.org/

Crossroads offers free safe-housing, advocacy, legal assistance, transitional housing, and education.

Bringing Justice Home:https: //www.crossroadssafehouse.org/get-help/bjh/

The Bringing Justice Home Project provides civil legal representation for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Alternatives to Violencehttp://alternativestoviolence.org/

Providing shelter, advocacy, education and resources for people impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

Access to Justice/Larimer County Court Resource Centerhttps://www.larimerbar.org/access-to-justice-self-help-center

Our mission is to develop, coordinate and implement programs and other tools to expand access to justice in civil matters for those who encounter barriers in accessing the local civil justice system.

Support Groups

Second Saturday Northern Coloradohttps://www.facebook.com/Second-Saturday-Northern-Colorado-100724564730078/

The Second Saturday Divorce workshop is designed to equip you with the legal, financial, and emotional information you need to make the right decision for your marriage and your life.

Divorce Club Meetuphttps://www.meetup.com/Divorce-Club-for-Men-and-sometimes-women/

This local support group hosts educational, legal, and financial workshops in a supportive group environment where members are encouraged to share their experiences, support each other, and ask questions.

Rebuilding Seminarshttps://www.rebuildingseminars.com/

Our 10-week seminar begins with healing and recovery from relationship loss, and then moves to uncovering the self-worth necessary for confidence and healthier future relationships.

The Center for Family Outreachhttp://www.tcffo.org/

Our 10-week seminar begins with healing and recovery from relationship loss, and then moves to uncovering the self-worth necessary for confidence and healthier future relationships.

 

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