Why you shouldn’t let the help system unsettle you in mediation


​So, have you already been through everything? Parental counseling, parenting advice, mediation, therapy and, last but not least, the youth welfare office or the nice priest you poured your heart out to – have I forgotten anything?

If you split up and you have at least one child, you’re involved whether you want to be or not.

If you then also have a toxic ex who bombards you with emails and at the same time uses the wrong clichés everywhere and underpins them with lies to portray himself as a victim of you, you will very quickly be confronted with the general line of attack:

“Now at least you give in for once!”

“It takes two to argue!”

“You have to pacify your husband!”

“There’s bound to be a grain of truth in there.”

“Now you have to put your own sensitivities to one side – after all, it’s about the children!”

“What are you offering your ex-husband to make things fairer for him?”

What’s more, everyone seems to be committed to the ideal of co-parenting – meaning that both parents should coordinate in detail and bring up their children with a common denominator.

The only problem is that co-parenting can’t work with a narcissist. For the same reason that mediation and parenting advice don’t work either: Because a toxic child’s father isn’t eager to work out a compromise.

He doesn’t want consensus – he wants power. He wants to get his way. And retain control.

However, if the helper system is now geared towards working out a consensus that is fair to all sides, it is precisely this system that reaches the limit of what is possible:

On the one hand, a rigorous bully who can’t lose.

On the other side, a desperate mother who feels triggered by him and his behavior.

And at best an experienced, at worst an idealistic mediator or arbitrator who only feels successful when he has finally reached an agreement.

The pressure on the mother is incredibly high. As she’s anything but a stickler – and everyone in the room senses this – all efforts are directed in exactly this direction: “Then at least give in!”

She sees herself with her back against the wall. The burden of the professionals’ expectations weighs heavily on her. After all, the ex has already painted a picture of the possibly merciless mother who is not prepared to compromise.

As if it’s always just about what the mother wants!

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​It’s quite difficult to maintain clarity here, but you can definitely practice it

Make sure you are clear about your role in the help system – child’s father – you triangle:

You are the defender of your child’s childhood!

The point of these conversations is not to establish fairness between the parents – but to find a contact or visitation arrangement that is fair to the child.

And while the father so vehemently emphasizes that he wants more time with the child and that the current arrangement is so unfair, many advisors then go down the wrong track with the aim of achieving a fair division of time between the parents.

However, you can’t divide up the child fairly.

If you come from a classic toxic relationship, this wasn’t an issue before the separation either. You took care of the child 99.9% of the time, didn’t you?

As long as you know that your child is still too young or has certain needs that can’t be met with a different arrangement, then I think you should stick to your guns and not rush into a lazy compromise in the hope that the squabbling will stop.

Because it won’t.

At least not if you have a bad feeling about it and your gut is sending you a bunch of alarm signals!

However, you should always reflect on whether this is something you don’t want – for fear that he will manipulate the child and you therefore want to keep the time to a minimum – or whether you would actually be doing the child a disservice.

Your child is always your anchor that you can use as a guide! If you sense that they really want contact and are looking forward to it, you can be more responsive – just to the extent that you are not yet preparing the runway for the alternating residency model.

So there are two main factors at play here – slowly letting go on your part as your child gets older and, on the other hand, considering the extent to which everything is now geared towards the alternating residency model.

When it comes to the first overnight stays with your ex at the weekend, you focus on how much your child can do without you at night.

Even if the counselors think that children of this age can handle it, you should definitely listen to yourself and ask yourself whether you feel the same way about your child. After all, you know them better than any counselor!

If your child is already at school and your ex really wants one or two extra afternoons for the extended weekend, the question arises as to whether your child would be able to cope with this and whether you are not encouraging the alternating residency model.

I know it’s difficult when you’re obviously the one who is now making sure that the disagreement continues until a judge puts his foot down. And it may even be the case that your ex has a real chance of getting his demands accepted in court later.

But please don’t go into anticipatory obedience because you can hardly bear to look like a “troublemaker” in mediation!

After all, you know you’re not one.

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


In this case, consider these sessions as practice territory for your appearance in court

You simply practice your line of argument in front of outsiders in a meeting where nothing is at stake.

You practice staying calm and not being triggered by your Ex and his lies.

You practice setting boundaries with the mediator as a “neutral” third party, to whom you can mirror the fact that everything is obviously only okay if you give in and show a willingness to compromise, but that this is obviously not expected of the child’s father.

Yes, it doesn’t seem to work without mediation or advice from a third party. And even if you’ve tried everything so far to avoid a joint meeting with counselors and mediators – simply because you know it won’t help – it’s very likely that the family court will impose this on you right from the start.

So, make the best of it and use it as a training ground for yourself.


Have you ever found mediation to be empowering and give you a boost? Then please comment below this article, I’d love to hear about your experience!


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