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"Going for the Jugular"

We know a fight is about to erupt when we hear phrases like this. The fighting style carries a violent nature, and the consequences almost always bring a cascading waterfall of negativity upon everyone involved. Have you ever analyzed what happens when someone acts on this?

"Going for the jugular" in marital dissolution, custody battles, and the post-decree conflict in families means - I'll see you in court.

Jewish Rabbi and Marriage & Family Therapist Edwin Friedman said, "litigiousness is the new middle-class form of violence in families." (Reinventing Leadership, 1995)

Dear God, I see what he means as I look at what is happening to families choosing litigation because I've experienced it. "Going for the jugular" can invite long-term conflict in the court. The cost financially is sickening when we compare the price against what parents could invest in their children's higher education vs. what they gain.

In my 150 hearings in court, I felt like I had to "go for the jugular" to protect my kids and my assets. Here's what I gained:

  1. The financial loss of roughly a quarter million dollars in lawyer fees and all the fees associated with reunification processes and therapists. This loss includes some of the lost wages for the 150 full/half days out of work to attend court (honestly, I quit tracking after a while).

  2. An escalation in the conflict, not a decrease. It brought more days in court, not less.

  3. My health, well-being, relationships, and family suffered under the stifling yet constant toxic stress.

It was like I lit a match that quickly took over my life and caused a wildfire of pain.

I gained pain. Only pain.

Now, I do understand the need to want to "go for the jugular ." The need for justice, accountability, and fairness is fundamental, but the current methodology is wrong when we reflect on what I gained. Rather than "going for the jugular," you gotta "go for the heart." You've also got to get into a setting promoting non-violent communication. If you don't, you will undoubtedly open an unwanted pandora's box as you give up control of the process and relinquish your power. You will lose control of the outcome.

So, what do we do with all of this? One of my attorneys said it best, "When life hands you a pile of s*it, go plant a garden with it. Don't sit in it." Make conflict work in your favor, not against you. "Going for the heart" hits the core issues and peacefully resolves conflict. Try a Restorative Family Mediation approach. You'll be guided by a neutral that:

  • Isn't afraid of the crap and won't allow for power differentials,

  • Uses a specialized communication technique to effectively talk/listen,

  • Charges a whole lot less;

  • Will create a safe space to hash out the pieces that matter to you, and

  • Offers a hospitable atmosphere for you and the other party - even making room for supportive relationships to join you, such as lawyers, friends, or wise mentors. There's nothing wrong with bringing essential allies, so you are not alone!

Want to dig deeper? Join us for a live discussion of CONFLICT RESOLUTION & RESTORATION at Crown College on Oct 20 at noon CST. You can find more information about Restorative Family Mediation on our website. And we've got plenty of free resources to help parents caught in the same spot I was. It's time to move families out of the courts and promote their well-being.

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