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people look across the great divide of a fractured relationship feeling it can
never exist again. In such situations, the parties may be at odds with respect
to their version of events. They may feel there must be agreement on the version
of events, without which a return to the relationship cannot be considered.
such junctures some people turn to counselling to facilitate a reconciliation.
They enter the counselling process with the belief that the other party will
make amends, revise their position and apologise. Trouble is, each believes it
is the other who will undertake to change or at least that the other person will
However, reconciliation counselling is less about changing the past or even requiring agreement on prior positions. It accepts there will be different versions of past events and a lot of prior upset as a result.
counselling then is more of a go forward proposition. The thrust is future
oriented and accepts that some hurts cannot be undone.
a future orientation, the parties have an opportunity to set new ground rules
for the re-establishment and maintenance of the relationship. Given the obvious
prior disruption to the relationship, the parties enter the process will little
or no trust. However, trust is not a pre-condition to reconciliation nor is it
even expected in the beginning of the reconciliation process.
than trust, parties enter the process of reconciliation anticipating a degree of
risk and it is the perceived risk that must be managed in the process. Hence
structures are put in place to mitigate risk, allow the parties to re-engage and
over time develop trust - the outcome of ongoing reasonable behaviour.
long counselling continues or the time necessary for the re-establishment of
trust depends upon a number of factors. Those factors include the degree of
prior hurt and upset, the parties’ commitment to changing prior unacceptable
behaviour, the willingness of the parties to engage in the reconciliation
process and the degree to which the relationship is actually valued by the
parties and those involved with the parties.
process of reconciliation has been used between countries, between persons of
different faiths and within countries by persons of different cultures or
ethnicities. Reconciliation has also been used in marital situations, between
parents and children and between other kin where problems in the relationship
has led to estrangements.
process tends to be arduous, the beginning especially. It remains fragile until
some time into the process when the parties finally begin to let down their
guard and actually risk trusting again. It
can be fraught with setbacks with both parties acting hypersensitivity to the
other, looking for clues to justify an ongoing lack of trust. Persons outside of
the process may hamper the progress seeking to keep their ally safe from harm
such as might have befallen them in the past. Hence while the parties engage in
the process themselves, attention may be required to manage the input of the
onlookers and support systems.
reconciliation allows relationships to return, which in turn is meant to foster
the well being of the parties. The belief is that given reconciliation and
establishment of a relationship on new and healthy terms, the parties will fare
better in life than with ongoing hostility and a fractured relationship. Some
consider it worth the risk and others may never believe the other party capable
and hence avoid or undermine the process to keep their distance.
never knows at the outset what the outcome will be. Each party does their own
cost-benefit analysis to consider participation. Some degree of risk is assumed.
it be successful? Look at South Africa, look at Ireland and look at any number
of persons who re-establish relationships with otherwise estranged kin.
Reconciliation counselling does work for some. For many, the potential gain outweighs the risk.
Check out the Parenting Plan Worksheet
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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