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Divorce Mediation: Participant’s Exercises

Excerpted from Between Love And Hate: A Guide To Civilized Divorce
By Lois Gold, M.S.W. (Penguin USA 1996)

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The following exercises have been excerpted from the book BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE: A GUIDE TO CIVILIZED DIVORCE by Lois Gold, M.S.W. These exercises can be used in conjunction with mediation or the parties can work with them on their own.


With the right intention, this exercise can be a very powerful tool to help couples come to terms with the breakdown of their relationship and help them with letting go. It can be used in mediation or counseling or parties may work with it on their own. I have found that it allows troubled partners to acknowledge what went wrong in their relationship in a profoundly healing manner. Each person needs to write their responses separately. A time can be set later to share. When sharing responses, each should slowly read their responses aloud without interruption. The purpose of the exercise is simply to acknowledge what is without judgement or debate. It is an opportunity to explore your feelings honestly and if you choose to tell each other what has really been in your heart.

1. I am still angry at you for……

2. I am angry at myself for…..

3. I should have……..

4. You should have……

5. I wish we could have…..

6. I am sorry for……………

7. I want you to acknowledge……………

8. I need to acknowledge…………..

9. I feel you owe me…….

10. I feel I owe you……

11. I need to forgive myself for……

12. I need to forgive you for…..

13. I learned from you and by knowing you gained in the following ways…..

14. I enriched you in the following ways….

15. I wish for you….

16. I wish for myself……


When a person has been hurt or betrayed by a trusted partner, it is difficult to see their good qualities as parents. The following questionnaire will give you more objectivity about your spouse’s parenting abilities and help you separate your business as parents from your disappointment in each other as spouses. Try to put aside your anger to answer these questions. It is important to develop objectivity in order to be able to see what the children value about their other parent and to make the best decisions for them. 1. List your partner’s strengths as a parent.

2. List your partner’s shortcomings as a parent.

3. List your strengths as a parent.

4. List your shortcomings as a parent.

5. List your partner’s good qualities as a mate.

6. List your partner’s weaknesses or your disappointments in him or her as a mate.

7. List your good qualities as a mate.

8. List your partner’s disappointments in you as a mate.

9. What is important to your spouse about being a parent?

10. What is important to you about being a parent?

11. What do the children value most about the other parent.


Divorce can change the way you carry out parental duties dramatically. Your time with the children will be your own and will not be influenced by the presence of your spouse. You will not be with your children as much or have control over what occurs in the other parent’s household. It is a good time to take stock and re-examine your own goals and priorities as a parent. By concentrating on the time and opportunities you do have with the children, rather than what you have lost, you can strengthen the quality and closeness of your relationship with them.

1. What are your priorities as a parent.

2. What do you believe are the most important qualities in a parent-child relationship? How can you maximize these aspects of your relationship with the children given the divorce?

3. What basic values do you want to impart to your children? How can and do you convey your values?

4. What do your want to change about yourself as a parent? What would you like to improve about your relationship with any of your children. How can you implement these improvements?

5. What do you want to give your children that you did not receive from your parents?

6. What do your children need to help them adjust well to the separation or divorce?

7. If your parents were divorced when you were a child, how is your children’s experience of this divorce different from your own? How can you help them in ways that you weren’t helped?

8. When your children are adults and look back on the divorce? How do you want them to remember your handling of the divorce?


Lois Gold

Lois Gold, M.S.W. is a mediator and therapist in Portland Or. She is past President of the Academy of Family Mediators and has been active in the development of mediation since the 1970's. Her practice currently focuses on divorce, family, and workplace mediation, consultation and training in conflict resolution, and… MORE >

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