It will come as no surprise if I tell you that I’ve seen a couple of tears shed in divorce mediation. A couple of thousand is more like it. I find it interesting to observe the varying ways people deal with their emotions in front of me, the neutral third party. More often than not, they apologize for crying.
If you know me, you already know that I am a crier by nature, and am comfortable expressing my own emotions. I’ll even admit that sometimes I cry when a contestant wins a car on “The Price is Right.” That being said, I know I’ve made others ill at ease when I’ve let my own emotions loose. So why are some people more comfortable with tears than others?
Let’s try to narrow this down by taking a quick quiz. Answer “A” if you agree with the following statements, and “D” if you disagree:
Crying is a sign of weakness.
It’s better to cry in private.
Adults who cry in front of others lack self control.
Women cry more often than men.
There is a cultural component to tears.
I feel much better after a good cry.
I cry when I’m happy.
I am embarrassed to cry in front of others.
Don’t bother tallying your results because it doesn’t matter. That’s precisely the point I’m making. Irrespective of psychological analyses and sociological generalizations, each and every one of us deals with our emotions differently. Our reasons for crying are as diverse as we are, and our reactions are also unique. What DOES matter is that our emotions are conveyed in a constructive way to the person we’d most like to understand them.
Let me share a story here, straight from my divorce files. “Brad” and “Angelina” had been married for eight years when they hired me to be their divorce Mediator. Brad had struggled throughout the marriage with alcoholism, and his most recent DUI arrest brought the marriage to a screeching halt. During the mediation process, Brad cried many times. Angelina, on the other hand, was stoic and dry-eyed. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Brad was remorseful and Angelina was angry. When we started talking about Brad’s visitation with their children, a different Angelina emerged. All of a sudden, Brad got angry, shouting at Angelina that she was going to prevent him from seeing his kids. That accusation triggered Angelina’s waterworks, and then she was the one who needed the Kleenex. Both were clearly embarrassed about crying in front of me.
What do you suppose happened? What do you think Brad was really crying about? When the discussion turned to their children, why do you think Angelina was moved to tears? And why do you suppose each was embarrassed about crying in front of me?
You be the Mediator. Tell me how you would have addressed their tears and helped them feel more comfortable about showing their emotions to each other in a better, more constructive way.