One reason why people become "stuck" is that they develop patterns of dealing with conflict, over time, with their spouses, domestic partners, employers, children, inlaws, and just about everybody else. We respond in repetitive types of ways. These can be likened to unconscious "strategies" in the sense that we rarely make a decision to employ one pattern or another. The patterns can become conditioned over time, and may become a part of how we have structured our personalities. They may or may not be the same pattern in dealing with every person, or the same pattern that will arise every time, but patterns do develop. Very often the conflict patterns of other people trigger our own in specific and even predictable ways.

If you are considering mediating your family law matter, it may be helpful for you to reflect on your conflict interaction patterns. One important reason why is that conflict patterns provide a strong argument in favor of using mediation instead of some other dispute resolution method like the Courts, violence as an extreme example, or just plain arguing or disruptive conduct (yes, each of those can be a strategy for overcoming conflict). 

At DFMS we suggest that some form of peacemaking is the only approach that resolves disputes - the others just impose outcomes and call it a "result" or perhaps a "consequence."

In general terms there are three primary patterns that persons in conflict employ or express as a coping mechanism: Accommodation, Avoidance, and Control. They manifest in behaviors and speech, or the seeming absence thereof. They tend to look like this. Do any seem to fit your style of dealing with conflict more than others?


  • Giving in
  • Playing the victim
  • Attempting to pacify the other
  • Deference to the law
  • Deference to the mediator
  • Emphasis on sense of personal inadequacy
  • Wanting peace at any price
  • Failing to assert one's own needs


  • Refusing to participate in mediation, litigation, or even conflict itself
  • Avoidance of differences
  • Indecision
  • Withdrawing behaviors (refusing to engage and isolation)
  • Going off on tangents
  • Being overwhelmed by complexity
  • Difficulties processing information
  • Wanting it over at any cost


  • Dominating the other party or the process
  • Seeing only one's own interest
  • Rigid positions and outlooks
  • Blaming behaviors
  • Shaming behaviors
  • Threatening behaviors
  • Inability/unwillingness to view situations in different ways
  • Acting in ingratiating ways towards the other party or the mediator
Understanding these patterns and how they play out in your life, and in struggles with others and particularly your spouse or domestic partner, is an essential first step to moving forward.

We believe that the existence of these patterns is an important reason why people should consider mediating their disputes: 
  • The avoider avoids, and his or her interests are not protected
  • The accommodator accommodates, and so sacrifices his or her interests
  • The controller controls, tramples the interests of others, and their own as well

Mediation holds the promise that these patterns, including the triggers that the cause them, can be understood and real choices can be restored that are much healthier for all concerned.