Experiencing and escaping a rocky marriage herself, Arianna Jeret, knows the importance of divorce mediation and coaching. After stumbling upon her passion, Arianna’s career began to expand—but that’s not to say she’s faced some adversity and struggles along the way. Arianna shares her journey, daily routine, experience with sexuality-shaming within her career and upcoming projects.
That’s really cool! So what exactly do you do, how long have you been doing it?
I am a mediator and CDC certified divorced coach. I entered the field 6 years ago. As a mediator, I work as a neutral third party to execute a couple’s entire divorce process with them from beginning to end. As a divorce coach, I work with individuals who are considering, in the midst of, or recovering from a divorce to identify their key priorities so that they can move forward in the most healthy and productive way possible. I also work as a dating & relationship coach. I believe that there are invaluable lessons from the world of divorce that can be applied to building stronger romantic relationships for everyone.
What inspired you to start working in your field, and what has the journey been like?
I started my career after graduate school in non-profit fundraising. It was a wonderful field and the work was emotionally fulfilling. However, the salary was just barely enough to make ends meet. While working in that field I met and married my now ex-husband. We both agreed that I should take time off from work for a few years after each of my two sons were born. Being able to spend those years dedicated to the care of my babies was a gift I will forever be grateful for and absolutely feel was the right choice for me.
Unfortunately, my marriage was a rocky one, and throughout those 10 years my then-husband made it clear to me that if I chose to divorce him I would need to be able to support myself and sons. I grew increasingly concerned that I would not be able be to do that in my chosen line of work. During an unrelated conversation with a friend about what I might do when my younger son started preschool, she suggested I look into becoming a mediator. I decided to take a course and see how it fit me.
Before the end of the first day I knew that I had found the work I was meant to do my entire life. After a few years spent solely mediating divorces I decided to become certified as a coach as well, which allows me to address a more comprehensive spectrum of the needs I was hearing in initial calls from potential clients.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My days are highly varied. Having a private practice allows me the flexibility to customize my schedule according to the needs of both my kids and my clients. I have my children 66% of the time, so I typically start by getting them to school, then heading back home to either prepare for clients or write. My office is 10 minutes away, and I see the majority of my mediation clients there, while I do a great deal of coaching by phone or Skype. Mediation sessions generally run 3 hours and coaching sessions more typically last 1 hour to 90 minutes.
It can be a struggle for couples to find 3 hours once a week or so to take off of work for mediation, so I often see those clients on the evenings or weekends during which my kids are with their dad. I also write for several online publications, particularly The Good Man Project and Your Tango, so I carve out a day or two per week to sit down and focus on my writing for the week. It is all a bit of a blur, to be honest, but a good one.
Sounds busy! What is the most rewarding or fun part of your work?
Many mediators and mental health professionals struggle with a degree of second-hand trauma from working with people embedded in such deeply stressful situations each day. For me, the work actually has the opposite effect. I do my best to ensure that whoever is in my office each day has taken steps forward, and I leave focusing on where we got to by the end of the session rather than on the stress they felt when they first walked in. I also enjoy using humor with clients to help them breathe and find a more optimistic view of their situation. We typically have a really great time engaged in truly meaningful conversations.
What are some challenges you’ve faced, or the hardest part of your work?
The hardest part of my work has been setting boundaries with clients. I am highly service oriented in general in my life, and I want very much to take care of everyone to the best of my ability. It has been a real learning curve to work to understand that I am also a business owner and a person who needs to feed her own kids, and not allow myself to be taken advantage of.
As a divorce and relationship coach, which concerns do you find to be most common among your clients, and what can they do about it?
I would say there are a few main themes among the majority of my clients.
While working with someone who is either deciding whether or not to divorce or who has completed their divorce and is looking to move forward, the issues typically revolve around sex, money, and their attraction to a type of person who doesn’t meet their needs in a healthy way. During a divorce, the issues are more likely to revolve around working with their own attorney and habitual patterns of dealing with their soon-to-be ex-spouse.
All of these issues truly have to do with one key factor: expectations. I once heard an attorney say that the quickest way to a poor result is to have an expectation. I encourage clients to recognize when they are falling back on a pre-set expectation – i.e., their ex should stop leaving angry voicemail messages, their new man should know how to please them in bed, their attorney should get that they don’t understand a word of the document they just sent – and rethink each item in relation to their own needs and how the other person is most likely to hear that need in a way they can accept and agree to a new plan.
Using some common themes from angry messages from an ex as an example of how you can try this, ask yourself:
- What was the other person really trying to accomplish? My ex wanted to know if he could drop the kids off early next week.
- Why did he do it this way? He is trying to assert control over me.
- Is this the way they have always done it, or is this a new behavior? Yes, he always tried to scare me as a last resort when I wasn’t doing what he wanted.
- What could they have done differently to accomplish the same goal with you? He could have asked me politely in an email.
- Given the above, craft a polite message that clearly communicates what you need as opposed to what he did wrong. Via email: Hi Joe. I received your message. I would love to make this work for everyone, but I am a bit confused. Could you please resend the specific details of what you are requesting in an email reply? I will get back to you with answer just as soon as I can after I receive it. Thanks!
- Repeat as necessary. You have just told him exactly what you need. If he responds with unrelated complaints, simply cut, paste and send the last three lines: “Could you please resend the specific details of what you are requesting in an email reply? I will get back to you with answer just as soon as I can after I receive it. Thanks!”
As a coach, writer, and podcast host, how do you keep on top of so many different projects?
I am also working on a book and a reality show pitch! Ha! What a great question! Ideally, I sit with my calendar each weekend and map out which project I will deal with on each day of the week ahead, making sure I have a few extra hours open each day or two for dealing with unexpected issues. I also have a few close friends and colleagues I can bounce ideas off of, vent to, and ask opinions from. I gain tremendous insight from dialogue about love and life and relationships, which will usually spark that week’s article. And sometimes I decide today is the day I will sit on my couch and play candy crush while my system resets, and that’s OK too.
Do you experience sexuality-shaming, or criticism about your field of work? If so, how do you overcome it?
I have experienced a degree of sexuality shaming in my work, more as a result of the conversations my line of work leads to than as a result of the kind of work itself. I actually just posted an article on The Good Men Project about it a few weeks ago here.
I believe that in order to both do my job and live my life with integrity, I have to speak the truth as I see it. Of course I make modifications to how much I may speak as appropriate to certain settings and audiences, but that said, I do not believe it would be possible for me to talk about the common issues in relationships and divorce without directly approaching the topic of sexuality.
To say that marriages suffer from a lack of intimacy as opposed to a lack of mutually satisfying sex is simply over-simplistic and untrue. Intimacy and sex are not directly interchangeable, and both are crucial components of a lasting relationship. The frequent blurring of these separate subjects leads to skewed expectations from both men and women, and I already addressed above just how problematic expectations are.
When I sit with clients and unpack the issues they have faced in their relationships, I hear regularly from them about ongoing conflicts with their partner about pornography, kink, frequency of sex, initiation of sex, enthusiasm on the part of their partner, and more.
Talking through this issues with my clients, male or female, no one has ever behaved in an inappropriate or shaming manner towards me. What does happen frequently, is that I encounter strange shifts in the dynamics with both men that I work with and men that I have dated when they ask me about the most common issues that arise in my work and I include what I just shared here. Often these men find their curiosity piqued and start asking questions, sometimes taking examples from their own lives or their friends’ lives and asking how I would address them.
In a work setting, this means that some men become more interested in trying to establish a personal relationship with me than the professional relationship we originally met for the purposes of. It has been especially disappointing how often this has happened with men who are married.
On dates, I have found that many men arrive at an assumption that if I am so comfortable talking about sex, porn and kink, I must be down for casual exploration of any of these topics with them. It is as though some box gets silently checked in their brain: potential friend with benefits only. For those who do see more potential for a relationship with me, I have been asked by some to stop writing the types of articles I do, because even though they “get it,” they are concerned that their friends or family won’t. That is not going to happen, sorry.
The shame piece in this comes in the form of self-talk. Maybe I am being too …. Salacious? Overt? I don’t really know, but too something in these conversations. The honest truth I have to keep reminding myself of is that no, I am not. I am talking about human issues that deeply impact couples.
It is the shame surrounding any talk of sex in our culture that makes these conversations so titillating for the men in question. I have learned to watch for reactions and dynamic shifts, and to speak directly about firm boundaries, while still speaking about what I feel are important learning opportunities for anyone interested in improving their relationships.
Really well said! What advice do you have for women who might be interested in working in this field?
Do it! Seriously, this work is tremendously rewarding, and it is one of the rare fields in which you can build your schedule around your life rather than your life around your schedule. I would recommend reading up on the types of coaching and mediation being practiced and various philosophical approaches established professionals take to each to see what resonates with you personally. And as in any field, I would recommend reaching out to coaches and/or mediators you admire online to ask if you can talk with them personally about what they do, why, and how.
Thanks for chatting with me! Before you go, do you have any plugs or upcoming projects you’re working on that we can look forward to?
My articles appear weekly on The Good Men Project and approximately once per month on Your Tango. My podcast, The Greater Dater, is available on YouTube and should be up on both iTunes and Stitcher very soon. The rest of my projects are still in conceptual stages, so the best way to watch for them and keep up with the current happenings is to follow me on Twitter.
Here are links the various ways to find me:
Good Men Project: goodmenproject.com/author/arianna-jeret
Your Tango: yourtango.com/experts/ariannajeret
The Greater Dater
Vine: The Greater Dater