Family Groundrules

Nancy Ferrell

Former CRS Mediator, Dallas Office; Private Mediator and Trainer

Interviewed by Julian Portilla , 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: Are there non-negotiables in terms of those needs? Are there needs in families where one member of the family says I really need this and the other member of the family says I absolutely can't provide you with that. And then family member A says, well, then what are we doing here?

A: The thing that comes to mind is the ethical dilemma or moral dilemma about what's acceptable or non-acceptable as far as a need is concerned. And it always goes to sexual things. What if I need more than one partner. Is that okay? Well, no, I don't think so. So, where's the boundary? That's where the ground rules have to be built with the expectations and the need statements. What are our ground rules for a relationship? And is monogamy one of our ground rules? For some people it's not. But for me it is, so in our relationship that would have to be one of our ground rules.

Q: So, explain to me the difference between a ground rule and a need.

A: The ground rules set the parameters.

Q: In this setting, we're talking specifically about a family mediation setting. So in a family mediation setting, what's the difference for a family between a ground rule and a need?

A: The ground rules would tell me where the boundary is in terms of resources. How will we manage our money, sexual and emotional satisfaction is it bound by certain things? And then within that, I need more experience or more diversity in our sexual relationship or our emotional relationship or whatever. That's fine within the bounds of the ground rule, which is that it's a monogamous relationship. But we can still meet some needs other than that, as far as diversity and having some different kind of experiences. There is a shared responsibility as far as money. I need to have some control over the money or some cooperative relationship about how we spend money. That's great. We need to work this out together. But what if on a particular situation I really need X number of dollars to do a certain thing? How do we negotiate that? We're still going to negotiate it together, but I need this and we need to talk about it. So the framework is the ground rules and then the need statements are the things that we have to deal with within those ground rules.

Q: So the degree of the ground rule is like the need. The ground rule is almost like the bounds, the limit.

A: The outside limit.

Q: And what can we achieve within those limits.

A: Yes, within those limits.