Challenges bring me the renewed satisfaction of helping people resolve their differences in a positive fashion. Every mediation brings new challenges. Every story has variations on similar themes. Every client brings a personality and experience different from the last client.
Even though couples have differences, one thing is constant. Some couples are driven to mediation by fear - the fear of alternatives, the fear of being alone, the fear that the worst possible outcome will materialize in another forum.
In an early mediation session, we will encourage you to let express your fears. Air those fears, for sometimes the worst fears are unnecessary or unrealistic fears. Sometimes, the other party will say something to end the fears. John Fiske, a noted mediator (and one of my mediation trainers) tells the story of the Wife who avoided talking about the conflict because she was afraid to lose the house. Her husband was astonished and told her that she could have the house; he did not want it.
Fear can be energizing and also paralyzing, depending on who we are and how we respond to it; when it is kept inside, it can hijack the negotiations that occur in a mediation session.
My solution, as a mediator, is to talk about everything, including fears, and to give each party a safe place to express their fears, to confront those fears and to liberate themselves. Then they can decide what to do. Once those fears are expressed and "on the table", both parties can focus on additional issues, hoping to find a resolution considering the expressed fears of both parties.
I worked with a father who wanted to equally split parenting time with his wife. It was going to be difficult based upon his work schedule and the child's schedule and yet Dad was rigid in his demand for 3½ days per week. When he finally expressed his fear that he would lose his existing relationship with his son, we were able to create a parenting plan that provided substantial time with the child that was less than 3½ and fit within his schedule. Once he realized that he would continue to be at all of his son's hockey practices and games, where he had spent most of his time with the son before the divorce, and several overnights, he realized that his relationship could be maintained in a less rigid fashion.
When people hide their fears, they may not find a time when they are ready to agree. Addressing fears enables one to move forward.
Source: John A. Fiske, The only thing mediators have to fear is ....rushing it., RI Lawyers Weekly, Sept. 25, 2013.