1. A common worry is whether and how power imbalance between people can be effectively redressed in mediation. Family mediation is often perceived to benefit the more powerful partner to the prejudice of the more vulnerable one. This is a very legitimate concern.
Careful thought needs to be given to whether, when and how it is proper for the mediator to redress any imbalance. However there may be a mixture of misconception and legitimate concerns. There are a number of ways how power may manifest itself in couples’ relationships. There is no exhaustive list but by way of example this may relate to:
- financial standing
- physical strength
- emotional stability
- ability to cope with change
- qualifications & social standing
- control over relevant information (including financial data)
- control over financial support
- ability to express feelings and wishes
- Behaviour during the relationship
- Support from friends and family
- Physical or emotional abuse or threats
It is not the mediators function to change the power relationship between you. The mediator can however help you to communicate with one another more effectively, address issues you may not be able to do yourselves and deal, in an orderly way the issues you have. This can in itself be empowering for either of you and indeed sometimes for both of you.
It is often empowering for a person to have their views heard and taken seriously and considered in a way that may never have happened during your relationship.
It is the mediators role to ensure any power disparity that exists does not impact on the process such that it makes it unfair and unworkable.
The mediator may therefore identify and discuss any imbalance observed. The parties themselves must agree on how to deal with this and redress any shortcomings such as lack of relevant information.
Most relationships experience conflict. It is normal to have disagreements and feelings of irritability or anger within families. Indeed disagreements can be a sign of mature and trusting relationship.
What makes it difficult to disagree constructively?
Relationship breakdown may occur where there:-
- is an absence of a safe and trusting relationship
- there is unaddressed resentment
- defensive and entrenched behaviour
- Polarised views and positional arguing.
3. What will the mediator do?
The mediator will not make assumptions but will appreciate the stress, anger, sadness & frustration you may be feeling. The mediator will help you focus and address the specific issues, introducing one topic at a time. The mediator will help you prioritise what you see as important but ensure you each are heard and are able to say what you may need from each other. Often this will include what you may be able to offer to make the situation better.