One of the hard parts of the end of any relationship is that a person who once looked at you with affection, love and respect now sees you as the 'bad guy'.
The problem is that nobody sees themselves as the villain in their own story. Sure, mistakes were made or both parties contributed to where things are today...but the bad guy?
It seems unfair, or mean, or like the other person just doesn't get it.
Why treat me like I'm the one at fault, or I'm the reason for all of this?
I'm a good person!
In fact, being treated like the 'bad guy' often leads people to be frustrated or angry...turns them into the villain that they were trying to avoid being. In turn, this makes the other person feel justified, leading to a feedback loop of misunderstanding, hurt and anger.
When mediation happens, this process often has been ongoing, and it is one of the most significant bars to communication that I have to deal with. People tell me all the time that if it weren't for the lack of trust, an agreement would be easy and a solution would be in their grasp. The problem is that the trust has been eroded because both parties feel unfairly maligned by the other, and are frustrated by how they're treated as a result.
Most people believe of themselves that they are good, decent and respectable people.
Most people resent when people ignore the good and decent and respectable in them and instead see the worst sides of them.
Often, the challenge isn't that in fact one person is evil and the other is good, but that trust, communication and the willingness or ability to see the other's perspective has been eroded by whatever caused the relationship to fail.
Mediation can be one way to bridge the gap between how each individual sees themselves and how the other party sees them. It can help show the 'bad guy' why they are seen as such, and can help show the other person why they're not sitting across the table from a 'bad guy'.
Making progress on this front can help resolve disputes and is often one of the most impactful things to come out of a mediation session.
Alex Tillson is an experienced family mediator in the Portland, Oregon area. He specializes in domestic relations issues such as divorce, custody, parenting time and other family disputes. You can reach him by phone or email: