I recently got a response to one of my blog articles from a mediator who said, “Of course, I know all about this. I’m a mediator. I know about everything in divorce and everything related to people’s feelings. That’s who a mediator is.”
Early in my career, I co-mediated with an experienced attorney. We worked together for several years and thought we were doing a really good job. We had successfully mediated hundreds of divorces.
I still remember one couple that we worked with. The wife was absolutely beautiful; the husband was kind of an average-looking guy. We talked to them for a while and it was clear that they both wanted to get divorced. The wife started talking about how her life was all about the kids and how devoted she was to them. She also mentioned that the husband worked all the time and the reason the marriage was breaking up was all his fault. She was cleaning the house and being a good mom and trying to work with her business partner to build a business.
At that point, everybody needed a break so we took 5 minutes. My partner and I went next door to her office and we both said, “What a shame. She seems like such a lovely woman. This guy is a jerk and doesn’t realize what a great situation he has: Lovely wife, good kids. Boy, he really doesn’t get it.”
We went back in, continued with the mediation and ended it successfully. Part of the settlement was him waiving his interest in her business. She had a female partner she had met years earlier and they were working very closely to build an art business. They were starting to have some success. The husband had remarked during the mediation that one of the reasons they were getting divorced was that the wife was spending way too much time with her business partner working on the business.
A couple weeks later, we ran into the husband on the street and he said, “Now it is clear to me what the problem was.” He explained that his wife had announced that she was gay and the reason the marriage was breaking up was because she and her partner had been having an affair for the past couple of years. She wasn’t just spending time building a business, she was also having an affair.
My partner and I admitted that we had totally misread that situation. Having successfully completed hundreds of divorces, we thought we knew all about how to read the situation and decided the husband was a jerk. Of course, we knew all about divorces. We are mediators. Really??
Don’s Words of Wisdom: If your mediator says, “Of course I know everything. I’m a mediator.” Hang up and call someone else!