Imbalance in Power Dynamic

by Katherine Pham
Conflict Resolution Specialist

The APADRC has a strong sense of community, in that individuals who have sought help from us in the past have known that they can rely on us to help them in the future as well. James is one such individual who has had a lasting relationship with the APADRC, which is why he has reached out to us in need of some mediation help. James was in a relationship with Jane for several years, where they lived together and had an infant child together, Joey. James and Jane have recently decided to separate. He came to us in hopes of setting some boundaries between him and Jane, as far as the way they communicate with each other and how they choose to parent Joey.

The main issue between them was the imbalance in their power dynamic. Specifically, Jane felt like James had an extremely strong and dominant presence, whereas Jane was much more passive and slightly submissive, especially in the presence of James. This imbalance greatly impeded their efforts at accomplishing anything that had to do with Joey. As you can imagine, this created the greatest sense of frustration amongst the two. They both strived to become the best parents for Joey and tried to do what they thought was best for him, but almost every time they even tried to discuss anything with each other, the conversation would just erupt into an intense argument. As a result, nothing was truly accomplished.

This is where I, and my co-mediator, Sean stepped in. We both realized that it was extremely crucial for both James and Jane to be able to fully express how the other person made them feel in this situation in a clear and concise manner, without having to worry about the risk of an argument ensuing. So we both let them share their thoughts and feelings, and needless to say, many differences emerged that were the root of their problems. However, letting each party have their time to share their stories was significant in and of itself, they were both able to be open and free in their feelings for the first time. This was a breakthrough for Sean and I, just allowing the other person to acknowledge and be acknowledged was the key to setting the boundaries that James and Jane both desperately needed. As far as the male-female dynamic went, I felt that it was critical for me, as a female, to be there for Jane. I noticed that it seemed easier for her to express herself in the presence of another female, as opposed to just telling James or just telling Sean.

In the end, Sean and I were really able to get everything out in the open for the two and use that to guide them to a successful set of rules and boundaries that they both felt empowered to account for. I believe that this was a wonderful first step to being able to parent Joey and be civilized towards each other in the future. Organization and a willingness to resolve their past differences are what truly allowed James and Jane to do what was best for Joey.