It could have been so simple …

When Maude woke up at 6am on Sunday to Emma’s crying, after a long week at work, she was looking forward to getting a bit of a respite. Dan, Emma’s dad would be picking her up at 9am and taking her for the day.

9am came, no Dan. A quick texto which received no answer. 9h30am a message on his cell phone. 10am, still no Dan, another texto. Maude’s emotions were building up wavering between concern, frustration, and anger. Finally, at 11am, a texto from Dan flashed on her phone : « Overslept, I’ll be there in an hour. »

Maude was furious. Not even a word of excuse ! In spite of her fatigue, no, she wouldn’t be accommodating ! « No, Dan, it’s too late. I’ve made other plans with Emma » she retorted. Dan shot back : « It’s not you who decides ! We had agreed today was my day ! » « Not when you’re 3 hours late ! That’s not what we call a day !!! » Maude fired back.

The subject came up in the next mediation session where they had been  working through a custody plan for their 6 month-old daughter. The process was slow but progressing. Underlying assumptions often got in the way. For Dan, it was the feeling that Maude often decided unilaterally when he could see their young baby. Maude had difficulty trusting Dan, who at times seemed distract and irresponsible.  The current dispute awakened these underlying fears and concerns.

During the session, Maude was able to recognize that she had acted out of spite but her fatigue and Dan’s seemingly uncaring attitude and what she perceived as unreliability, got the better of her. Dan was able to hear how much she had been counting on him. He could understand her annoyance but her way of saying it rekindled his fear… and his own anger. Indeed, he had spent  a good part of the night trying to buck up a friend whose partner had just announced that she was leaving him. And yes, several drinks were downed in the process. Dan had slept through his wake-up call as well as Maude’s attempts to contact him. Indeed, he was truly sorry.

Sometimes, simple words like « I’m sorry » seem out of reach. In understanding what triggers the other person, perhaps the next time they’ll be possible.


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