The Problem is the Problem

My wife and I are planning on meeting to go out to lunch today. However, we have not agreed on where to go. She mentioned La Isla, but I’m thinking India Bistro. When we meet, there are several scenarios that could play out:

One is that we could both insist on our own choice: we argue, we fight a bit, and maybe one of us eventually gives in. In this scenario, we are both seeing the problem as the other person, because the other person is keeping each of us from getting what we want.

In the second scenario, we both ask the question, “what is a restaurant that both of us would like to go to?” Maybe we agree on Root Table (actually, we ended up at Kimchi House). In this scenario, we did not see the other person as the problem, but simply treated the problem as something for us to solve together.

Very often, divorcing couples trying to reach a settlement look at each other as the problem. Whatever the issue, parenting time, support, property division – there is a tendency to say “the reason I am not getting what I want is that my spouse is not willing to let me have it.”

On the other hand, when both spouses, or their attorneys, are able to separate the problem from the other, then space is created for working together to solve it. This is not always easy. It requires the good faith participation of both parties as well as their attorneys. It means finding some common ground upon which agreement can be built. That common ground may come from concern for the children’s welfare, a continuing sense of care for each other (there was a reason they married in the first place, right?), or simply a common sense of fairness.

The big benefit when we can work together to solve a mutual problem is that the process can be constructive rather than destructive. We can come up with solutions that are better tailored to the needs and concerns of both parties, we can do it without further damaging the remaining relationship between them, and we can do it with a lot less pain.

The next time you see someone else as the problem, is there some way you can turn the problem into the problem for you to both solve together?