Monday, January 16, 2012

As a mediator, I don’t think much of compromise

I’m working with a young couple, still new enough to love, a new baby son, new home, new life. They were sensitive enough to their own happiness to notice that there was something wrong. “Marriage” was somehow taking them down. Down a path of compromise and frustration, so they came to me, as so many couples do, to help them put on the brakes, to fix the problem, to make the compromise tolerable.

As a mediator, I don’t think much of compromise. It turns out to be a fancy word for “giving up what you want.” While it may stave off a few tussles in the short term, in the long run, it ensures discontentment and fights which make no sense because those future issues which it uses to surface aren’t really the issue at all, and since the compromise is long forgotten, the fights are simply incomprehensible, and so unsolvable.

Instead I follow my model, and bring the conversation back to the present and what Universal Human Needs are up for both parties.

The newness of this couple’s love stimulates my optimism (which never is far away, I’m happy to say) and I keep reframing their “problems” as yet another opportunity to use marriage for one of its major purposes (as I see it) to heal the wound of not getting certain needs of ours met in previous relationships - especially in our first relationship with our parents.

Time and again, we slow their current arguments down, and drop down into the needs just below the surface (because they haven’t been together long enough to bury them very deep) and there, in the present, they find their love for each other.

Like most couples, they started out sitting on opposite sides of the couch, and this last session, number three, they sat together in the middle, legs or arms touching. And as we found the needs beneath each tiff, they found each others eyes, and held each others hands, as if showing with their bodies what I have always believed: needs are where we meet.

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