Mark Perlmutter is back for the fifth post in his six-part series on law school lessons that are not advisable for a healthy home life. Be sure to read the first, second, third and fourth posts if you missed them. Mark is a Texas trial lawyer turned counselor who helps individuals (many of whom are former lawyers) have better relationships. Welcome back, Mark!
In Parts one through four, we’ve explored the costs of winning, squelching emotions, premature problem-solving, and excessive alcohol consumption. Here, we examine the folly of thinking compromise at home is enough.
Really? Is even lawyerly compromising a problem in marriage? Sad, but true. The typical way we compromise in settlement negotiations is tit-for-tat bargaining: if you want me to give a little, you need to give a little. There is no generosity of spirit, much less attention to anyone’s feelings, but rather a contest of wills—extract concessions and wear the opponent down.
The end result is continually rationalized by good mediators as being “a good settlement because both parties are unhappy.” And both parties usually are unhappy—not just at the outcome, but because the tit-for-tat process itself feels like death by a thousand cuts.
This is not to suggest that compromise in marriage is a bad thing, but that it’s not enough. During a recent session, a client of mine, close to giving up on her marriage, had just reached a tit-for-tat compromise with her husband. Whereupon, she turned to me in tears and said:
“We’ve just settled this but why does it feel so awful?”
The lesson here is to seek compromise from the standpoint of what is best for us as a couple, continually checking in with each other on how we’re feeling not only about the end result, but about our negotiation process as well.
Thanks, Mark. Looking forward to your final post.
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A former Texas Trial Lawyer, Mark Perlmutter, MA, JD now helps individuals and couples to have more satisfying business and intimate relationships. He also works with couples and families of people with substance abuse issues, mediates, and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at UC Hastings and the University of Texas School of Law. He can be contacted via email or phone at 415-857-4065.
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And check out the rest of the posts in this series:
- Six Things Learned in Law School That Shouldn’t Be Tried at Home
- Don’t Try This Law School Trick at Home: How to Squelch Emotions
- Six Things We Learned in Law School: How to Solve Problems
- How to Drink: A Skill That May Have Been Pre-Learned and Finely Honed in Law School
- Six Thinks We Learned in Law School: How to Give Advice
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