On reducing the gap between you and your former spouse

“Coincidence” knocked on my door again a few days ago.  I had literally just finished reading James Hollis’ What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life (Penguin Books, 2009) when what appears in my Inbox but a notification about a new post on one of my favourite blogs, Ben Ziegler’s Collaborative Journeys.

Why do I call this coincidence?  It just so happened that in his post Ben tackled what seems to be the very same question which Hollis repeatedly comes back to in his book, albeit from a Jungian analytic practitioner’s point of view:  What can you do to reduce the gap between yourself and others?

Here is Ben’s post, reprinted in its entirety (with his permission – thank you, Ben!):

Reduce the gap:  Integrate thinking and doing

Sometimes the gap between people seems so big that no common ground exists, no collaborative solution possible.

Sort of like the current gap between U.S. Democrat and Republican politicians, negotiating the national debt?  Or maybe the gap in a project team, in which teamwork is just a notion?  Or, maybe the gap between businesses, or family, involved in a dispute?

And yet, individuals, organizations, and communities do find ways to reduce the gap, build consensus, and reach agreement.

One of the best habits to foster, for reducing the gap, is a “learning” mindset.

A learning mindset aims to integrate thinking and doing.  We have thoughts. We act on them.  We get feedback.  We adapt… move closer, reduce the gap.

The way to getting it done, say Roger Fisher & Alan Sharp, is to integrate thinking and doing, the “sunlight of thought” with the “sea of activity.” An iterative process, incremental, one step at a time, is usually the shortest path to success, resolution, and reducing the gap.

And this learn as you go approach is not just about learning from our mistakes.  It might be better to learn from success… you know what worked, you can do it again, and the next time… you’ll probably do it even better.  That’s the philosophy throughout ReWork, a wonderful little book by the authors of the 37signals suite of software products, and one of my favourite how-to reads of this year.

In learning organizations; prototyping, experimenting, piloting… are ways to integrate thinking and doing.  In your community, there are likely many ways.   And, as individuals, we do the same; try things out, get traction from what worked, build our future, one step at a time.

Integrating thinking and doing is an adaptive strategy.  In living systems, it equates with survival.  In uncertain times, is there any other way?

What say you… is there a better way to reduce the gap?

(Posted on Collaborative Journeys, July 12, 2011)


If I understand Hollis correctly, his answer to the question of how to reduce the gap between us and others might be that we need to act, and interact with others, with a “larger measure of consciousness”.  In Hollis’ words:

It behooves all of us to look at the prevalent patterns of our lives and ask what “story” they might be serving.  We do not do crazy things; we do logical things, if we understand the “reason” that generates our behaviors.  The “reason” may be inaccurate, a misreading of the world, true only for a particular moment and place, or even the inheritance of someone else’s story, but, remaining unconscious, it commands sufficient power to govern our story, and therewith dictates the unfolding pattern of our lives.  (What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life, page 194)

The lens Hollis uses to look at how to reduce the gap may be an analyst’s but what he is suggesting is not, I think, fundamentally different from what is involved in integrating thinking and doing.  If we understand the reasons for our behaviour (“thinking”), we can begin to govern our own stories (“doing”).  By living with a larger measure of consciousness, we can better dictate the unfolding pattern of our lives (“integrating”).

While this resonates with me, like Ben, I find myself wondering…. Is there a better way to reduce the gap?  Something that doesn’t feel like we are aiming for the stars?

And, more relevant to us here, is there a particular strategy that you think would work for you – to help you reduce the gap between you and your former spouse or partner, if you were to meet with them from a distance using technology?

Would distance, or the use of technology, change the strategy you usually use to try reducing the gap between you?

2 thoughts on “On reducing the gap between you and your former spouse”

  1. Conflict is a part of life. When there are different perceptions of issues, competing demands for limited resources or different attitudes to dealing with problems, conflict will arise. What is important to keep in mind is that the aim of conflict management is not to have your way / opinion / attitude prevail over your opponent’s. Victory is having the issues resolved in such a manner that the benefit of the resolution is maximized both for you and for the other parties.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, James. Do you have any suggestions as to how a spouse who sees victory this way might help the other spouse reconsider their “if you win, I lose” perspective?

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