Have you heard the one about the two capuchin monkeys? Two capuchin monkeys walk into a bar…
Only kidding, the actual story goes like this. Two capuchin monkeys are kept in chambers side by side for the purpose of conducting an experiment, maybe you have seen the video on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KSryJXDpZo. They are each asked to hand over a rock and then rewarded with a piece of cucumber. After several rounds of this, monkey number one is given the piece of cucumber but monkey number two is given a grape. When monkey number one is asked to do the task again and given a cucumber again, she throws the cucumber at the technician with great dissatisfaction. Why should monkey number one accept a piece of cucumber if monkey number two is getting a grape?
When they started out, cucumbers all around, all good- once there was preferential treatment, monkey number one who was happy with the cucumber at first would rather have nothing if monkey number two was getting something better.
We all know in our hearts that, at times, life can be unfair. I think, however, most people see life as an exercise of balance and recognize that we all have challenges. We all have to work, pay bills, do the laundry, etc. Well we know we don’t all have to do these things but for the most part people who do have to do them hang out with other people who do too. It works. But if we are exposed to people who might be living more lavishly for reasons we don’t feel are just and fair such inequity may suddenly make us acutely aware of the inadequacies of our own lot in life.
Now, zoom in a bit closer, and consider the potential inequity between divorcing spouses. If one spouse feels short-changed in the division of the assets or time with the kids how is he/she supposed to sleep at night? It’s too personal. Frankly, it’s too unfair.
What feels fair is different for each of us. In divorce mediation there is opportunity to trade and share across categories and with great creativity. There is time to discuss and sleep on options. There is never pressure to agree or to sign on to terms that don’t feel fair. In mediation, fairness is a critical ingredient for an enduring and satisfying agreement.