?Which strategies do people and their lawyers employ during divorces? There are only two social strategies that human beings use, according to Herb Guggenheim writing for CapitalM, the local Mensa newsletter. Those strategies are:
1. Reciprocal Altruism.
This approach is based on the idea that if you do kind things for other people, they will do kind things for you. It is the psychological equivalent of the Golden Rule, that is do unto others that which you would have them do unto you. It is the American cliche, “You pat my back and I’ll pat yours.” It is the French saying, “You send the elevator up to me and I’ll send it back down to you.”
2. I’m Only in It for Myself.
These people see the world as a hostile place. It is dog eat dog. Only the strong survive. These social Darwinist believe that while the inferior, weak people are busy being nice to each other, they will swoop down and take what they want, when they want, no matter what the consequences may be.
If both parties use Reciprocal Altruism, the divorce can be settled rather handily. If both are using I’m Only in It for Myself, then it seems they are destined to have a long and costly litigation. What happens if they are each using a different strategy? It seems to me, the I’m Only in It for Myself strategist will walk all over the Reciprocal Altruism strategist and end up with the better part of the marital estate. Guggenheim says, that while he can sleep better at night as a Reciprocal Altruist, it is his observation that people who take what they want seldom suffer for it.
Perhaps the best strategy is a blend of both. Focus on what you want and ask for it. Be polite but firm in the asking — an iron fist in a velvet glove. Like the Eagle on the Quarter, hold out the olive branch in one hand (settlement) and the arrows in the other (litigation). Then your spouse can decide which strategy it is going to be.