March 13, 2012

Win-win — what’s that? My parents raised me to believe that the world is filled with winners and losers. By their standards, I was doing pretty good in my early  30s. After all, I had a great career as a newspaper columnist and a husband who was a catch. But something wasn’t right.

During that time, I was restless and started seeing a therapist. The shrink filled my head with shocking ideas. She said it was okay to be mad at my mother. “Negotiation” wasn’t a dirty word and neither was the word “money.”

She also told me that life isn’t about creating winners and losers. Instead, the goal is win-win, a mantra that has completely changed my outlook. Differences of opinion and outright arguments no longer focused on forcing people to agree with me. My honor was no longer at stake.

Win-win transforms relationships 

Finally, I could stop scheming about ways to beat out the other guy.  No more panicking about landing on the bottom. What a relief to discover the greater goal of sharing the love. Now, I really enjoy the challenge of sizing up situations and making them work on multiple levels. On the ride to happiness, I want to take along as many people as possible. Does that sound too cheese-y? Well, too bad!  :)

Even my divorce benefitted from win-win. When we first split up 12 years ago, I guess we both felt like losers. But couples counseling got us past the anger to a reasonably amicable relationship. Neither of us got everything we wanted; that’s never possible. Still, we resolved enough issues to proceed together on friendly terms in raising our kid. Win-win!

And speaking of our lovely 16-year-old daughter….living with a teenager poses endless opportunities to lose-lose. Quite frankly, I doubt she’ll ever change the cats’ litter box or keep her room clean on a regular basis. And yet, there are pluses.

Win-win improves quality of life

My baby does her own laundry and helps out with car payments. She’s doing well in school and staying out of trouble. The more I’m able to see how beautifully she’s growing up, the more she matures so beautifully. Okay — honestly? While we still yell at each other (actually, it’s mostly me yelling), we are betting better and better at keeping our connection on track.

Of course, the wins can be hard to come by or even impossible. The larger lifescape has us in a universe infected by poverty, pollution, war and other unforgivable evils. Which makes it even more important to pursue the daily purity of win-win moments. And I’m going for one win at a time.  xo