Readers of this blog last year, may recall the application of Peter Schwartz’s Scenario Based Futuring to climate change and to the South African peace process.
The method involves developing 3 or 4 plausible scenarios or stories about how the future might work out to ‘learn from the future’ by learning to think about alternative ways it might play, rather than have one ‘official future’, you are counting on. It is suggested that the stories might be one in which current trends continue, one in which things get a lot better, one in which they get a lot worse and one in which they become very different or combinations of these futures.
I thought it might be interesting to suggest readers do this with their own personal lives. I thought a worked example around a marriage might be provocative of thought, while keeping it not too heavy.
- Business as usual: the existing mix of ups and downs of marriage continues. Marriage is challenging, with conflicts in which one partner or the other ‘wins’, but nothing catastrophic happens. Health, careers, children, whatever, happen, but ultimately it is quite grueling and in later life you wonder if it was worth it. Your interests are not really met, you ‘win’ some, ‘lose’ some, but you haven’t the energy to change. (Might be called Positional conflict handling)
- Co-dependence: you and your partner seem to become increasingly close, but it is sometimes at the exclusion of the outside world. You wonder if you are losing your real self, but no crisis prompts re-evaluation or change. You lose sight of your interests; you don’t even know what they are any more. But it all seems so inevitable. Quite a high risk this might turn into its opposite: number 3. (Might be called conflict denial).
- Divorce: you slowly drift apart under the pressure of running a marriage, career, and kids. You handle conflict badly and rarely meet either partner’s needs. You begin to wonder if this is what life is for and eventually, the marriage collapses when you come to realize that you and your partner’s interests are miles apart, but you have no method of bridging the gap. You start over in a new relationship, but wonder if it will be any different: indeed what do you need to do differently so it is different? (Might be called fleeing from conflict)
- Inter-dependence and personal growth: you come to accept that you are separate people with separate interests and you spend some time each week figuring out what your and your partner’s interests are and ways to align them without submerging them. Your marriage is long lasting but not the same relationship over time: it evolves and you both grow. And later in life, it seems that your fundamental interests have been met, though often needing struggle to find the higher level solution. (Might be called interest based, harmonizing marriage.)
I have no idea if Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward had a marriage like scenario 4. But they seemed to have stayed happily married from 1958 until his death in 2008 in the notoriously unstable marriage world of Hollywood, though they did not live there. They lived in Westport, Connecticut. And from a conflict viewpoint, I guess we could ask who won in their marriage? I guess that is the wrong question.
Paul and Joanne: fifty years married.