Desert Wisdom for Couple Therapy, Business

Uploaded 8/10/2021, approx. 6 minute read

When couples finally attend couple therapy, they are already in a bad state.

The main problem in dysfunctional couples is communication.

The problem with communication is that it reflects different priorities, different wishes, different preferences, and in general, differences.

People are different. Even when they love each other, even when they attempt to become a team, even when they try to work out their differences, they are still different.

How can we overcome these differences?

I want to suggest to you an old Bedouin trick. Bedouins and nomads, they roam through the Negev, which is a desert in Israel.

I've spent quite a few days in Bedouin tents, drinking their very, very, very, very strong and sweet coffee out of tiny, tiny, tiny cups.

So I love the Bedouins. I love the Bedouins.

They are the stereotypical aristocrats. They are strong, they're resilient, they are honorable, they are wonderful, impeccable hosts, generally they're wise.

And there's a wisdom among the Bedouins as to how to resolve differences in couples or among conflicting parties.

Imagine, for example, the quintessential problem of dividing community property.

When you're married, when people are married to each other, they accumulate property, they accumulate wealth. And this wealth has to be divided should they decide to separate or to divorce how to divide it.

Well, the Bedouins have an answer.

You both, both members of the couple, compile a list of the assets. Then one of the members of the couple divides the assets into groups.

I repeat, both of you, both members of the couple, create a list of, generate a list of assets, the community property.

Then one member of the couple, husband, the wife, divides this property, divides this list into groups, two equal groups. So if the list includes 100 items, we would have two groups of 50 items.

One member of the couple divides the list. The other member of the couple selects which of the two parcels would belong to him or her.

Think about it. But consider this. It's extremely wise.

If I'm the one who is charged with the responsibility of dividing the assets into groups, I would make sure that the two groups of assets, the two lists of assets would be utterly equal.


Because I don't know which of the two parcels, which of the two lists my partner is going to select.

So I'm dividing the property and my partner, my estranged partner, is choosing which of the parts, which of the parcels, which of the lists would be hers and which would be mine.

So because she has the power to assign one of the lists or one of the parcels to me, I would make sure that whatever her choice may be, I'm going to get a fair share.

In other words, such a procedure guarantees fairness in the division of property and guarantees empathy. I would need to think of the other party.

What is she likely to choose? And what she had chosen, what am I likely to be left with?

I imagine that the couple hadn't reached yet the stage of separation or divorce and they do not have to divide property. Instead, they have to reconcile psychological needs, preferences, wishes, dreams, expectations and priorities. They can't agree. They keep arguing and the arguments keep escalating and they never reach a consensus.

The Bedouins come to the rescue here as well.

For example, consider priorities. The two parties can't agree on priorities. They have a fixed amount of resources and they have to allocate them according to priorities, but they can't agree on what should receive priority over what.

Again, the Bedouin trick. Both members of the couple compose a list. She has five priorities. He has five priorities. They place them on a single list.

So now we have a list with ten priorities, five hers and five his. He divides these priorities, these ten priorities into two groups. In each group, there are five priorities.

She decides which of these two groups would become the official policy of the couple.

Which of these two groups would dictate the priorities of the couple for the foreseeable future? So, of course, the one who is dividing the priorities into two groups would make sure that these groups would be equal, would be fair, would reflect the needs and priorities of both parties. Because the party who divides the priorities into two groups cannot make any choice.

Only the other party can make the choice. So better get it right. Better make sure that each group is largely equivalent, largely equal to the other group. Because I don't know which of the two groups I'm going to end up in.

So if the husband divides the ten priorities into two groups and the wife chooses which of the two groups would apply, the husband would be damn sure to create two groups of priorities, five priorities each, which are largely equal, two groups which are equal, which are fair, which represents, represent the interests and wishes of both parties equally. It's a mix, represent a mix of the priorities of both parties.


Because the husband can't be sure which of the two groups would be selected by the wife. So he has to make sure that whatever group the wife selects would apply to him and would gratify him and will satisfy his needs and priorities as well.

It's a clever device and it can be easily applied to psychological needs, sexual requirements, wishes, preferences, priorities, how to raise the children, where to travel next year, etc.

You're wondering where to travel next year. You compose a list of ten destinations, five his and five hers. And then you divide these destinations into two groups, into two groups of five destinations each. And then she chooses, he divides, she chooses one of the two groups and then you go through the process again, iteration, you do it again, only this time you divide the five or six destinations into two groups and again into two groups, etc. until you settle on a single destination.

Every stage of the division, every iteration of the division, the person who is dividing the travel destinations into groups would make sure that whatever the choice of the other party may be, would gratify and satisfy both parties.

It's an exercise in empathy. It forces both parties to consider each other, to really see each other. It forces the person who is dividing, dividing the property, dividing the priorities, dividing the travel destinations, dividing the wishes. It forces the person who is affecting the division to consider not only his priorities, his wishes, his needs, but the other parties as well.

Because if he were to divide unequally, unfairly, his partner would choose a package, a parcel, a list, which could be unfair to him. She has the power of choice. He must make sure, he must make sure that all the options available to her, all the alternatives available to her, reflect not only his priorities, but hers as well.

It's an exercise in putting yourself in the other person's shoes and in creating the list or parcel or group which could be amenable and acceptable to both of you simultaneously.

All Bedouin wisdom, all Bedouin wisdom is applicable to this very day, not only among couples, but also in business.

When you try to divide property, when you try to break up a company, when you try to sell stocks, applicable in all life situations really, whether it's a disagreement or a conflict or a need to prioritize.

Wisdom from the desert, not for the first time in history.

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