“What world problem should we solve tonight?” my then fiancé Ted asked with a mischievous glimmer in his eyes.
I playfully rested my chin on my fist like the Thinker and responded, “Hmm … let’s see.”
As you may have guessed, this wasn’t the first time Ted had posed this question. More like the fifth or sixth. You could say it had become a regular date night tradition for us. I’d come to anticipate this “call to brainstorm” on our evenings out. Kind of like Ferb expects Phineas to exclaim, “I know what we’re going to do today!” each and every day of summer vacation. Although back in our date-night “change the world” days, Phineas and Ferb weren’t yet household names.
The thing is, unlike these animated stepbrothers — who really do accomplish an amazing feat each day — Ted and I knew we weren’t going to solve any significant world problems over dinner. On those evenings out, this question was just one of my out-of-the-box-thinking man’s creative ways of sparking conversation.
And it worked.
In retrospect, though, we realize that maybe our brainstorming sessions over restaurant tap water and caprese salad weren’t simply interesting conversations. Maybe they were practice.
Practice for what?
For all the moments to come in our marriage when we’d have to solve problems together. Hand in hand. Shoulder to shoulder. And let me assure you, in eleven years, there have been many.
Does this mean those early days of unintentional practice set us up for smooth sailing? For conflict-free decision making in all the years to follow?
Of course not.
But what they did do was remind us of this: If the two of us could agree on issues that often divide governments and nations, surely we could — with a bit of give and take — reach consensus on the smaller, everyday concerns. You know, like what’s the best way to pull the mini-van into a narrow garage or how much time our kids should spend on the iPad.
When it comes to daily issues at your house, how are you and your spouse doing?
If solving problems together has been difficult lately, then maybe it’s time for you to start a new date-night tradition. And maybe it’s time to start big. Between your next glass of lemon water and that main course, why not lean across the table and ask, “What world problem should we solve tonight?”
This question might just remind you how much you really do agree on. And, in turn, go far in fostering good will when it comes to those everyday concerns.