While I do not conduct family law mediations, I read an article in the April 19, 2014 edition of The Economist which I cannot resist mentioning. Entitled "Hunger Strikes", it discusses a study led by Brad Bushman of Ohio State University recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrating that for those of us who are married, our blood sugar levels definitely affect our spousal relationships (But, did I really need a study to tell me this after 40+ years of marriage?)

As his "subject" group, Dr. Bushman used 107 heterosexual couples who have been married for an average of 12 years to search for "....correlations between the levels of glucose in his volunteers' bloodstreams and their affection (or lack of it) for their spouses." (Id.). To acquire a baseline, he first asked the participants to rate their relationship with each other. He then monitored their blood sugar in the morning and in the evening for three weeks while asking them to perform two very interesting tasks:

The first, which each participant had to do every evening, was to stick pins in a doll he or she had been told represented his or her spouse. Up to 51 pins were available. The second, performed once, at the end of the experiment, was a computer game which participants were told they were playing against their spouses. (In fact, they were playing against the machine.) They were also told that if they won a round of this game, their prize was to be able to torment their partner with an unpleasant noise such as fingernails scratching a blackboard or the scream of an ambulance siren at a volume and duration of their choosing-and their choices were recorded.

Both tasks showed that blood-sugar levels do indeed help regulate marital annoyance. Most couples were not particularly punitive towards each other when it came to voodoo pin-sticking: the average number of pins stuck per night was 1.35, with the full 51 going in on only three occasions. But for any given individual the number of pins he or she (and women used more pins than men) stuck in the doll of an evening was correlated with his or her blood-sugar level that day. Similarly, those with low average blood-sugar levels over the three weeks of the experiment chose longer and louder punishment sounds for their spouses than those with high levels. (Id.)

Thus, blood sugar levels definitely affect our tolerance levels and our moods. It is for this reason that it is always better to try to settle a dispute - with a spouse or anyone else- on a full stomach.

So, I guess the lesson here is that in my upcoming mediations, not only should I supply goodies (which I already do!) but also voodoo dolls with pins and that periodically I should ask the parties to stick the dolls with the pins to gauge their blood sugar levels and thus, their inclinations to fight rather than to settle. Is this a new way to avoid impasse?

... Just something to think about.

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By Phyllis G. Pollack

Phyllis G. Pollack is a full time neutral in Los Angeles where, as President of PGP Mediation, she focuses on business, real estate, contract and “lemon law” disputes. She may be reached at Phone: 213-630-8810 / phyllis@pgpmediation.com / Website: www.pgpmediation.com