Don Schapira
Q.MED, PM, CDS

Apollo 13’s Problem-Solving: A Guide for Divorcing Couples

The gripping story of Apollo 13 showcases the remarkable problem-solving abilities of a team of astronauts facing a life-threatening crisis in space. Surprisingly, the techniques they employ resonate with the benefits of mediation for divorcing couples. In this blog, we delve into specific examples from Apollo 13 to illustrate how these problem-solving methods align with the mediation process, offering divorcing couples valuable insights on navigating their separation with greater understanding and resolution.

What Can Apollo 13’s Harrowing Journey Teach Divorcing Couples?

1. Clear Communication: “Houston, we have a problem.”

When the Apollo 13 mission encountered an oxygen tank failure, astronaut Jim Lovell communicated the issue to mission control with the famous line, “Houston, we have a problem.” The astronauts promptly communicated the issue they faced to mission control using clear and concise language. Similarly, in mediation, clear communication is crucial. Divorcing couples need to express their concerns, needs, and desires openly. This allows both parties to understand each other’s perspectives and work towards mutually agreeable solutions. Mediators play a vital role in facilitating effective communication, ensuring that both individuals have the opportunity to be heard and fostering an environment of open dialogue throughout the mediation process.

2. Collaboration and Teamwork: “Failure is not an option”

Throughout the movie, the mission control team, led by Gene Kranz, worked together collaboratively, combining their expertise and resources to find a way to bring the astronauts safely back to Earth.  Each member of the team contributed their expertise, knowledge, and ideas, collaborating closely to overcome the challenges faced during the mission.  Similarly, mediation encourages divorcing couples to approach their separation as a joint effort rather than an adversarial one. By working together as a team, couples can focus on resolving issues in a constructive manner. They can draw upon their collective knowledge, experiences, and ideas to find mutually beneficial solutions. The Fresh Start Mediation team of financial and parenting experts provide guidance and facilitate productive discussions, fostering an environment of teamwork.  Mediators act as neutral facilitators, guiding the process and promoting a sense of teamwork between the couple, ensuring that both parties feel empowered and involved in the decision-making process.

3. Creative Problem-Solving: “We’ve got to find a way to make this [square CO2 filter] fit into the hole for this [round CO2 scrubber].”

When the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels began to rise dangerously onboard the spacecraft, the astronauts and mission control had to devise a way to adapt the square CO2 filters from the Lunar Module to fit the round openings of the Command Module. Using only available materials, they created a makeshift solution that helped address the CO2 buildup. This creative problem-solving demonstrates the importance of exploring unconventional options and thinking outside the box, a principle that divorcing couples can apply in mediation to find innovative and customized solutions to their specific challenges.  Mediators help couples brainstorm and generate ideas that suit their unique circumstances. This flexibility allows couples to consider unconventional solutions that may better address their specific needs.

4. Focus on Interests: “Gentlemen, what are your intentions?”

Throughout the movie, mission control consistently focused on the astronauts’ ultimate goal: to bring them back safely to Earth. This overarching interest guided their decision-making and problem-solving process. In mediation, couples can similarly prioritize their shared interests, such as the welfare of their children or the preservation of amicable relationships. By shifting the focus from rigid positions to underlying interests, couples can find common ground and reach agreements that consider the bigger picture. Fresh Start Mediators guide couples in identifying and understanding their shared interests, helping them explore solutions that align with these interests. This approach promotes a more cooperative and mutually satisfying resolution, allowing for a smoother transition post-divorce.

The problem-solving techniques depicted in Apollo 13 provide valuable insights into the benefits of mediation for divorcing couples. Clear communication fosters understanding and facilitates effective dialogue. Collaboration and teamwork promote a joint approach to resolution, fostering a sense of empowerment and involvement for both parties.

Creative problem-solving allows for tailored solutions that address specific needs and circumstances. By focusing on shared interests, couples can find common ground and reach agreements that prioritize long-term well-being. Applying these lessons from Apollo 13 to the mediation process empowers divorcing couples to navigate their separation with greater understanding, resolution, and the potential for a positive Fresh Start.

Creative problem-solving allows for tailored solutions that address specific needs and circumstances. By focusing on shared interests, couples can find common ground and reach agreements that prioritize long-term well-being.

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