You Say Tomato, I Say Banana

Yesterday I got asked a great question in the Q&A section of this page.  Kara asked how Chris and I make decisions as a couple.  That’s a question I get asked pretty often actually.  In my opinion, decision making as a couple is one of the hardest things to do but when you get a good system down, it’s one of the most valuable characteristics in a marriage.

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Every couple will find their own method of making decisions and what your relationship or marriage looks like will probably be very different from mine. But it’s always nice to know what other marriages are doing, isn’t it? For Chris and I, decision making is all about respect. There are very few decisions that we make that we force the other into or that we throw down ultimatums for. If you have to drag someone into a decision in the first place, then chances are you’ll be dragging them through whatever it is you have decided to do. Chris and I are both independent people and when it comes to decision making, we try to remember that about each other.

Though we have never established a “method,” I have noticed that our major decision making over the past couple of years has fallen into a distinct little pattern.

First, whoever is broaching the subject brings it up after thinking it through themselves for a while. Now, sometimes I will talk off the top of my head…actually, that happens a LOT. But for the most part, for serious decisions, Chris and I tend to be the kind of people who have to think them through on our own before we can talk about them with anyone else – even each other. So, we think it through and then when we have our thoughts together, we talk to the other person about what we’re thinking.

When we have a conversation about a major decision, we are much more polite than we are to each other on a day-to-day basis. Seems funny to write that, but it makes a lot of sense to us. Decision making in our marriage is a partnership. Almost a business decision. And we recognize that it’s important that our emotion and our love for each other doesn’t get in the way because sooner or later we might forget the emotions we felt when we made a decision and we’re going to be left looking at the logic behind how we got somewhere.

The next step after voicing the issue and then giving our own ideas for a decision is to let the subject go. We drop it for at least a day or two. This is another way to make sure that we’re basing a decision on logic and not emotion. We put something out there on the table and then give the other person time to think it through and process it on their own. Trying to sway someone might help you get what you want in the short-term, but in the long-run you want to have made a decision that you both were happy about. For Chris and I, that means we make that decision independently. So, we voice our thoughts and then shut up and sit down for a while to give the other person time to think.

Usually, it is the other person who brings up the conversation again once they’ve thought it through. At that point, we have a big talk. As much as possible, we try to give each other a heads up about this conversation, especially if it’s an important decision.  If at all possible (and it’s getting harder as Bean gets older and money gets tighter), we prefer to talk about big decisions out in a restaurant.  When we’re out in public, we’re less likely to argue or make a big scene.  When we’re talking about it in a restaurant somewhere, we’re much more likely to have a conversation and to listen to the other person than we are when we’re sitting on our couch.  But no matter where the conversation is held, we really do our best to be polite to each other.  To listen to each other.  And to remember that our own opinion isn’t the only one that counts.

Now, that doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes we aren’t patient enough or open-minded enough and the conversation might derail.  When that happens, we let the fight happen.  We say what we need to say.  And then we walk away again because no decision can be made in that mindset.  But a fight isn’t the worst thing that can happen.  Sometimes when you’re talking about a decision that is really important or one that you are passionate about, the fighting can actually be a way to get all of your thoughts out there.  It’s not as productive a way as talking through it, but fighting is a form of communication.  We just know about ourselves though that decisions made in the heat of battle are usually not the right decision.  So, we might fight about it, but if we do, we don’t make a decision then.  Fighting just sets us back a step and we end up having to redo our conversation again at a later time.

When it comes time to make a decision and we finally agree on something, we make sure that we end the conversation by showing our appreciation to the other for listening and for compromising (because ALL of our decisions require compromise!).  We say thank you.  We kiss.  We tell each other how much we value the other person.  We remind ourselves that even though decisions are hard and sometimes uncomfortable to make together, we are so thankful that we are making them together and not with someone else.

Sometimes making decisions is quick and easy – what we’re having for dinner, what we’re doing that weekend, whose going to give Bean his bath that night.  But sometimes the decisions are much harder – like whether we’re moving across the country or how we’re going to budget for a new baby.  And those decisions take a little longer to make.  We try to give each other that time.  Rushing into a major decision just so we have a decision is never a good idea.  But no matter how long the decision making takes or how big the decision is, every decision in our marriage is made out of love.  Not out of anger or frustration or desperation.  It makes the difference between making a decision that we are both 100% satisfied with and making a decision that keeps us awake all night long with uncertainty.

Decision making in marriage is hard.  Maybe the hardest part of being married, really.  It’s hard enough to make a decision for yourself, let alone to get YOUR decision to match up with someone else’s decision.  But as hard as it is, it is also one of the greatest privileges in marriage.  It shows trust and respect and love for your spouse when you can make decisions civilly together and while Chris and I don’t get it right every time (or even MOST of the time…), we keep trying because we know we are lucky to be making those decisions together.  We are lucky that our burdens are halved and our joys are doubled.  So, it’s worth the effort.  Every single time.

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13 thoughts on “You Say Tomato, I Say Banana

  1. If all else fails, there’s rock, paper, scissors?

    I think respect is a huge part of decisionmaking. I’m still learning that whole part of there is an “us” or a “joint” decision. We’ve been separate people for so long until September, and now my decisions affect him and vice versa. It’s not easy, but so long as we keep in mind that respect, that does make it easier.

  2. Hahaha! I’m embarrassed to admit how many decisions we have made by rock paper scissors! Your way is much more grown up and reasonable, but I guess that’s why I’m not writing a marriage blog : ) Although when it comes down to who has to change the diaper or wipe the little bottom, rock paper scissors works great.

  3. Will's Mama

    I love that you try to have the conversation in public- what a good way to remind each other to be civil! I definitely can relate to needing to talk more than once about the big stuff- it takes my hubby and I at least 3-4 discussions before we reach consensus.

  4. Katie, the decision-making in my relationship closely mirrors yours with Chris. We think through whatever is on our mind–perhaps even weeks before we approach the other about it. And we usually drop those conversations when we’re out to eat–like a business lunch. When we are faced with one another across a table, we mimic two entities working together to solve a problem, and the table becomes the medium for us to throw ideas upon.

    A few days ago, my boyfriend and I were out having dinner, and in the course of our conversation, he told me that he had been thinking for a long time about joining the Air Force to do JAG. Immediately, my mind jumped to thinking logically instead of emotionally about the subject because I was in a public setting, where I am accustomed to keeping emotions (for the most part) out of my decision making process. We were able to discuss his wishes without any spikes of emotion, and he and I are people who can let the other chew on an idea for a while.

    It really helps to have a routine when it’s time to make decisions, and it’s great to know that my partner and I are able to communicate with each other in an effective manner.

    Thanks for the affirmation, Katie. 😉

  5. Ha. I just wrote a post about a stupid argument my husband and I had over a decision my husband and I had to make. My view is that even the simplest decisions can be hard, but the point is in the end you work through it together and stay together 🙂

    Cabin Fever in Vermont

  6. Amy

    Well said 🙂 I especially love what you said about fighting, and how it isn’t the worst thing that could happen. I totally agree… as there are a couple subjects that I am really passionate about, and inevitably my voice goes up a few decibels when I am “discussing” them. Decision making is definitely a challenging part of marriage, but it is encouraging and refreshing to see it as a blessing we’ve been given(an opportunity to grow together!), rather than a burden.

  7. Amy

    PS: I love the picture of you & Chris! Beautiful 🙂

  8. Great perspectives–thanks so much for sharing. I fully agree that making tough decisions together is just plain hard. But there is value in coming together and moving forward, for sure.

  9. Lauren

    For pretty much all small decisions, and even some big ones (this is probably how we’ll name our first kid due in a few months), we have a system whereby one person gives 3 options that s/he is comfortable with, and the other person picks his/her favorite of the 3. (For example, I might say “Let’s watch a movie tonight. My three choices would be Amelie, Rambo, and Jaws” and my husband would pick his favorite of those three). It really helps when you’re in one of those stalemate “what do you want, no what do YOU want” kind of moods!

  10. Wow, and here I thought we were the only ones that had major discussions outside the home. Ours is in the truck on a longer drive. It’s always worked out much better if we’re not somewhere that we can easily slip into fight-mode like in the truck usually on the way to somewhere special with a whack of kids smashed in the backseat.

  11. Jennifer

    Gracie Girl- I love it. I think her page on the website should be Gracie Girl.

  12. Reading this makes me want to be a way better person. Because I am impatient. And I often say things that are on my mind without spending much time thinking about them or how they might affect the other person. As for waiting a day or two to actually make the decision once it’s out there? Umm I don’t even think that’s possible if I turned into a saint overnight. Maybe that’s what I’ll try to do this year after the baby comes – practice being more patient on all fronts. Wish me luck.

  13. Kara

    Thanks so much for this Katie! I grew up in a household where I never saw decisions being made — just fighting til something happened. So getting a glimpse into how you & Chris make it work in a functional way is such a breath of fresh air. Currently my husband and I just keep talking about the issue until one of us “gives in” — I like y’alls method better! 🙂

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