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.
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.