The learning curve
I think one of the biggest learning curves of newlyweds is decision-making. Of course, you had to make decisions before when you were dating and engaged, but it can be different because the stakes are different. And I think when a person is so smitten with someone, they are more likely to bend to the other person, haha.
The biggest difference when it comes to decision making in marriage is that you now have so many things you’re making decisions about, all involving and affecting the other person. You’re morphing your two lives together when it comes to location, proximity, finances, lifestyle, habits, etc, and that means there are duties and responsibilities to establish.
When it comes to tackling this difficult thing that even veteran married couples face, I like to give perspective through this object lesson:
The Three-legged race
Making decisions together as a married couple is like a three-legged race with your spouse. When you are first married you tend to stumble a little bit in figuring out how to make decisions and of course other things, right?! The same thing happens if you are competing in a three-legged race with your spouse as your partner! The first steps can be shaky and out of rhythm, but then you come up with a strategy of how to walk jointly and make it to the finish line. This kind of race requires arms around each other, holding each other up for balance and support! It takes a little bit of extra time and effort, in the beginning, to get your strategy working, but when you both get into a unified rhythm, the rest of the race runs much more smoothly.
Trial and Error
Please note, however, that even though I relate decision-making to a race, it’s not a competition against another couple or anyone else. Because many decisions come with a time limit, the only thing you’re really racing against is time. The couples who end up going faster in the three-legged race are those who understand their strategy and execute it well. I believe that the sooner you get your strategy down, the easier it is to make decisions in the future. Ironically, getting your strategy and rhythm down takes TIME, too!
We make so many decisions every day, as independent people and as a couple. It has taken trial and error a few times for us to know what kind of decisions we want to be made together and what decisions we trust the other one to make without needing a discussion. There have been times where I have called Trevor to ask if a decision I want to make is OK with him and his response is, “Yeah, honey, I trust you on that.”
Some people might see it as a sign of weakness when a husband says, “Well I’ll need to talk to my wife about that first.” The annoying people will usually respond with, “What dude, are you whipped?” However, I see it as the complete opposite! I think it actually shows a whole lot of strength, respect, and ultimately, UNITY!
Unity is what I consider to be the key to successful decision-making in marriage. The word itself conveys several other adjectives like cohesive, considerate, and the ones I listed above; respect and strength. You respect your spouse’s opinion enough to include their valuable input in decisions. When you both carry this attitude of being unified in your decisions, it’s all a huge sign of strength. But how do you get to this feeling of unity if you have different opinions when it comes to this decision you are making?!
The role of unity in disagreeing about a decision
Remember those first steps you take when you have your legs tied? They are out of rhythm. One of you is stepping at a different time than the other, and sometimes you even trip and fall. I like to think these first out-of-rhythm steps are comparative to when you have different opinions about a decision, and specifically when one of you is feeling unsure. I think this happens often, so it’s OK. When we first made the decision to move and buy our first house, my husband was much more sure of the decision than I was.
Below are some tips for what we did to handle my uncertainty, and other tips that can be helpful for when this happens in your marriage.
Tips for disagreement or uncertainty about a decision
- Talk out your concerns on each side. Use the ABC formula for help with this.
- It’s important for each person to be heard and for their emotions to be understood. Share underlying reasons for your hesitancies, so that they can be addressed, and you can get a second perspective.
- Come up with some solution ideas for the decision you are making.
- Propose several solutions and write them all down to look at. Evaluate each one together.
- If you are religious and implement a higher power in your relationship, seek spiritual guidance on your decision together and individually.
- I have found this to help me come to a decision so often! I like to talk with God about a decision I’m leaning towards and ask if it is what I should do. I then rely on spiritual promptings or intuition to help me come to a conclusion.
- Agree to try out one of the solution ideas and re-evaluate as needed.
- Not all decisions can allow for reevaluation, but I think it’s a GREAT alternative if you truly just can’t come to an agreement one way or another. Let’s take an example of something big like deciding when to start having kids. If one of you is ready and the other is not, then you could come to the alternative “decision” that you will agree not to have kids yet, but evaluate the decision/feeling every 3 months.
- Have some faith and trust in your spouse’s surety of the decision, or trust in a higher power.
- At some point, you have to come to a conclusion and agree on some level. And it’s possible that a spouse’s uncertainty might never turn to certainty, haha. I think it’s important to look at why your spouse is feeling sure about a decision, and trust their judgment. Trust that all will be OK, even if things don’t work out.
With us being for almost 5 years now, we have a good idea on how our decision-making process works for each of us. That just comes with time, and trying new things, like mentioned above. I’ve learned that one spouse might come to a decision a lot sooner than the other spouse does, and that’s OK. You won’t always be in sync when it comes to this because you have different opinions and desires. So make sure that in between doing these tips, give each other some time and patience.