How can my spouse and I make major decisions together with the least amount of conflict and misunderstanding? As a young couple just starting out, we want to practice good communication skills that will help us build a successful lifelong marriage. Where do we begin?
The most successful marriages are those where a husband and wife learn how to function as a team and lean on one another's strengths. If the woman is better at finances, then she's in charge of the budget. If the man is better at planning, he maps out family outings, vacations, and family devotions. As on a football squad, each player uses his talents and works with the others for the good of the whole team. If one player tries to do it all, the team suffers. If one player insists on playing a position he's not gifted for, the same thing happens.
This analogy bears special application to an appropriate understanding of Ephesians 5:22-30, where the apostle Paul writes that the husband has a special position to play as "head" of the wife. This doesn't mean that the man is free to dominate the woman in an authoritarian manner. Instead, he's supposed to act as a wise "team captain," recognizing his wife's strengths and using them for the benefit of the entire family.
If the "captain" is truly looking out for the best interests of the rest of the team, and if he's willing to sacrifice for the common good, wise decisions will be made. Those decisions may be made jointly, or by each spouse in his or her area of expertise. Either way, your goal as a couple should be to make decisions that strengthen and benefit your relationship.
Here are some guidelines for making decisions that you can follow individually and together:
- Apply sound judgment. God has given the two of you rational minds and the ability to investigate. He expects you to use them in your decision making.
- List pros and cons. Sometimes seeing on paper the benefits and drawbacks of possible choices helps to put things in perspective.
- Consult God's Word. When making a decision, study the Bible and see what God has to say on the subject specifically or in principle.
- Pray. Many couples find that if both spouses are praying about a decision, God gives them a "peace" about taking one direction over another.
- Seek wise counsel. "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice" (Proverbs 13:10). Don't be afraid to talk to other couples, a pastor, or a mentor about your decision. Sometimes others can see things more objectively than you can. This is especially helpful when the two of you have different points of view and can't seem to agree or compromise.
One last point: when couples who share a Christian commitment come to a fork in the road, they usually want to know if their choice of direction reflects God's will. Sometimes they're burdened by fears that they may miss the "one and only right choice." But decisions aren't always a matter of absolute right or wrong; sometimes they're about preference. If consulting Scripture and other mature believers doesn't turn up a spiritual principle to follow, you're probably picking between two or more equally valid choices. In that case, the Lord promises to guide you - often invisibly and imperceptibly - as you take your concerns to Him in prayer. Remember the words of the apostle James: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
If you need help putting these concepts into practice, don't hesitate to give our staff a call. Our counselors would be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in communication issues.
Dr. Gary Chapman talks about how to come to decisions as a couple without arguing.
Love and Respect