You’re having a conversation with a couple about work issues, and you learn that one spouse disagrees with the other’s dream.
“I really want to quit my job,” the husband blurts out. “I just can’t work in this giant corporation anymore. My dream is to open my own business.”
His wife looks worried. “But that’s not my dream,” she says. “We’re not sure what to do.”
How do you respond as a marriage mentor in this type of situation?
- Take time to pray together, asking the Lord for direction and a shared dream for the future. Also be sure to pray individually about the situation.
- Follow this process for making a decision together:
- Invoke a “no losers” policy. Ask, “Does this work for both of us?
- Get to the heart of the issue by asking your spouse what they really desire.
- Pray for unity and God’s will. Ask God if He has an opinion and if He will show you the right answer.
- Brainstorm options.
- Evaluate your options and choose one you both feel good about.
- Try it.
- Reevaluate your decision and make changes as necessary.
Talking about career changes can ignite a lot of emotions in a couple. The topics of careers and finances are linked to a feeling of overall safety in the relationship (often specifically for the wife), explains Erin Smalley, strategic spokesperson for Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry and a licensed professional counselor.
The goal is to get the couple to talk about shared dreams. “What are they hoping for the future as they take this journey called marriage together?” Smalley says. “What are their hopes and dreams, and what does this look like as they discuss careers?”
Other couples who disagree about dreams may be divided about their retirement plans or their dream financial situation. What you want to do as a mentor is to help couples catch a vision for their future shared goals.
“There are two people in a marriage, so there are two different sets of dreams,” Smalley notes. “There are two individuals, and both matter. But there is also the marriage — and what is the shared goal for the marriage?”
The husband and wife need a win-win solution. Use the L.U.V.E. response (Listen, Understand, Validate, Equip) to steer the couple toward finding a shared dream and a win-win.
Listen for the emotion beneath the couple’s words. Does one spouse feel trapped? Bored? Frustrated? Does the other spouse who disagrees with her husband’s dream feel threatened and afraid of what his career change might mean for her future?
Your clarifying questions can help spouses understand each other. Ask the wife: “What’s going through your brain when you hear your spouse say he wants to quit his job?” Ask the husband: “What are you thinking of doing? What will it take to make that change? How will that impact the overall well-being of the family?”
- Validate the wife’s emotions: “It makes sense that you would be nervous hearing your spouse say this, because this would be a major change. And it’s understandable if you’re concerned about your security.”
- Validate the husband’s emotions: “I totally understand that you can get burned out on a career. You’re not the only one who’s felt this way. That situation can really make you feel frustrated and depressed.”
- Encourage them to begin praying, individually and together. “We know that the Lord will guide and lead them,” Smalley says. “Praying together will bring unity, and praying individually will allow the Lord to speak to the individual hearts.”
- Ask both spouses: “Can you deal with this in a way that feels good to both of you?”
- Share the seven-step process for making a decision together (See the Quick response).
- Share resources from FocusOnTheFamily.com/Marriage:
- “Dreaming Together in Marriage”
- “How to Align Your Dreams as a Couple”
- “5 Ways to Stay on the Same Team”
Consider a time that you and your spouse had different dreams. Maybe you had to make decisions about a career change, returning to school or moving. How did you handle it? Did you resolve the issue in a mutually beneficial way? Why or why not? Based on your experience, what advice would you give a couple when one spouse disagrees with the other about dreams?
What if the couple pushes back on creating a shared dream and a win-win solution? Maybe the spouse seeking the new career says, “She should support me no matter what, even if she disagrees.” If you can, share a time when you and your spouse didn’t agree with each other and sought God to find a way forward.
- “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
- “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” (Matthew 12:25)
If the couple remains at an impasse and they don’t want to pray together, encourage them to see a counselor. You can help them find a counselor, or they can call Focus on the Family at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) to request a free consultation with a counselor.