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FIRST-PERSON: Marriage-enriching decision-making

GARLAND, Texas (BP)–Whether the issue is buying a sofa, making a career move or managing the checkbook, decision-making is one of the biggest challenges to the married life of Christian couples.

Those whom my wife, Kay, and I have coached in our marriage-enrichment ministry testify to this challenge. In our own home, the decibel level has certainly soared at such times. Questions often surface such as, What if the two of us can’t arrive at the same conclusion? How can we keep the peace when we don’t see things alike?

Try as they might, some couples say one person often ends up feeling like a doormat — stepped on, with wishes disregarded. Even some missionary couples to whom we minister in our Family Matters Seminars want help in this area — some of their major decisions being when to return to stateside for rest or how to educate their children.

Over the years, Kay and I have adopted this strategy we call a “negotiations summit” that has worked for us in decision-making matters both small and large:

— We commit to making any decision a joint one. When a spouse is left out, seeds of bitterness are sown that can impact the marriage for years. God gave each spouse special talents, skills and insights. Wise couples capitalize on their different perspectives and abilities to reach a joint decision. For example, in deciding about whether to take the dramatic step of forming our own independent ministry, both of our perspectives needed consideration, although I was the only partner setting aside a fulltime salary. Such matters as whether the two of us could work together under the same roof and a myriad of related issues also needed consideration.

— We conduct a brainstorming time. For the really big issues, we take a pen and legal pad and make a long list. We draw a line down the center of the paper. Then we list the pros and cons of various solutions. We commit that when we’re brainstorming, no idea will be considered “dumb” — we list everything that comes to mind, even if it seems hair-brained. Getting things on paper helps us focus. Make sure both spouses contribute fully and honestly. Nothing’s worse than arriving at a vacation spot, for example, and finding out one’s spouse really didn’t want to be there but hesitated to voice an opinion.

We write down what each person agrees to as the decision is made. For example, some years ago, when Kay studied taking an outside job, we had to decide how to divide home-maintenance tasks. Would sick days with kids be shared between parents, or would one member of the duo be expected to do it all? It’s a good idea to preserve in a safe place this written commitment to each other. Refer to it if, down the road, someone isn’t keeping his or her part of the bargain.

— We write down how we will know if a plan has succeeded or failed. For example, if your decision is whether dad will take a job with lots of outside travel, write down what a sign would be that family life is suffering in the process (i.e., utilizing Sundays as catch-up days instead of worship days, excessive strife). Decide beforehand what the issues are and what the options might be.

— We always pray and seek God’s guidance through his Word when a decision is on the table. During our joint morning prayer time, we try to give the Lord every issue we believe will impact our day. God directs people through circumstances, through others, through his past acts in our lives which we can look back on as spiritual markers. God cares about everything involving us. He answers prayers that are prayed according to his will.

Usually, if we follow these steps, we mutually agree. But, what if, despite all these negotiations and much prayer, the answer still doesn’t seem clear? We just keep talking, waiting and praying, refusing to let a decision pull us apart. We’ve found over the years that many decisions don’t have to be made hurriedly or on a timetable that makes us uncomfortable. Surprisingly, by waiting and keeping on keeping on, we almost always eventually find a solution that turns out to be better than the one we first sought.
An informational packet on Family Matters Seminars, including a brochure describing the Moores’ topics and a four-minute video that churches can show to their members when planning a marriage enrichment retreat, can be obtained by writing to Family Matters Seminars, P.O. Box 461592, Garland, Texas, 75046-1592, or email [email protected]

    About the Author

  • Louis Moore