We all make decisions throughout the day, every day. Some decisions are made automatically and without much thought. For instance, when you eat breakfast, what toothpaste you use, and what clothes to wear each day. Additional decisions are made as a matter of course, such as, deciding what to prepare for dinner. Other decisions may be forced upon you in difficult and stressed times.
Most decisions have a short impact on your life.
Yet other decisions can have a more lasting impact. As a married couple, you need to talk about how you will make decisions. The sooner in your relationship, perhaps prior to getting engaged, is when you should be discussing this topic.
What Decisions are Considered Important?
Obviously, you will each make many decisions on your own. Hopefully, you aren't deciding as a couple when to cut your hair or what color socks you are going to wear. These choices don't warrant a long discussion. But, you may be confused as to what does.
What you consider to be important decisions is one of the first decisions you should make in your marriage. Most couples consider the following decisions to be major ones that require both discussion and agreement.
- Where the two of you will live
- How many children you will have
- Who will work/stay home after having children
- Parenting styles
- How you will spend and save money
- The amount of free time you will spend together
- The amount of time you will spend with extended family/in-laws
- Household chores
- Decisions regarding a crisis
- When to take vacations and where to go
- Future plans
Once you have agreed about what decisions you want to make together, talk about how the two of you will handle making the decisions together.
For example, in regard to talking about finances, many couples set an amount of money that they feel is the top limit of spending individually. Anything either of you wants to purchase above that amount needs to be discussed and be a mutual decision.
Sharing Responsibility for Decision Making
If either of you takes on a dominating role and expect to make all the major decisions in your marriage, your marriage will certainly suffer. Furthermore, egalitarian marriages, where both spouses feel equal, are the happiest. You will want to aim for a marriage that has mutuality, negotiation, open sharing of thoughts and opinions and respect for each other's point of view.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service whose purpose is to "provide research-based information, educational programs, and technology" to those living in the state has some thoughtful statements about shared decision making in a marriage.:
"Making decisions should be a shared responsibility. Studies have shown that the unhappiest people in a marriage are often those who have the burden of making decisions alone. In the most successful marriages, decision making is a shared activity."
"Another characteristic of a successful marriage is that both partners are sincerely concerned about the wishes and personal preferences of the other. They are both willing to go more than halfway in reaching mutually satisfying compromises. Decisions or compromises that are made are made willingly instead of grudgingly."
"Sharing decisions means that neither spouse has to be "wrong" or "lose." Both share the results. There is no resentment aroused by the attitudes of "who was right" and "who was wrong." There is the mutual growing together by the sharing in making "our decisions."
What Can Cause Problems When Making Decisions in Marriage?
It is great when you are both on the same page, but what about when you strongly disagree or just can't find a compromise? This poses a challenge in any long-term relationship. Here are a few tips for when you can't seem to come to an agreement about an important decision.
- If things start to escalate, take a breather and agree to discuss at a later time.
- Ask yourself if you are making the decision from an emotional place. There may be something in your early life or history that is causing you to become reactionary or dig your heels in.
- Are you being logical and rational enough about the decision? Emotions are very important and should not be ignored. But, there are times when people can be quite irrational and will make a poor choice.
- Are you coming together to review the pros/cons and potential outcomes of the decision in a methodical way? Sometimes this is necessary to come to a proper choice that is the best for both of you.
Decision making together may be difficult, but it can also bring you closer together if you handle this part of married life effectively.