Early in our marriage, my wife and I had to make a huge decision about whether or not to accept a ministry position in another church. Since the church was nearly an hour away from where we lived, it would require a move. It would be a step of faith for us to move to a new community and start a job with people we hardly knew. Eventually we decided to go for it, but only after some anxious conversations.
How do couples make decisions? After over 35 years of marriage, I’ve come to believe that several important things ought to be considered in this process. While the decision making process may not look exactly alike for every couple, here are a few things we’ve learned:
- Decide on your values and goals first, and let your decisions flow from that. The biggest decision a couple will make is to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). That decision is the biggest of all, and once you’ve made it, many of the smaller things will become clear. Even just some agreed upon long term goals can go a long way in helping make short term decisions.
- Share honestly with each other your desires and feelings about the decision. It’s easy to take this for granted, but I’m often surprised when I talk to couples about how one of them doesn’t feel free to share what they really feel. That also means both husband and wife need to really listen to the other’s heart. Just because Lynn says something once doesn’t mean she feels like I’ve heard her. Sometimes I need to hear it again to understand the emotional power behind her words.
- Reflect on if there’s anything in Scripture that can inform your decision. Many of the decisions you make are morally neutral and there’s no clear biblical principle to guide you, but sometimes there is something that bears upon your decision. If you’re both in the Word often, you’re in a better position to receive his guidance.
- Pray together about the decision. Again, I’m amazed that regardless of how obvious this is, how few couples really do pray about their decisions. Maybe a big decision could be an occasion for what Paul talked about in Corinthians 7:5, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.”
- Seek oneness in your decisions, but also recognize each other’s unique strengths. While the big decisions should be made together, couples can delegate decisions to one another in their areas of strength. For example, if my wife is better with investments, it would be wise for me to trust her with those decisions.
- If you can’t agree on a decision, wait until a decision has to be made. One of the biggest mistakes couples make is to make a big decision prematurely. While you wait, continue to pray, seek outside counsel from trusted friends and mentors, and continue to gather information.
- If a decision must be made and you still can’t agree, let the husband lead. Here is where the rubber meets the road in Paul’s counsel, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:22, 25). This arrangement isn’t tied to value or ability. Jesus was equal with the Father, but he still submitted to him. Ultimately, he trusted his Father knew what was best. Many men use their “headship” as a club to force their wife to submit, but a husband’s call is to love his wife. Love doesn’t demand its own way. When I love my wife, I won’t force my will upon her for selfish purposes. I’ll always consider what’s best for her.