Whose Move Is It Anyway?: How to Proceed in Decision-Making When You and Your Spouse Don’t See Eye to Eye

My husband and I had three days to look at 30+ houses, visit three different schools, and decide where we wanted our young family to live. It’s no wonder I developed a migraine. These were not easy decisions! We were moving from Maryland to Mississippi with our three children. Kevin and I had gone to college in Mississippi several years earlier, but we had never had to think about things like subdivisions and elementary schools. These decisions would affect several lives for several years. And the answers sometimes came slowly or with some debate.

I felt better than Kevin did about the overall decision to move to Mississippi. He felt better than I did about the school decision. Thankfully, we were in complete agreement on the house decision. Then came decisions about what job Kevin should pursue, which church we should be part of, etc., etc.

Over the last two and a half decades, Kevin and I have led our family through some significant changes. We’ve lived in six cities in three states, had several different job experiences, been part of a few different churches, been in a variety of schooling situations with our kids, and have even grown our family in diverse ways. As a couple, we have learned that each of these major changes–as well as all future ones–require communication, prayer, trust, and movement.

Communication

Unfortunately, my husband and I aren’t always going to be in total agreement on every decision we have to make. But the only way to figure out what each of us is thinking… and the only way to move forward… is through open communication. I must be willing to share my perspective, and I must be just as willing to listen to my husband’s perspective. Sometimes, we can find common ground through just one conversation. Other times, it might take a few conversations throughout a few (or many… ) days. And sometimes, it might require some writing, list-making, or inviting someone else into the conversation with us. No matter what, we must be committed to keeping the lines of communication open between us, with the priority being active listening.

Prayer

As followers of Christ, we believe that it is a discipline to ask the Spirit for guidance in our decision-making continually. We invite Him into the routine, everyday moments, as well as the big, life-changing moments. And the more we have been training to listen for His voice, the more quickly we will recognize it. Prayer should be a constant conversation, and we need to pray both individually and together as a couple. Always–but particularly as we are in the midst of making a big decision–we need to pray for unity. And then respond in unity. Even if one of us is taking more of the lead in a decision, we should move together, supporting each other as one entity.

Trust

Obviously, our greatest trust should be put in God, which is why we pray and ask Him to lead us through this journey of life. But we also need to trust each other in our marriage relationship. For various reasons, sometimes we need to take turns taking the lead in decision-making. One of us might be in a better place to discern the Spirit’s leading. Or if there is a time when one of us is feeling more confident in a decision, and the other one isn’t feeling a strong hesitation, then we should probably follow the lead of the more confident one. After all, if we are both actively seeking the Lord, why wouldn’t we trust what the other person is hearing?

Movement

Sometimes, we can get stuck in decision-making, especially if it’s a really big, life-changing kind of decision. I don’t usually pray for open doors; I tend to pray for ones to slam shut if it’s not the direction we need to be going. It’s not that I’m hoping for a “no”; I just seem to recognize a “no” over a “yes more easily.” I believe that God honors movement over stagnancy, and I believe that if we are continually seeking His guidance, He will let us know when to stop proceeding in a specific direction. When Kevin and I were praying about whether or not we should adopt a child, I remember spending so much time asking God to tell us IF we should proceed. Finally, I sensed God saying, “Why wouldn’t you?” And so we kept moving. (Spoiler Alert: We adopted two boys!)

When it comes to movement, it is essential to remember our unity as a couple. When we sense God telling us to make some kind of move, we should move, but we should always move together. We need to support each other just as much when one of us is taking more of the lead than we do when we are in complete agreement. We don’t need to wait or hope for an “I told you so” moment if a decision ends up not being a great one. We are to be unified. If things go well, we are in it together; if things don’t go well, we are still in it together.

You are making decisions and moving together as one can take years of practice, effort, and intentionality before it feels somewhat natural. And there will be plenty of mistakes made. But it is very much worth it in your marriage relationship as well as your relationship with the one who is ultimately the head of your home–God the Father.

Overall, I believe we should strive to make our marriages reflect this charge from Paul to the Ephesians: “… walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being diligent in keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6 NASB)

May it be so in our marriages!

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