Decision-Making in Marriage (When One Spouse is Not the Automatic Tiebreaker)

One of the main objections raised to egalitarianism or even soft complementarianism is, “How does a couple make decisions if neither one of them is the tiebreaker?” I had a reader ask me this question on my recent book review of Rachel Green Miller’s Beyond Authority and Submission.

In recent years, I’ve done much study on the Bible, theology, psychology, gender roles, and gender dynamics. All of that coalesced into realizing I had an idea of how to answer this question. I replied to my reader with my initial thoughts, and I decided I wanted to flesh it out further in this blog post.

Basically, I have identified three different categories of decisions that will need to be made in a marriage context.

  1. Group Decisions
  2. Individual Decisions
  3. Consent Decisions

It’s not as cut-and-dry as these three categories suggest, and sometimes they bleed into one another, but they still provide a helpful framework for looking at the different kinds of decisions couples need to make. Also, many of these principles can be applied to other types of relationships: friendships, dating, business, or other types of family relationships.

Let’s look at the three categories of decisions in more detail.

Group Decisions

This is the largest category of decisions and include such things as what restaurant to eat at or what schooling options to choose; these decisions affect the group and are best arrived at using communication and compromise to reach consensus.

When a husband and wife disagree on a decision, the first thing they should do is each explain their perspectives and try to truly understand the other person’s. Often, this will resolve the issue, as one will share information that will end up changing the other person’s mind.

If not, helpful questions to further dialogue could be:
Who has the stronger opinion or bigger need in this situation?
Who has more knowledge, expertise, or experience on this particular issue?
Is there a way to compromise?
What feelings, needs, or histories are each spouse bringing to the situation, and how can they be taken into account?
Whose idea “won” last time?
How can each spouse express care for the other regardless of what decision is made?

It is also appropriate when a wife chooses voluntarily to submit to her husband’s wishes, even if there’s not another specific reason to do so. Likewise, it is appropriate when the husband decides to love his wife by going with her idea, even if there’s not another specific reason for him to do so.

Individual Decisions

Some decisions have more to do with the individual than the couple. For example, what time to wake up in the morning, what hairstyle to have, or what book to read. In these cases, the other spouse may share advice or make a request—particularly if it affects them–but the person who is actually reading the book or waking up at a certain time gets the final say (though they should care a lot about their spouse’s opinions and requests!).

Consent Decisions

Another category of situations are those in which if both spouses do not freely say “yes,” the default is “no.” This could be as simple as deciding whether to have another family over to one’s house (since the house is both spouses’ space). Generally speaking, major financial decisions would fall into this category; both spouses should agree to major purchases, especially if they have a joint bank account. Sexual intimacy is another scenario in which two willing (and hopefully joyful!) yeses are absolutely required in order for things to proceed in a respectful (and non-criminal!) way.

Summary

But does this actually work in the real world? I have friends from various walks of life and different belief systems who say that this is how their marriages function. So yes, it is possible! Because when you have two people with good character and emotional intelligence who seek after healthy communication, true understanding and care, and a willingness to work together, things generally work themselves out.

Application

If you’re unmarried put in the work now to become this sort of person–for your own sake and for the sake of your present and future relationships.

If you are looking for a dating relationship, pay attention to if a potential date has these qualities.

If you’re married and your marriage already looks like this, I rejoice with you! Keep up the awesome work, and consider mentoring others.

If you’re married and your marriage does not look like this, please know that growth is very often possible—especially when both spouses are committed to it!

But here’s a very important caveat: if you are married, and your spouse is guilty of serious and unrepentant sin (such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment), please know that no amount of healthy communication or character on your part can fix your spouse, and if you choose to leave such a spouse, I believe you have done no wrong.

Resources

For those seeking personal growth, character development, and/or relationship strengthening, here is some advice and some sample resources:
– Sit under the teaching of God’s Word and fellowship with his people. These are tools the Holy Spirit uses to grow people in Christlike love and wholeness.
– Look into receiving professional counseling services (individual therapy and/or couples therapy).
– Seek out mentorship or discipleship opportunities by mature individuals or couples.
– Read books such as Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud (which I honestly haven’t read, though I’ve appreciated some his other books—which are sometimes a bit theological fluffy, so be discerning).
– Study materials put out by The Gottman Institute, which I see as the gold standard in relationship advice, and most of it is totally compatible with a Christian worldview.

And that’s it! Thus ends my musings and insights on how couples can make decisions together in ways that honor one another.

A big thank you to my reader who asked a great question which then inspired this post!

What about you? What advice do you have regarding how couples can make decisions well? What have you found works for you, or how do you want your marriage to work in the future?

The Ultimate Distraction of the Digital Age

technologyquote1As great as the advent of technology and social media is, it has distracted us from our own devotional time with God, and I’m not even talking about basic Bible reading and “quiet time.” I mean that it has distracted us from the reality of our own sin.

We see some injustice happening across the world and we think it’s our duty to start some holy war on social media when we can’t even declare war on our flesh. All it is is one giant distraction. If the devil can keep you focused on all the wars, rumors of wars, crimes, and heresies taking place then that means less time for you to spend working on your bitterness problem or your unforgiveness issue.
The reality of the situation is this: the news is so depressing that if you keep watching it and following it, you’ll allow yourself to become jaded, bitter, depressed, and sometimes even nihilistic all in the name of “being an informed citizen.” So, for God’s sake, turn off your TV, take a break from Fox News, and just meditate on God’s Word.
This is something that I’ve noticed in my own life so let me confess my sins. I make a habit of trying to stay informed so I’ll sit in the living room and watch Fox News or TheBlaze and I will just listen to all the terrible things going, and unless I stop myself, I will become angry, scared, and worried over issues that I have no direct control over. When I feel this way, instead of praying or reading the Word, I lash out on social media. What good does it do? None at all.

So, here’s my challenge to you as someone who also struggles with this: shut everything out for a while, listen to some psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, just read the Bible, and meditate deeply on the Word and rest in His promises.

The Lord Guides The Heart

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” – Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)

“John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:4-6 (NKJV)

When we were saved, we were brought into a kingdom, but we weren’t just brought into the kingdom, we were made into a kingdom. If you were to read Revelation 1:5b-6 in the English Standard Version, it says,

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom,priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

The ESV actually emphasizes in verse 6 that we were made into a kingdom. We could go on and on and talk about how in 1 Peter 2:9 talks about how we are a chosen generation and a royal priesthood, but the point is because Jesus is royalty we were made into royalty by his blood so that makes us kings and priests unto God.

I’ve prayed about things that I feel that God wanted me to do and honestly, I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to obey God, but I didn’t want to do specifically what he was asking me to do and so I said, “God, I want to obey you, but my heart isn’t in this. Will you please change my heart to do what you would have me to do?” Then one day, he brought me to Proverbs 21:1. My pastor had been teaching a lot recently on our identity as kings and priests and so when I read how that the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, I immediately identified that with myself. I may be a king, but Jesus is the King of Kings and so I humbly serve and humbly live under His kingdom and lordship. God has the power to change my heart and yours to do his will.

Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) tells us,
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Take a good look at verse 13 because that’s where verse 12 ties together. Verse 12 tells us to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Verse 13 tells that we can only work out our own salvation with fear and trembling because God works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure. So, God has to mold and transform our heart in order for us to do His will because God is a gentleman, He will never force Himself in you, but He will change your heart to where you do want Him and want His will.

I hope you have a blessed day today. Thank you for reading and following.