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How to Make Decisions in Marriage That Work

How to Make Decisions in Marriage That Work

Making decisions as a married couple can be challenging. With two different people, perspectives, backgrounds, and desires, finding common ground is not always easy. However, learning how to make joint decisions is crucial for a happy, healthy marriage.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through my best tips, tools, and techniques for making decisions together with your spouse. Whether it’s small choices like what to cook for dinner or big ones like buying a house, you’ll learn proven methods to reach an agreement you both feel good about.

Let’s get started!

Why Making Decisions Together Matters

Before we dive into the nitty gritty details, it’s important to understand why learning this skill is so vital for your relationship.

Making decisions together keeps you feeling like a team. When you and your partner deliberately include each other in choices that affect your lives, it strengthens intimacy, trust, and respect.

On the flip side, when one spouse makes unilateral decisions, it can make the other feel disregarded, angry, and bitter over time. Small slights build up until one partner feels the relationship is totally one-sided.

Joint decision making also leads to better outcomes. With two perspectives and knowledge bases, you can make more informed choices that incorporate both of your needs and values.

Finally, sharing decisions prevents resentment and regret. When you mutually agree on a choice, neither of you can blame the other if things don’t go perfectly. You both own the outcome.

Does this all make sense? By actively including your spouse in key decisions rather than ignoring their wishes and desires, you set your marriage up for long-term success and satisfaction.

Now, let’s get into the mindsets, methods, and communication tactics that enable smooth joint decision making.

Adopt the Right Mindset

The first key to making good decisions together is coming from the right mental and emotional place. If you or your partner approach joint decisions with ego, anger, or impatience, you’ll never find common ground.

Here are a few mindsets to embrace:

Let go of “me” and adopt “we.” Marriage is no longer about individual wants and needs. Approach big choices thinking about what’s best for the relationship, not yourself.

Of course, individual needs still matter. But hold them lightly and focus first on the mutual benefit, trust, and happiness created by decisions.

Be open and flexible. Don’t walk into decision making with your mind already made up. Truly consider your partner’s perspective and desires with an open mind and heart.

Be flexible and willing to give a little to reach a compromise. Rigidity and black-and-white thinking destroy joint decisions.

Lead with empathy, patience, and compassion. Making big decisions can feel stressful and emotional. Your partner may get defensive, upset, or angry. Respond with empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence.

Rushing the process or forcing your spouse to see things your way only breeds resentment. Be patient and understanding so you can find win-win solutions.

Trust the process. If you approach big conversations with faith in yourselves and the methods I share below, you’ll make good choices together. But try not to desperately attach yourself to specific outcomes.

Trust that if you lead with the right mindsets and have open, honest dialogue, everything will work out fine regardless of what you actually decide.

Make sense? Now let’s get into the step-by-step process successful couples use to make joint decisions with ease and alignment.

6 Steps to Making Decisions Together

No two couples are exactly alike or face the same choices. So I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all decision-making formula.

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However, these 6 steps create a framework you can adapt to your unique situation, needs, and decisions.

Master this overall process, and you’ll be able to tackle any big decision that comes your way – from what city to live in to whether or not to have another baby.

Let’s break it down:

1. Set the Intention

Clarity of intent is crucial. Before diving into the nuts and bolts of a decision, get very clear (and aligned) about:

  • Why you need to make this choice now
  • What specifically you are deciding
  • Who the decision directly impacts
  • The timeline for when you’d like to decide

Also verbalize that you are both committing to a collaborative process of openness, compromise, and empathy.

Setting this shared vision prevents confusion and conflict once you get into the details.

2. Gather Information

Now, work independently to gather data that informs your perspective.

  • Do market research on prices if buying a home
  • Read up on locations under consideration for a move
  • Talk to people who have made this choice before

Gather tangible information so what you want and why is backed by logic, not just emotion.

3. Share Independent Perspectives

Next, come back together to share what you’ve discovered and what you want.

Don’t argue or debate yet! Just take turns summarizing:

  • The information you gathered
  • How it makes you feel
  • What choice you favor and why

Listen with empathy. Reflect each other’s wants without dismissing or judging at this stage.

4. Discuss Needs & Non-Negotiables

Now you can dive into dialogue. Respectfully discuss:

  • The needs, fears, and considerations driving each of your perspectives
  • The logistics that matter most to each of you
  • Any non-negotiable dealbreakers involved

Often, naming all this openly dispels false assumptions. It also builds whole-picture awareness so you can find common ground.

5. Propose Possible Solutions

Based on your open communication, propose potential compromises that honor both viewpoints and needs.

Don’t judge solutions just yet – brainstorm! Two heads are better than one.

Reframing the conversation this way shifts the tone from attacking and defending to creative cooperation.

6. Analyze Options & Decide

Finally, analyze and discuss the merits of each potential solution using unbiased critical thinking.

  • How well does each honor our needs and priorities?
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • What aligns with our relationship vision?

Keep discussing and tweaking until you organically reach a consensus. Give final input on fine details so you both feel ownership.

Then shake hands (or kiss) to seal the deal!


Make sense? It may seem tedious at first. But this 6-step process enables you to blend two conflicting perspectives into win-win decisions easily.

With practice, you’ll be amazed how effortless it becomes to tackle all kinds of marital decisions and dilemmas this way – even loaded ones like deciding whether or not to have another baby after one partner changes their mind.

But first, let’s talk about what to do when the process breaks down…

Overcome 3 Key Decision-Making Roadblocks

No matter how aligned you are, how skilled your communication is, or how much love fills your marriage – you’ll still face obstacles.

Joint decision making is tricky. Emotions run high, especially with major life choices.

When you hit a snag, avoid seeing it as proof you’re doomed and beyond help. View roadblocks as inevitable opportunities to build understanding and trust.

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Here are the 3 biggest roadblocks couples face with tips for working through them:

1. You Feel Unheard or Misunderstood

Despite your best efforts to communicate openly, you may still feel your spouse doesn’t truly hear you.

  • They misinterpret or simplify your words.
  • They can’t or won’t relate to your feelings and needs.
  • It feels like they are fighting dirty with manipulation or gaslighting.
  • Use “I” statements to take ownership of your inner world. This prevents the blame game.
  • Validate first. Before asking for validation yourself, validate their experience using reflective listening and open-ended questions to prove you hear them.
  • Take breaks when flooding occurs. Frustration is the enemy of communication. Pick the conversation back up when calm and centered.
  • Try writing out your thoughts in a letter. Seeing emotions spelled out may help break the impasse.

Leaning into vulnerability and validation defuses tension. Perceived attacks become invitations to build intimacy through understanding.

2. One Spouse Dominates or Intimidates

Alternatively, decision breakdowns may stem from imbalanced influence.

  • One partner consistently overrules the other’s input.
  • One “compromise” resembles one person’s vision.
  • Attempts to discuss choices happen on one spouse’s timeframe.

This stems from a disparity of confidence, power, or capacity to set boundaries in the relationship — not ill intent.

  • Take space. The less influential spouse should spend time envisioning their needs and boundaries.
  • Seek counseling, even for just 1-2 sessions, if you feel too intimidated to speak up. An objective mediator creates safety.
  • Practice non-violent communication. Read books like Crucial Conversations so both parties can reset harmful dynamics. Big decisions can wait until then.

With time and intention, it’s possible to rebuild equity, dialogue, and balanced influence where one person no longer dominates. Counseling accelerates growth.

3. You Feel Too Emotionally Flooded to Think Straight

Finally, impasses happen when couples feel so angry, anxious, hopeless, or betrayed that their judgment clouds. Flooding occurs.

In emotional hijack, you fixate on your first instinct rather than considering new data or your spouse’s input. Fusing occurs until no compromise seems possible.

Tips to diffuse flooding:
  • Take an extended break to physically and emotionally detach before continuing.
  • Get support from a neutral third party who can reality test whether your judgment feels distorted by emotion.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques like breathwork. Or go for a hard workout to discharge adrenaline and come back refreshed.

With flooding, all communication shuts down. Take serious space to return to inner stability first. The decision will still be waiting once you’re reset.

The key with all roadblocks is resisting the urge to Force your preferred solution in distress. Humility and trust must lead.

Meltdowns happen! It doesn’t mean you lack skills or compatibility. Use obstacles to build self-awareness and gain practice in patience and compassion.

Over years, your joint decision muscle will strengthen until you operate in easy symbiosis.

For now, expect messiness while extending grace to yourselves and each other.

Still Struggling? When to Seek Marriage Counseling

I hope these steps and tips give you a framework for having productive conversations and making mutually beneficial decisions – even highly emotional ones.

However, even with the right tools, some couples hit chronic impasses. You try the steps but continue fighting over decisions every few months.

Or your attempts to problem-solve slide into cold silence or hurtful arguments 90% of the time.

If your conflict style or attempts to share power continue damaging intimacy rather than building it, don’t suffer endlessly.

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Seek help from a credentialed marriage counselor or therapist trained in Gottman methods or Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT).

With an empathetic mediator helping you communicate, you can:

  • Break through gridlocked conflict
  • Heal past hurts that create barriers
  • Build understanding about each person’s unique needs
  • Find win/win solutions for difficult dilemmas

Rather than seeing therapy as failure, view it as the ultimate act of devotion.

You commit to learning, growing, and creating a foundation to make decisions easily together moving forward.

Summing It All Up

The ability to tackle problems, big lifestyle choices, and complex dilemmas as a team defines resilient, thriving marriages.

But knowing how to have constructive conversations and negotiate win/win solutions takes effort and skill building – especially with major decisions loaded with emotion.

Use the 6-step process, troubleshooting tips, and professional supports above to keep strengthening the decision-making muscle. Expect messiness, but approach it with empathy.

With practice, teamwork becomes second nature. Any conflict catalyzes intimacy rather than eroding it.

So take a deep breath and have faith in yourselves and each other as you continue blending two separate individuals into one cooperative partnership.

You’ve got this! And remember, most long-married couples needed extra help along the way too. Support makes success sustainable.

FAQ About Making Big Decisions in Marriage

Here are answers to some common questions related to collaborative decision making:

What are some specific tools couples can use when they disagree about a choice?

Great options include decision matrixes listing pros and cons, anonymous surveys to share raw truth, spreading out conversations over multiple days, temporarily trying one person’s solution to test it, and bringing in neutral mediators like mentors or counselors to guide discussions.

How do couples navigate big decisions when they have different core values?

Focus first on identifying your shared priorities like happiness, health, family cohesion, integrity, spiritual alignment, security, fulfillment at work, whatever it may be. Those becomes decision making filters. Then have open discussions about why you rank or weight certain values differently to build understanding.

What about decisions involving extended family like where to spend the holidays? How do we handle family tension?

Set rules like alternating some holidays with each person’s family or splitting days. If family guilts or pressures you, present a united front about the values behind your choices. Share selective details about your process rather than over-explaining. And limit discussions about decisions to just you two – not external voices with unsolicited opinions.

When is it okay for one spouse to decide independently without consulting their partner?

With daily logistics or household decisions that only impact you like what to wear or eat for lunch, go ahead and choose solo without debate. Alternatively, identify spheres where each spouse takes the lead, like one handles financial choices while the other makes most parenting decisions. Any decision affecting shared assets, future plans, family dynamic, or the couple themselves should happen jointly.

How do you make a big decision when you genuinely don’t know what’s right for your relationship?

If you both feel torn for logical reasons, consider gathering more data – research information, pray and reflect solo, seek life experience mentors, or pay for a few counseling sessions to talk it out. Trials like short-term separation or temporarily committing to one person’s preference also reveal new insights. Trust that repeatedly discussing options with open hearts leads to clarity over time.

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