Sometimes the decisions are simple. As in, what are we getting for dinner? Who is taking the dogs outside? Whoís going on the coffee run? Other times, the decisions are a bit bigger. We try to figure out how many dogs we want (I want one more, but Cory isnít convinced). We try to decide on what kind of patio furniture we want or what color the paint will be in the bathroom. Or the toughest yet ó how many kiddos do we want? How long do we want to stay in our house? Who do the dogs love more ó me or him?
Plenty of our dilemmas can wait, but some are pressing. It seems like there are more decisions to make when the marriage is relatively new, but I know weíll always be trying to figure something out, so I ought to get used to it.
The thing is, Iím also a bit impatient. I can be flexible on the occasion, but most of the time, I need to know what the plan is. I like to act quickly. Naturally, as my polar opposite, Cory likes to think about his decisions for a while. Thatís why it took a year for us to decide on a wooden fence rather than an electrical one. There was a lot of debate before he finally agreed to go for it.
Essentially, marriage is built on a platform of compromise. A couple couldnít move forward if they werenít able to make decisions in a democratic fashion. Since decision making is such a profound element in relationships, itís integral to figure out how to do it fairly.
First, it comes as no surprise that open communication is the most important part. Having conversations and expressing thoughts, feelings and concerns keeps your partner in touch with what is on your mind. Though it can be easy for these ďconversationsĒ to turn heated, try to keep it civil. Fighting over every decision until one person wins is not going to strengthen the marriage.
When making a decision, try to think about it objectively. Develop a list of pros and cons for the choice and weigh the options as a couple. On the surface, many of Coryís ideas donít sound appealing to me. After he explains what he means and how it will benefit us, I come around. Though I donít like this part, itís also helpful to let the decision stew for a little while to gain more objectivity and insight. Set a deadline, though, or you might be waiting a while.
Thereís another key to all of this. You have to be actually listening to your partnerís thoughts and opinions before dismissing them. If you already have your mind made up, youíre probably not going to pay much attention to what youíre significant other is saying. Give each other time to offer their perspective and actively listen to what theyíre saying. Resist the urge to interject your own comments or thoughts.
If youíre rejecting the idea without even hearing it through, the lines have likely begun blurring between compromise and teenage-style power struggle. If it goes down this way, the best decision may not prevail Ė and everybody loses.
Additionally, there are times Iím so excited Coryís ready to make a decision, I donít even care what it is. For instance, when we finally decided to get a fence, Cory was the one to choose the type of fence we ordered. I wanted a fence for the dogs. I didnít care what kind of fence it was, but he did. I think this can work for most couples. We have to pick our battles and decide how much weíre willing to negotiate. This was one less discussion we had to have and one less decision we had to make as a couple.
The more we learn about our significant others, the more we can figure out what matters to them. Thus, they can tackle the decisions that better suit their capabilities and expertise. Itís important not to let our own egos get in the way of this. Itís OK to sit one out every now and again, especially if it wasnít ever that important to you.
As couples, it would also make a lot of sense for us to rotate some of our decisions and choices. If Cory and I split up the trips outside with the dogs, weíd have fewer decisions to make and fewer mini-arguments about who deserves to stay on the couch in the air conditioning. Fortunately, this is now a moot point because of the fence Ė one of our better choices.
Lastly, there are times it feels satisfying when your partnerís choice didnít turn out so well. As humans, we love to say ďI told you so.Ē Even if the decision runs smoothly, we are quick to find anything we can use against our partners, reminding them that they made a bad choice. Obviously, no one likes the way this feels, even when itís over something as small as dinner or paint colors. Plus, it contributes to resentment and bitterness.
The bottom line is trust. Do you trust your partner to make a good choice for the two of you? Do you trust your partner to consider your ideas and weigh them objectively? Does your partner trust you to take the reins of a project or make a big decision? If not, the issue has never been the ability to compromise or make a decision. If so, acknowledging and becoming aware of these concepts can make decision making even easier.
Of course, I have clearly not mastered any of these ideas, but I look forward to trying them out more often.
And in case you were wondering, the dogs love me more. After all, Iím the reason they got a fence that isnít going to shock them. They also want another puppy friend, so maybe Cory can win their love that way.
We wonít be holding our breath, though. Itíll probably be another year.
Published: August 1, 2012