How we Make (big) Decisions in our Marriage

One of the greatest gifts of our marriage is that Brian and I are really great together during seasons of transition and change. We struggle in other areas of marriage, but this is one of our strengths. 

This has been a season of transition and change. Actually, this will be an entire year of change. My spiritual director, Mindy, told me 11 years ago that it'd take us 2-3 years to really settle into life in SoCal before it felt like home and we had the kind of community we had in Chicago. She was right. So we anticipate this as we make another cross-country move.

I digress.

One of the things I get asked most about is how we make decisions in our marriage. It's particularly puzzling to a lot of Christian couples who (knowingly or unknowingly) hold to complementarian views of marriage where they interpret in Scripture that the husband is the spiritual leader of the family. People are curious because they see my leadership and teaching gifts used in pastoral roles in the church and wonder how this plays out at home. I'm sure some think that Brian's a softie and I always get my way. If they only knew how strong my man is!

Since day one, Brian and I have believed the Scriptures to teach an egalitarian example of marriage. We passionately believe the created design of relationships is equality and mutuality, not power and gender preference. Those are the result of the Fall, not of God's intention when he created us. In our marriage, we lead each other. We are equals. Brian submits to me (gasp) and I equally submit to Brian. We honor the supernatural spiritual gifts and skills God's given uniquely to each of us. We make decisions based on those gifts and skills, not based on gender. (If you'd like resources on this, I'd love to share some good ones. I believe this is a key issue in the church and family today.)

Since the very beginning of our marriage, we've never made a decision unless we were both in complete agreement.

Brian's never played the "I'm the man card." We've sought after God together until there was unity. We see that example throughout the Scriptures as the Trinity mutually submits to each other for the benefit of the other and Creation. 

With some decisions, this has been a long and hard process. It's caused fighting, stubbornness, temporary division, and hard conversations. We've delayed making decisions until we can both look each other in the eyes and say "YES". If we can't come to an agreement, we don't make a decision. Period. We wait and work together toward unity. This commitment to decision making has made our marriage stronger and healthier as we've both compromised our list of wants, conceded our desires for the other, and blessed the dreams in each other. This way of making decisions has refined our character as we've had to work out pride, selfishness, manipulative tactics, and other sin. We believe that the same Holy Spirit lives equally inside of me as it does Brian, therefore, as God has joined us together we are one. I am not 1B because I have different body parts. Brian doesn't get to be the default decision maker and leader of our family because he's the man. I don't get to play passive in this marriage. We do this together.

As we've worked through the hard decisions, it's made the majority of other decisions so much easier. We come to a "YES" much quicker on a ton of issues because we've had to work through the harder stuff, instead of Brian just playing the "spiritual leader" card. It's strengthened both of our souls.

Choosing to move to Indiana was a long and hard process. One of my mentors wisely said to us very early in the process,

"Get everything out on the table. Talk about it all. Continue throwing all the options, ideas, feelings, and considerations on the table. Let the process unfold. Slow down. Trust the process and the God behind the process. And don't convince (aka manipulate) each other toward a decision. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you and lead you both toward the same outcome. Trust that you'll get to the same place at the right time." 

She was right. That's what we did for 3+ months. It's been a very hard and emotional process for Brian and me. We've RARELY been on the same page about this move. We've grieved, questioned, and wrestled differently. Our roller coasters have hardly ever coincided. 

But you know what's beautiful about this way of making decisions? We've been voices of hope and truth and life and compassion and understanding and reason and empathy and clarity to one another all along the way. When I've been weak, he's been strong. When I've just wanted to sell it all and move to Indiana (okay, that's never happened), he's tempered my enthusiasm. When I've been fearful of something, he's been a speaker of love and has cast out that fear. When he's grieved leaving something behind here, I've casted vision about a new life in Indiana. 

Even in that, we've NEVER forced each other toward a decision. We both committed to let each other feel what we need to feel, go through all the questions and doubts, trusting the Holy Spirit will lead us to the same end. He always has. He's never let us down. We promised each other to honor each other's perceived reality yet gently move each other forward in our thinking and emotions. We decided that we don't want to get to the middle of winter in Indiana and have one of us look at the other and curse them for forcing our family to move into the frozen tundra. Mutual decision making doesn't leave room for that kind of bitterness and blame. 

Brian's led me. I've led him. We've submitted to each other.

We know that the healthiest way for us to be partners in this life we are building together is for both of us to be ALL IN no matter what.

So when I say this move has been hard for me, it's been hard for both of us. But together we have agreed that this move is right and good. We trust the process God's lead us on together. Yes, we are moving because Brian got a new job, but we are moving for all of us. I need a change. Our kids need their extended family and space to be kids. 

That's how we make decisions of all magnitudes. We lean into each other's gifts. We trust the wisdom in the other person. We come to complete unity and agreement. I'd wish this way upon every couple. It's utterly honoring, empowering, humbling, trusting, and loving. And those are the ingredients I want for our marriage.