Getting married changes a lot of things in your world. Being married is much different than being single; now, instead of being responsible just for yourself, you are sharing your life with your partner. The two of you must learn together how to live life as a team.
One area of life that changes fast when you are in the relationship with another person is decision making. The two of you need to work together to reach joint decisions that work for both of you, and sometimes, this can be exhausting, particularly if you are not at the same level of understanding. Moreover, apart from the decisions that you may face about career changes, parental care, whether to have children, or child care, forcing all kinds of conversations, you are now facing the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic.
When decisions are important for couples.
Obviously, individuals still get to make their own decisions in their everyday lives; you are not deciding as a couple when to get a haircut or what color underwear you are going to wear. Here are some of the most common decisions couples need to make; most of us would also consider them our most important decisions, which require both discussion and mutual agreement.
- Where are we going to live?
- How many children are we going to have?
- How are we going to raise our kids?
- How are we going to spend or save our money?
- Who is doing the household chores?
- Where will we go for holidays?
- Decisions regarding health issues or other crises?
- Retirement and age care?
Decision making should be mutual.
How decisions are made in a relationship reveals a lot about the level of communication. This applies from common decisions made daily about how money and time are to be spent and what your children may or may not do, to deciding what to have for dinner. Some decisions look small, while others have bigger impact. Therefore, instead of consuming the time to consult our partners, we sometimes decide on our own. Is this okay for the people involved?
Sometimes, when one partner decides for the other, it creates something similar to a parent-child relationship, which can lead to low self-esteem and resentment. Each of us has the right to have equal input in decisions. Partners who struggle around this subject should start by looking at how they make decisions on various matters, and if both of them are comfortable with it. If not, then they need to work together to make decision making more equal and comfortable for them. Once you have agreed on what decisions you want to make together, talk about how the two of you will reach a decision. If either of you takes on a dominant role and expects to decide everything in your relationship or marriage, you will certainly suffer. Your relationship should be based on negotiation, open sharing of thoughts, respect for each other’s points of view, and mutuality.
Problems and poor decision making.
It is perfect when you and your partner are both on the same page, but what about when you disagree or just can’t reach a decision? This can be challenging in any long-term relationship. For many couples, every time they need to discuss something, they have trouble doing it without fighting. Since our purpose is to find a solution, consulting our partners should not be used just to gain their sympathy or permission. It is important for both partners to have genuine motives and intentions in any discussion. If either has a hidden agenda or wants to manipulate the other, their decision making will take the wrong turn. Decision making is not a method to get our own way, and if this doesn’t change, it will have a negative effect on our relationships.
Common behaviors that indicate poor decision making:
- Starting discussions negatively or aggressively.
- Attacking your partner’s character.
- Showing contempt for your partner.
- Behaving defensively.
- Avoiding your partner.
- Experiencing strong physical responses during discussions, such as increased heart rate, sweating, or high blood pressure.
Improving communication during decision making.
Having peaceful discussions that lead to effective solutions are often a challenge for couples. For these couples to reach decisions without conflict, new skills are needed. Whether in a relationship or marriage, acquiring these skills will help both of you mature in a healthy way and stay happy with each other.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Before making an important decision, remind yourselves of the love between you. Remind yourselves that you are a team and set a common goal.
- Agree on what the primary problem is instead of trying to solve multiple problems at once.
- Avoid setting facts in stone or dealing in absolutes. You may discover several solutions to the problem, so each partner should contribute their thoughts.
- Encourage open discussion and sharing of thoughts, feelings, and opinions with respect, empathy, and love.
- Avoid dominating the discussion.
- Avoid criticism.
- Stop trying to convince your partner that they are wrong and you are right.
- Each partner should monitor their attitude and avoid getting defensive or sarcastic. Try to keep a positive stance during the discussion.
- Listen to each other and ask for clarification if needed.
- Make a mutual decision your goal, even if that takes longer. This will definitely strengthen your relationship.
What to do when you disagree.
It is good to be on the same page, but what about when you disagree? Here are a few tips for when you cannot seem to come to an agreement.
- Ask yourselves if you are making the decisions based on emotions. There may be something in your past that is causing you to act on your emotions and be too argumentative.
- Are you making a logical and rational choice? As human beings, we often act on emotion, but there are times we people need to be rational enough to avoid making a poor choice.
- Is the discussion escalating and getting out of hand? If so, take a break and agree to discuss it at a later time.
Findings: When problems lead to divorce.
Everyone wants a happy marriage that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the statistics in the US show that nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Specifically, more than half of married individuals ages 25 to 50 have thought about divorce either in the past or currently. Furthermore, almost 57% of married couples reported marital problems including money disagreements and poor decision making.
How can relationship coaching help with poor decision making?
You, like most couples, may be trying new ways to reduce disagreements in your relationship and improve your decision making, which is often challenging. If you are dealing with poor decision making or serious conflict in your relationship and find that you are unable to develop new skills on your own, please consider seeking relationship coaching. You will both learn how to
- Be positive toward your partner’s stance and learn to hear and understand their point of view.
- Communicate openly and honestly with each other, expressing your sincere thoughts, emotions, and opinions.
- Weigh the pros and cons of a decision by finding the words that will help both of you emotionally detach from a decision that could be damaging to your relationship.
- Acknowledge the true effect the decision could have on your relationship, and even your life, for years to come.
- Compromise and work together to create situations that will be beneficial for both of you, not just one.
- Seek to reach mutual decisions as a team that will be comfortable for both of you and will strengthen your relationship.
Work together as a team to grow as a couple.
It is important for both of you to keep in mind that you are working together as a team to make things better for you and your relationship. Sometimes, you are not going to do a good job, and sometimes, your partner is not going to do a great job either. When you become aware of the problematic behavioral patterns that you both exhibit during decision making, try and talk with your partner. If you need help improving this part of your relationship and acquiring the necessary skills to improve your decision making, try relationship coaching .
Decision making in relationships is a test and can make or break a couple. Personal decisions and mutual decision making in relationships are equally important in defining who we are inside and outside the relationship. Time will test our relationships; this is inevitable. We should keep in mind at all times that the foundation of a healthy relationship is built on respect, mutual understanding, trust, and love.
Hawkins, Alan. (2015). What Are They Thinking? A National Survey of Married Individuals Who Are Thinking About Divorce. 10.13140/RG.2.1.4905.6724.
Wilcox, W. B. (2010). When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America. In W. B. Wilcox (Ed.), The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2012 (pp. 13–60). Charlottesville, VA, and New York: National Marriage Project and Institute for American Values.