Guidelines for Making Decisions as a Couple in Partnership

Guidelines for Making Decisions as a Couple in Partnership

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Biblical decision-making is not that difficult if you are the only one making the decision. There are challenges, of course, but it’s much easier if you’re the only one affected by the decision. Once the number of contributors to the decision-making process increase, the more challenging it will be to navigate with humility and no sinful reactions.

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When two singles become one flesh, decision-making changes dramatically. Because the married couple is “one person” seeking to put Christ on display in every way, it is essential that they work through the process with God-glorifying goals in mind.

They are partners, equally responsible to each other and to God for what they decide and for how they work through decision-making. In this article, I will provide a few general and biblical guidelines that can serve any couple when they are working through a decision.

If you are not married, you can use these thoughts by adapting my application questions with anyone who is collaborating with you on the decision. I recommend you take the time to answer all of the questions after each section. If you are married, it will be an excellent opportunity for you to work together. It would make a great date.

You Cannot Sin

Regardless of the issues discussed or the particulars involved in the decision, there is no situation where it would be appropriate for either partner to sin during or after the process. This mandate is not only common sense, but it’s biblical.

Once sin infringes on what you’re trying to do, you will have a hard time coming to the right decision until the “blurring effect” of the sin is removed. Sin clutters the mind and clouds judgment. It cannot be part of the process.

If a spouse chooses to sin, the most immediate item on the agenda at that point is to repent. Removing the sin is more critical than the decision you’re attempting to make. You should not move forward until you take care of the division that is in your one-flesh union.

Two people cannot work together on anything while divided. You must fully restore the one-flesh division so you can get back to the business of decision-making. If someone chooses not to repent, it will be even more difficult to come to an agreement. This outcome creates three problems, where only one previously existed:

  1. Problem One: The decision you were trying to make.
  2. Problem Two: You introduced sin into the conversation, which divided you.
  3. Problem Three: Your lack of full repentance keeps you divided.

Refusing to discuss what has divided you is called a complicating matter–it “piles on” or complicates the decision-making process. If it is not removed, it could be analogous to trying to swim with leg weights around your ankles.

  1. Are you working through a decision in your marriage?
  2. Are there any tensions or unresolved issues between you and your spouse?
  3. Can you bring up your tension and get things out in the open?
  4. Are you generally characterized as a quick and willing repenter? If not, why not?

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Decisions Should Not Take Long

There could be something wrong with a relationship if it takes a long time to come to a decision. Perhaps you’re not going to act on what you decided for a few months or even years, but the actual decision-making process should not take that long after you have all the data.

If someone is holding out by refusing to agree, it does not necessarily mean the hesitant spouse is wrong. Maybe the one who wants to move forward is wrong, and the one holding out is in the right.

Holding out and not moving forward sometimes can be God’s kindness to the one who wants to get on with it. Perhaps God is keeping the couple from making a dumb decision that they would regret for many years to come. Jesus’s sober warning about self-awareness is critical.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

  1. How difficult is it for you to acknowledge that you were wrong?
  2. Are you willing to entertain the thought that your spouse could be right?
  3. Can you clearly articulate your spouse’s position? Do you understand what they are saying?
  4. What are the good points about the other person’s position?

Borrow Brains

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

While there can be confusion in a multitude of counselors, there most certainly can be safeness if you choose to talk to someone outside of your marriage. Every person (or couple) should have at least one other person that they can bounce things off of for clarity’s sake.

Helping people with problems is what God has called all Christians to do for each other. Though you would not necessarily ask for advice on everything you do, it is definitely a humble thing to reach out to someone who has the wisdom and breadth of knowledge to speak into your life.

  1. Do you have a trusted friend who can advise you on your decision?
  2. What are the advantages of talking to someone else about your decision?
  3. What would hinder you from talking to someone else?
  4. If you don’t have a trusted friend, why not? Will you reach out to us?

The Husband Is Not a Dictator

The husband and wife are a team who balances each other out for God’s glory and their mutual benefit. There have been many times when my wife has appealed to me because her conscience was not coming to terms with some of the decisions that I was thinking about making. In those situations, I listened to her appeals. Why?

  • My wife is a Christian.
  • She loves God.
  • She has the Spirit of God inside her.
  • She reads her Bible.
  • She has a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • She knows Him; He knows her, and they relate well to each other.
  • She possesses gifts of the Spirit that I do not have.
  • The things the Spirit has given to me are not identical to what He has given to her, which is why I do not see her as an “irritating appendage to our marriage.”

Lucia is an instrumental asset to what the Lord is doing in our lives. She is my most valuable ally, and I trust her walk with God and the wisdom that He gives her. I want to know what she is hearing from the Lord.

  1. Does your spouse have a relationship with God?
  2. Are you willing to tap into that relationship and learn what God is revealing to your partner?
  3. Are you willing to accept the possibility that God may be leading your spouse in the right decision?
  4. Are you more about being right or are you more about discerning God’s perspective regardless of who came up with the idea?

The Wife Is Not a Doormat

The wife can and should make a humble appeal to her husband when she believes—in her conscience—that her husband may be making a poor decision. There is no such teaching in Scripture that a wife is to submit to her husband in everything, though some misinterpret the “everything” in Ephesians 5:24.

(E.g., if your husband asked you to kill your son, you would not submit to his request. Perhaps he asks you to lie, cheat, or steal. In any of those cases, your allegiance to the Lord would forbid you from submitting to your husband. Having a sound hermeneutic is critical when interpreting Bible words, verses, passages, meanings, and contexts.)

A wife is to submit to her husband. And she should be humble and respectful toward her husband, but as I have told my wife many times if she does not share what she thinks, she is not serving me effectively or honoring God completely.

I do not want a doormat wife. I do not want her to agree with me just because it may be the path of least resistance. I want a wife who can boldly appeal, but yet humbly submit to me. I want a wife who can think for herself.

Of course, it’s incumbent upon me to create a context of grace where she experiences the freedom to speak her mind according to how she is hearing from God. I need my wife to complement me (Genesis 2:18). We need each other.

  1. Husband, how have you created a context of grace in your home that motivates your wife to share her authentic thoughts?
  2. How do you hinder her from being free within the marriage to share openly, honestly, and transparently?
  3. Wife, are you willing to step up courageously and serve your husband and honor God by appealing to him according to how God is leading you?
  4. Do you respect your husband?

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It’s Not About the Decision

When decisions divide, there is something wrong with the marriage. The marriage is a one-flesh union that nothing divides except death, which is why decision-making is a beautiful opportunity to assess your relationship with each other. Decisions are opportunities to put Christ on display in your marriage.

If you do not make Christ your centerpiece because of childishness, fighting, and pettiness, the decision you’re attempting to make becomes a mirror that shows the exact condition of your relationship. If your marriage cannot withstand the decision-making process or the outcome of the decisions that you make, you need to find help because there is something wrong with you.

There is nothing that should continuously disrupt the unity and harmony found in the marriage union. The husband and wife are a picture of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:21-33).

  1. What does your decision-making process typically reveal about your marriage?
  2. Are you a cohesive team; a divided couple; or somewhere in the middle?
  3. Do you look forward to tackling problems together?
  4. What do you need to change to become better partners in the decision-making process?

The Gospel Drives Decision-Making

A couple who rightly understands the gospel realizes that Christ resolved their biggest decision at the cross. There is nothing they will ever face that will come close to the problem they had at the cross.

Because of this gospel reality, a couple interacts with each other as grateful friends who see all of life as a gift. This couple is not controlled by what they get or do not get because they live in the daily awareness of doing far better than they deserve.

Their pressing desires do not dictate or drive them. They live in the daily contentment that Christ offers through the gospel. Gratitude characterizes them now. It is no longer about wins or losses.

Their ambitions are for the glory of God, not for personal gain or glory-robbing. They will accept a “no” just as easily as they accept a “yes.” It’s not about either one but about accomplishing God’s will in their relationship.

There is no tug-of-war between them but two people pulling in the same direction. They are mutually cheering for each other while living in the daily amazement of the gospel. This kind of couple is seeking the interest of the other (Matthew 22:36-40).

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).

  1. How does the gospel affect your spouse in the decision-making process? How does it affect you?
  2. Do you have to win, regardless of the outcome? Why or why not?
  3. Are you genuinely seeking to accept your spouse’s position?
  4. Is your first instinct to find the good in your spouse’s point of view?

I have given you more than two dozen questions to ponder. Will you permit these questions to be your marital homework assignment over the next couple of weeks? Perhaps you can go on a few dates to discuss what you’ve just read.

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