August 30, 2010

Decision-Making in Marriage - A Hot-Button Topic?

Emerson’s Reply, Part Three

A few days ago I presented a question that came to me in an email, concerning decision-making in marriage. Please read my two previous posts for Parts One and Two.

Concerning the suggestion that husbands and wives “Wait for God to change her/him on the matter” when they are at a stalemate, here is another important point.

Generally speaking, wives are more risk averse than husbands. Therefore, when a husband proposes a change, the wife may be less likely to concur. Therefore, she can end up driving the majority of decisions that involves the two of them. Since husbands are less risk averse than wives (again, generally speaking), when a wife proposes a change, the husband is likely to concur since the risk of the new venture is less troublesome to him. Therefore, she can end up driving the majority of decisions involving the two of them. In these cases, a wife could be making nearly all the decisions on both sides of the proposal. For sure, the “wait until she agrees” belief demands that he go along with her, whether she agrees with him or not. The only time her husband can make a decision on his own is if perchance she agrees, but it is ultimately her decision, is it not? If she does not agree, he must not make the decision. (Let me insert, does this gal want her son to live this way with her daughter-in-law? What would this do to her son over the years?)

Again, this can explain the passivity of some husbands and the patriarchy of others. Both declare, “She is going to do what she wants, not what I want. So, I am staying disconnected from her.” Of course, this hurts her since fear, not selfishness, drives her hesitancies and concern, not selfishness, drives her initiatives. Thus, an attitude has evolved about many husbands: they are wrong in their assessment of their wives and they need to stop their passivity or patriarchy – they need to stay engaged in the decision-making by appreciating their wives’ fears and concerns and act accordingly. But, in our attempt to appreciate the wife, have we devalued the husband?

Since the 70s, I heard and taught that a husband should never move forward in a decision apart from his wife's agreement. I can recall hearing story after story of husbands making decisions apart from the input of their wives and nearly collapsing financially because they did not listen to their wives. The value of these stories helped men to appreciate wives! And, I believe these stories. However, we must not take these stories and then preach 100% of the time a husband must wait until his wife agrees. That is not biblical, it is anecdotal. It also assumes that all wives are godly and wise, and that men cannot make godly and wise decisions apart from their wives’ confirmation.

Thus, we must not be dogmatic in saying, “Husband wait until your wife agrees.” Back to my two stories. In my case I wanted to rent a huge auditorium at MSU, the Wharton Center, for our church’s Easter Service. Sarah did not want to do this. I made the decision to do it apart from her endorsement. For the next 10 years we held Easter at the Wharton and hundreds came to Christ in that setting. The University even promoted it as “Easter at the Wharton.” If I had waited until Sarah agreed, we might not have acted that year, and maybe not the next year. Do I say this to demean Sarah? No, since I have acted on the “wait until she agrees” far more than not, but as a husband God calls me to think Biblically and make decisions Biblically and Sarah and I won’t always agree, not because she is unbiblical but because she sees pink and I see blue.

Furthermore, not making a decision is making a decision for status quo, and that does not always keep things the same but can actually cause things to lose momentum or turn the corner, going another direction that is not the best. The wait until she agrees can miss opportunities and put things in a backward motion.

But as husbands, we must keep this in balance to keep from erring on the other side, just as a wife needs to maintain balance. Again, we go back to good communication with love and respect! And, for the life of me, I have no idea why couples isolate themselves during a stalemate from the godly wise. There is always a wise person among us, Paul states (1 Corinthians 6:5). People can weigh in on these matters and usually create win-win.


If you would like to interact with other readers on this topic, you can do so at the Love and Respect forum on our web site, under the Energizing Thread: How are you expressing Love OR Respect?

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