Steps for making important decisions as a couple

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Cecilia Zinicola10/23/21

Decision making as a couple is important, from the early stages of dating onward. It’s also important in marriage, where there are more and more important issues to decide together.

Making a decision can take a great deal of energy. It can even lead to exhaustion or anxiety if the decision-making process is not handled well.

The burden of having to decide on an issue may fall to or be felt more by one than the other, to the point of becoming a unilateral decision. Conflicts can arise due to different points of view. One or the other may be carried away by circumstances or feel paralyzed by fearing the consequences of the decision.

1 DISCERNMENT

First, gather all the facts relevant to your decision. Read available information, do your research, ask questions, and consult with others.

Sometimes the experiences of others can provide information we may not have considered before.

Try not to talk only to those who support your point of view; choose people who are knowledgeable about the issue in question and who can give you an objective perspective.

Put the information in writing and put together a list using a piece of paper or a whiteboard that you can both see and update.

Although it may seem like a lot of information at first, as you write down the ideas, it will become clearer which ones are the most relevant and which are less so.

Listen to each other’s feelings as you consider the pros and cons of each option. Also, how does it affect others, especially the most vulnerable?

Are there options that stand out because they give you a sense of peace and hope? Do some inspire feelings of anxiety or despair? Keep in mind that emotions such as peace, freedom and joy are indicators that bring us closer to making the right choice.

Probe together for the source of those feelings to find out if they come from selfish desires, fear of what others might think, or a genuine desire to do good.

The decision will most likely not be made right then and there, but it will be a good start as both a personal and shared exercise. In today’s hurried world, there is much value not only in gathering information but also in being able to apply this thoughtful practice.

If, after giving it some thought, a clear option does not emerge, you can resort to some imaginative exercises proposed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, which are still valid today.

Imagine that a friend approaches you with the same situation: What advice would you give them? Or imagine that you’re on your deathbed. Looking back on your life and assuming you have made the decision in question, how would you view it from that perspective?

If you could talk to someone you trusted but who has since passed away, what would they tell you about your choices? Would they be pleased, disappointed, or neutral regarding your decision?

Finally and most importantly, discuss the decision together. Share your deliberations.

2 SET A TIME LIMIT

Set a time frame in which you will make your decision. Don’t rush important decisions, but don’t procrastinate either. It’s essential to set a fixed time and a specific day for the decision.

Sometimes not everything will be clear and we won’t be able to cover every possible contingency. We have to set a limit and recognize that we cannot control everything. Otherwise we might end up wasting precious time waiting for greater clarity or going around in circles going nowhere.

When the stipulated date arrives, decide conscientiously based on your discernment, and move forward.

If the options have been put on the table and reasonably examined, and all are equally attractive or there is still no clear answer, just decide one way or the other. Make the best decision you can make at the time, without fear. 

3 PRAY TOGETHER

Receiving the sacrament of marriage means inviting God to be the focal point of your marital relationship. Asking God for help in the decision-making process can give you clarity and strength as a couple. Faith is fundamental.

Making decisions in God’s presence helps us to decide not according to our tastes but through seeking to do God’s will. Focusing on the ultimate end and goal of our existence helps ensure that our decision is congruent with it.

Pray that God will enlighten you and guide you to seek what is best. Ask Him that through this process you may learn to trust that God, in wanting our happiness, wants us to find joy and fulfillment.

Also, ask God as you reflect: “Through this decision, is there something You want to show us? What response do You expect from us? Does our decision please You?”

4 ACCEPT CO-RESPONSIBILITY

Accept co-responsibility for the decisions you make as a couple. Otherwise, there may be tension or resentment and that can negatively affect your relationship.

You are unique individuals with different needs and desires, so you will not always agree on every decision. This means that from time to time you will have to compromise and trust each other.

Each of you must ask yourself the question: Is this decision best for us or just for me? It’s important to seek to focus on mutual understanding and unity in your relationship during the process.

Regardless of the outcome, the decision-making process should ultimately lead to building a more supportive and loving relationship.

5 RE-EVALUATE YOUR DECISIONS

Evaluate your past important decisions from time to time, and don’t be afraid to admit it if you made a decision that hasn’t worked out well for one or both of you.

Also review your past decision-making processes. This will teach you what works and what doesn’t, what your strengths and weaknesses have been during the process, and what you can learn from them.

Many couples get trapped by a sense of pride or fear of being wrong. Thus, they don’t admit that a decision may not have been the best one and needs to be re-examined. This keeps them from moving forward.

Keep in mind that if a decision has been made with openness, honesty and trust, things can be fixed.

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