In the marriage class I teach (a 9-week course on developing and maintaining healthy relationships) we regularly do breakout groups of men and women to discuss a certain question of issue. It’s often amusing to see how men and women differ in their approach to issues. There was one question from the last session that caught me off-guard because both men and women had the EXACT same answers.
What are your top 5 areas that you would like for your spouse to ask you about before acting?
This particular night we were discussing the issue of sharing power and decision-making within the marriage. And yes – the men and women all wanted their spouses to dialogue before acting in the same areas of life.
Any guesses what they came up with?
1. Making major purchases or big financial decisions
This was #1 for both men and women. Face it – when we work hard for our money or towards a financial goal we’d like some input before our spouse goes off and makes a major purchase or a big financial decision that will affect the whole family. Sadly, many of us lack impulse control and the understanding that we should consult our spouses before making such decisions. Sometimes we fall into the “It’s my money and I’ll spend it however I please!” mentality.
That’s true if you’re single, but not if you’re married. I’ve never yet met a happily married couple that maintains separate accounts. Separate accounts indicates that couples have not understood the biblical concept of two becoming one. Separate accounts means that you’re withholding part of yourself from your spouse, and relationships cannot grow in intimacy if you’re forever holding part of yourself back. It’s not YOUR money and MY money – it’s OUR money. We will decide together how we will live, spend, save, and give.
Why don’t we consult our spouses sometimes? It’s basically selfish. Our spouse might veto what we want, so we don’t even ask. If you stop to think about it you find it’s really a juvenile and selfish mentality. It does not help build trust and respect in the marriage. Intimacy in marriage means that you both work together towards common goals. It means you give your partner an opportunity to veto and a voice in the process.
2. Making plans to do things
Both men and women disliked when their spouses made plans for them without checking with them beforehand. I understand that some opportunities have to be acted upon immediately, but usually there is time to consult with our spouses before we pull the trigger on making plans.
A good practice is to tell the people with whom you want to make plans, “I’m not sure of our schedule yet. Let me check with my spouse and I’ll get back to you soon.” Giving your spouse a voice in making plans really is about respect. It tells your spouse, “I care about your opinion and what you want to do more than I care about the immediacy of making plans.”
3. Making spiritual decisions for the family
This is gender-neutral – we each have the capability of making spiritual decisions for our spouse. Which church will we go to (or place of worship if you’re not Christian)? Which spiritual activities are we going to participate in? Since tastes, abilities, and personalities differ so much from person to person it is unwise for one person to make decisions for the couple. Talk about it and decide together the how, where, and what of practicing your spirituality.
4. Making a major job change
“But it’s MY job! Why do I have to talk to my spouse first?” It’s really about doing life together. When you are single you are only looking after yourself. You make decisions for the good of one, and when you shift course the only one affected is you. In a marriage, every course you take is going to affect your partner. Making a major job change can affect the family situation, housing, cash flow, reaching goals, and a handful of other issues. Give your partner the respect of discussing major job changes before acting on them. Remember – this isn’t about MY life…it’s about OUR life (yes, that was supposed to be singular).
5. Household issues like child discipline and paying bills
Let’s be honest, you don’t have to have a committee meeting every time there is a bill to be paid, but both partners should be aware of the bills. Both partners should have a say in parenting goals and values and how to achieve those through discipline/rewards. Passive spouses, don’t just surrender control of household issues to your partner. Aggressive spouses, don’t just seize control from your partner. Share life together and mutually decide the who, how, and what of managing household issues. While you won’t always see eye to eye you can still be on the same page.
In the end, our goal is to create a oneness, a unity within the marriage. It is not about two roommates doing life individually under the same room and sleeping in the same bed. Marriage is about leaving the two behind and moving forward as a single entity. No longer ME but now WE.
How about you? What would you like your partner to ask you about before acting?