Have you ever made a bad decision? We have. Lots of them. We purchased a vehicle that we later regretted. Vocational choices were made when we weren’t unified. From the mundane to the mammoth, we’ve been through the valley of consequences from poor decisions.
Thankfully, most of those poor decisions were made earlier in our marriage. Now that we’ve been married over 35 years we can look back and see some powerful life lessons that have helped us make better decisions together. We thought we would share these ten questions that you and your spouse can ask as you make significant decisions. These questions will guide you in making better choices:
1. Have we prayed together about it?
This is the most important thing you can do as a couple when it comes to making significant decisions. You come to God together and ask for his wisdom and help. You are inviting the presence, power, and insight of the Holy Spirit into the process. James 1:5 gives this promise, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
2. Are our hearts and motives in the right place?
Sometimes we can want something because of a selfish desire. We can candy coat it to sound good like, “I want the new job so I can provide better for my family.” But in reality we want the new title and prestige for ourselves. Or, decisions can be made because of a lack of contentment or even a desire to get even with somebody. Make sure that what is driving the decision is a pure heart that honors God.
3. Is it wise–and have we sought wise counsel?
Many couples could avoid financial difficulty from large purchases if they simply ask themselves the question, “Is this wise?” For example, you may need a new car, but wisdom would be to purchase a decent used car instead of the shiny new car that is on the lot. You end up enslaved to the bank instead of having the freedom to invest in your family, your future, and to give to God’s work. Ask yourself, “Is this a good decision or is it the best decision?
One way to find wisdom is to seek the counsel of people who are well-schooled in the area where your decision is being made. If it’s a financial decision, seek people who are wise with their finances. If it is a parenting decision, seek people who have a family you respect. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
4. What are our values and priorities?
An old adage for making mature decisions is that “maturity is putting off short-term wins for long-term gains.” We have a friend that chose to take a demotion at work so he could spend more time with his family. His family has reaped the benefits of a decision that was based on values and priorities. For example, if you value retiring comfortably someday, then you choose to spend prudently today and invest wisely for the future.
5. How will this impact our marriage or family?
Some decisions bring more strain on to the marriage relationship. It may be that your decisions will put pressure on the two of you (or on one of you) that wouldn’t be wise in this season of life. Perhaps one of your children is in the season of life where they particularly need your regular presence, but your decision would take you away too much. Weigh out together the risks and benefits to the two of you and your children.
6. Are we united?
Remember, you are making a decision together. It could be that one of you has intuition, insights, or a check in their spirit that has been placed there by God for the protection of you both. Be respectful of each other’s insights and perspective. If you are not united, it may be that the right decision for you is to wait. One of the ways to be sure is to have processed questions 1 through 5. That will bring greater peace and understanding.
7. Is there any deception?
Has either of you withheld information from the other? Be sure everything is shared. This will protect you both from making a poor decision. It will also keep you united should difficulties come as a result of the decision made. (Even the best decisions can have challenges down the road!)
8. Would we be pleased if our children made this same decision?
Protect yourselves from any hypocritical choices. Your children are watching you (even the adult children) and will base their choices in part on what they learn from you. “Do as I say AND as I do!”
9. What will we sacrifice or risk for this to happen?
It’s easy to just look at the benefits of a decision and be lured toward it. Stop and make a careful assessment of what you may lose as well. In our marriage, we’ve even taken paper and made two columns and listed the risks and benefits. Seeing it on paper helps create deeper conversations in making good choices.
10. Have we considered all the options?
Sometimes the momentum toward a decision needs to be slowed long enough to weigh out if there might be an option B, C, or D to look into. You can certainly over-analyze a decision, but looking at your potential options before making your decision will give you peace when you finalize what to do.
Making decisions in marriage is part of life. Over time, as you and your spouse work through these ten questions, the more natural and common it will be as you build your marriage.