We agree on most preferences, values, and decisions.  But a few years ago we needed a new mattress and we did not have the same opinion on what type to purchase. It might not sound like much, but to us, it was a big deal. Our tastes were so different that it actually took us three years before we were in agreement and bought a new mattress! 

What do you do when you and your spouse can’t agree? And what if the issue is more significant (and it probably is) than buying a new mattress?

When you and your spouse can’t resolve an issue here are five steps you can take to maintain peace and unity in your marriage.

1. Give each spouse the opportunity to express their point of view.  

As your spouse communicates their reasons for why they disagree with you, be quiet and listen.  Often when a spouse knows they’ve been heard and understood, a conflict situation will de-escalate. After your spouse has shared his or her opinions, ask them questions.  Don’t become defensive or mean-spirited, but try to understand the perspective of your spouse. In our marriage, often one of us has changed our opinion as we’ve listened to the rationale of the other.

2. Seek a compromise.  

Is there a way for the two of you to compromise on the issue?  We recognize that some issues are very black and white. You can’t compromise on them. Will you purchase that new car in the next week or not? Will you accept the job offer?  Which school will your child attend? Think outside the box for a solution.  Perhaps you can start your child at a particular school and if the situation isn’t what you hoped for, could you make adjustments at the end of the school year or mid-semester? As a couple, think through the implications for each decision. 

3. Take a break. 

Often the weight of a decision can create stress and disunity within your marriage.  Remember your marriage is more important than your way! 

When we come to an impasse, we will do three things.  First, we fast and/or pray. Second, we research the issue so we have the most accurate information available. (Only research an issue if you both agree to it. Be careful not to use the knowledge you discover as ammunition against your spouse’s opinion.)  And third, we table the issue for a given period. This allows the tension to dissipate and it gives us both the opportunity to talk to God about our situation. We’ve found that God often reveals to us aspects of the decision that we hadn’t considered. Or we discover that our spouse’s idea actually is the best course of action. 

Pray for wisdom and seek God’s direction for your marriage.  As we prayed about what mattress to buy and did our research, Brad uncovered a great option that neither of us was aware of. We bought a mattress online and although Heidi was hesitant at first, we are both very happy with our selection.

4. Find areas of common ground.  

It can be so frustrating when you and your spouse disagree.  Instead of focusing on how terrible your spouse is for disagreeing with you, remind yourself of the areas where you do agree. This simple exercise will help you value your spouse and their opinion.  Instead of becoming more discouraged, it can actually be useful to see all the places of agreement you do have.

5. Surrender and trust God. 

Sometimes one spouse does get the final word. Instead of looking at the situation as “He won; I lost,” or “I won; he lost,” remind each other that you’re a team.  Whatever decision was made should have been determined by what was best for the marriage. 

If you’re the spouse who didn’t get your way, don’t become angry or bitter. Trust God and continue to pray about the situation. It could be that God wants to grow you spiritually – or it could be that he is molding your spouse in ways you can’t yet see.  If you both humbly submit to the Lord, he will use areas of disagreement to draw you closer and build your marriage.