Making decisions on your own can be difficult enough. When it comes to choices that affect both you and your spouse, decision making becomes an art. Conflicting ideas, stubborn notions, and heightened emotions can all get in the way of rational judgment. With the correct attitude, and a few tips to guide you, joint decision making can become a productive and rewarding experience.
Communication is key
Lack of communication or active participation in decision-making can cause resentment. One partner making all the decisions or major decisions can cause the other to feel left out.
If you are the dominant decision-maker, be sure to ask your spouse what he or she thinks before going ahead with something that will affect your family. If you are timid, try to be more outspoken about issues that concern you. Let your spouse know that you want to be a part of the decision-making process.
Brainstorm with your partner, and be open to new possibilities. If there are conflicting ideas, make the effort to talk about your feelings. It’s important that you each understand where the other stands on the matter. Reflect on your own state of mind, opinions and attitudes, and consider your partner’s position as well.
Is the ultimate objective of your partner the same as yours? Explore how other options—besides the one you had your heart set on—might work. Don’t be afraid to give in a little. A happy spouse is usually more agreeable.
Take your time on important decisions
Rushing a decision often leads to regret. Do a little research and reading before making a big decision, and encourage your spouse to do the same. Schedule a time to discuss what you have discovered and hash out which options are viable and which can be scrapped.
Identify two or three top choices with your spouse.
Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages for each possible solution, leaving room for more discussion. You may find yourself perfecting your spouse’s favored choice, or vice versa. The whole experience should be one of exploring and learning for both of you.
Uncertainty is a certainty – how to deal with it
Few things in life are unlikely to change, but uncertainty is something you can count on. Embrace ambiguity rather than trying to control what is not in your hands. But this does not relieve you of making responsible decisions. Since your hearts have come together, start with the heart as a guide.
Identify your long-term goals—such as buying a house, having children, or starting a business. These will be the compass by which you navigate when your planning boat gets overturned.
In moving toward your goals, small, incremental steps are taken one joint decision at a time, with the understanding that things rarely turn out exactly as expected. If you can accept that, you will be able to sail through the most turbulent waters.
You may face situations that give rise to apprehension or anxiety. Be sure to voice these concerns and discuss them. Work together to make a decision that addresses apprehensions on both sides, because the inner voice is often the wisest counselor.
Establish a middle ground
Middle ground is the space between two people working toward a common goal. If, within this space, we can find cooperation and empathy, our common interests will be readily achieved.
Establishing a good middle ground with your spouse prevents your relationship from degenerating into a muck of strife and unpleasantness. You might begin by searching for areas where you and your partner can come to terms.
Instead of focusing on the differences, consider the commonalities. When you can work together to find a path back to common ground, tough debates seem easier. In the end, it all boils down to good communication.
Simone Jonker contributed to this report.