Sunday was a big day in this house. My 21-year-old son took his girlfriend on a chairlift ride up a mountain and proposed to her at the top. He told us about crossing over caution tape on a trail, in order to find a nice secluded spot. (I suggested she continue this symbolism by putting caution tape across the wedding aisle.) Then, as they were hiking, she jokingly said, “Hey, you gonna propose to me up here?” He answered, “Yup.” Super cute.
When Reality Strikes
So you know, tears from me and lots of pictures and congratulations. It was a happy day. Then a few days later we started talking about a date for the wedding, and shoulders got tight right away. Is there anything more stressful than planning a date for a big event, so that everybody is happy and there are zero conflicts? Impossible.
As I watched these kids, it came to mind that there is skill to be acquired in tackling big decisions in marriage.
I know this, because over a year ago my husband said, “Hey, I think we should go to Israel.” I said something like, “No way.”
Let the sparring match begin.
Huge decisions that involve conflict of any kind cannot be made in one sitting. They just can’t. Except I think somehow we feel like we should be able to sit down and land on something right away, and maybe we’re failing if we can’t.
What Decision-Making Can Look Like
Let’s picture decision-making like the rounds of boxing. We come out with boxing gloves on and it can feel like we’re battling each other to get what we want. But really we are going toe-to-toe against the decision itself. The fight is against the conflicts and differing opinions and always about the expense and working around schedules and keeping in-laws happy.
You come into the ring together and talk through the decision. It’s intense. You’re both coming at this thing from different directions with different desires. It can get to the point where you feel exhausted and bloody.
That’s when the bell needs to ring.
Could one of you please just ring the bell? Literally say it, “Ding! That’s round one.” And then you go back to different corners and breathe, get something cold to drink, sit down and rest, get a pep talk from a coach (a.k.a. prayer and Bible reading.) Maybe think about what didn’t go well in round one and consider some different approaches for the next round.
Then you can say to each other, “Okay, are we ready to go at this decision again?”
Round two. Work, work, work through the decision and all of its accompanying conflicts until one or both of you is about in tears or fuming, then call it and go back to your corners again.
When You Both Win
When Matt brought up Israel again, I almost imploded. The whole trip seemed impossible. But I literally “went to my corner” (the bathroom) and prayed for help and guidance. In that solitary place, the Lord reminded me of my Bible reading that very morning, which was about wives submitting to their husbands, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22) I came out of the bathroom for the final round.
“Okay, let’s go to Israel,” I said.
The crowd went wild, as the ref grabbed each of our hands and shouted, “We have winners!” And we did win. Our trip to Israel was life-changing and God took care of the money part and the job part and all of my other little worries about that decision.
As I think back in our marriage, most of our decisions have been made this way: “slowly, slowly,” as they say in Israel. With each round, we get a little closer to victory and landing on something together.
Do you and your spouse make big decisions well? What needs to change about your strategy?
Much love from Montana,
Christy Fitzwater is a writer and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She has a daughter who is married and a son in college. Christy writes to help people know God, and you can find her new book about becoming blameless on Amazon. Or follow her devotional blog at ChristyFitzwater. You can follow Christy on Instagram here!