A year ago, my husband Ted and I sold our home of four years and made a local move to a house half the size.
It was no easy decision. It was very painful, and it took months to agree on the course of action we chose to take.
The house to which we said goodbye was nearly perfect. It was a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, Craftsman-style home with a large gourmet kitchen and full basement. Did I mention it was also on a cul-de-sac nestled in the back of our neighborhood?
As difficult as it was to leave, our motivation was good. We needed to pay off debt. We also longed to spend our money and energy on more shared family experiences and on less material things.
Let’s face it, though: No matter how good the motivation is, a move is always stressful. It’s hard on a marriage.
At the same time, we were also traveling, making educational choices for kids, and dealing with a parent who was diagnosed terminally ill. In addition, we decided to let a child join the 8-month-long national tour of a Tony Award-winning musical.
It would have been easy for this stressful season to pull Ted and me apart – to turn us against one another, instead of drawing us closer. And we knew it. So we determined in advance to stay united, no matter what.
Perhaps you and your spouse are currently facing your own stressful decisions. If so, here are three team-building strategies Ted and I seek to practice when faced with difficult choices.
3 Strategies for Navigating Stressful Decisions with Your Spouse
1. Remember that it’s “us,” not “you and me.”
In marriage, any stressful decision-making process can quickly become a “me vs. you” face-off, particularly if there’s disagreement on what the appropriate choice or course of action is. When we hit these moments of possible dissension, we remind ourselves that we’re a team. No matter what, we’re in it together.
This doesn’t mean our decision-making process is always conflict-free. It’s not. But when we do experience a disagreement, we’re committed to working through it with the end goal of arriving on the same page, assuming the best of each other, and practicing grace during what is sometimes a disorienting, bumpy process.
2. Rather than focus on the stress, dream about the possibilities.
Another way we strive to remain a team is to dream about the exciting possibilities that we anticipate resulting from our decision. The simple truth is that imagining positive outcomes is much more unifying than focusing on current stress.
When we downsized, we brainstormed together about all we’d be able to do with more time and more money. This kept us looking forward to the same future goals as we tackled all the hassles and conflict-invoking aspects of selling and buying a house, as well as the strain of the actual physical moving.
3. Try to come to full agreement before making a big decision.
If we simply can’t decide what the right decision is and there isn’t a pressing deadline to meet, we wait. We pray. We don’t rush to decide. We’d much rather both be of one mind about a choice, even if it takes more time than we’d prefer.
That said, there have been times when we haven’t been 100% in agreement, yet we’ve had to make a decision. In these moments, we take one of two actions. Either I defer to Ted’s leadership in our relationship, or together we carefully determine who feels more strongly and go with their “gut.”
Stressful decisions don’t have to divide you and your spouse.
Ted and I are continually learning that unity is possible when we’re both committed to pursuing it. Even if a decision results in unanticipated problems, we’re committed to going through those problems, too . . . together.
We can face tough choices and even conflict in the process, but we still stay a team. You can do the same.