Making Decisions as a Couple: What’s the Best Way Forward?

January 28, 2020
Making decisions as a couple is a delicate balancing act. In this article, we show you how to do it the best possible way.

All couples have to make decisions sometimes. Some may be important decisions, and others less so. Whatever the case, the couple has to negotiate and discuss. So, what are the best ways to make decisions as a couple?

Even if you get along well with your partner, it’s normal for you not to agree on everything. There will always be differences of opinions when it comes to making a decision. Moreover, making decisions as a couple is more than just taking a stand for or against “something. It’s a test of the strength and harmony of your union.

Factors that play a role in making decisions as a couple

In this article, we’re going to try to identify the different factors that can influence decision-making in couples. We’ll also take a look at the problems that can arise when you have to choose a specific path, take a risk, make a big change, or let an opportunity go by. We’re going to concentrate on the most important and common areas where there may be conflicts and where decision-making is difficult:

  • Bad times. If you’re going through a bad time in your relationship, or if you’ve been together for some time and don’t feel the same way for your partner, then you might be torn between staying together or separating.
  • Taking the step to start living together.
  • Spending time with each other’s family. For example, a weekend at the in-law’s house.
  • Getting married.
  • Having children.
  • How you’ll raise your children.
  • Changing jobs and either having a long-distance relationship or having to move.
  • Infidelity or other relationship rules. For example, an open relationship or polyamory.
  • The amount of time each partner has for themselves.
An unhappy couple.

What influences a couple’s decision-making?

Self-confidence

Your self-image and feeling your opinion is just as valid as your partner’s. This influences the whole decision-making process in couples. If you’re a confident person, then you’ll have what it takes to defend what you believe in and influence the final decision.

In other words, a self-confident person has an active role in the decisions. However, a somewhat insecure person will tend to give in to what the other person says and decides.

Likewise, self-confidence helps you not to keep quiet out of fear of rejection. Seeing beyond your fears when you have to deal with delicate issues in your relationship is the key to having a say in the decisions that are made. Insecure people tend to say or do what others want in order to avoid conflict.

Your partner’s place in your shared life project

Another key aspect when you have to make a decision as a couple is the place the other person has in your ideal future or your life project. By looking at things that way, the process of making decisions as a couple is based more on the future than on the present.

What does this mean? It means that the potential you see in your partner to accompany you on a new path plays a very important role. This potential could be regarding children, marriage, or moving in together. Thus, decision-making in your relationship will be based more on future anticipation than the reality you’re currently living with your partner.

With his theory of love, Robert Sternberg explained how three components are necessary for there to be mature love. One of these components is commitment. However, he’s not referring to commitment regarding legal issues, fidelity, or your day-to-day relationship. Rather, he’s talking about committing yourself to the future of your relationship.

Thus, in order for decision-making to be a successful process, there has to be a commitment to working together as a team to achieve your common goals.

A couple dancing near a train track.

Your communication skills and whether your partner can understand you

Good communication skills are essential to be able to share fears, doubts, hopes, and desires. Verbalizing things that come to mind and that can contribute something to the pre-decision reflective process is constructive.

You don’t have to say everything you think, but you do have to think and feel everything you say. Otherwise, all you’ll get will be ambivalent, unclear communication with a lot of room for interpretation. This can be very dangerous for a relationship.

In addition to this, your partner must be able to understand what you’re trying to convey and what exactly you mean. They need to understand why what you’re saying is important to you. In this sense, non-verbal communication also plays an important role.

It’s impossible not to communicate, which is why you need to make sure you’re communicating the right things! What you say must be coherent with everything else you’re expressing. Any incongruence can create misunderstandings that will make you both feel uncomfortable. For example, saying that you’re happy about planning a wedding, although, deep down, you believe that most marriages end in failure.

A shared process

Finally, I want to emphasize that decision-making in couples should be a shared process. In fact, the more you practice this, the more likely you’ll have a longer and more satisfying relationship. An Ohio University study by Kamp Dush and Taylor (2011) confirmed this.

As a footnote, we also want to point out that both partners should limit the external influences that could influence their decision-making as a couple. Your priority as a couple is to know what both of you feel. The need to please others should be relegated to second place.

 

Kamp Dush, C. M. y Taylor, M. G. (2011).Trajectories of Marital Conflict Across the Life Course. Predictors and Interactions With Marital Happiness Trajectories. Journals of Family Issues, 33: 3. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X11409684

Queen, T. R., Berg,  C. A., & Lowrance, W. (2015). A Framework for Decision Making in Couples across Adulthood. En Thomas M. Hess, JoNell Strough, Corinna E. Löckenhoff, (Eds.) Aging and Decision Making. Academic Press.

Sternberg, R. J. (2007). Triangulating love. En Oord, T. J. The altruism reader: Selections from writings on love, religon and science. West conshohocken, PA: Templeton fundation.