We make decisions every day. In fact, research suggests we make about 35,000 choices each day as adults. That’s a lot! Decisions range from minuscule to significant. Some of these small decisions we make every few seconds are things such as taking a sip of coffee, responding to a text message, or even readjusting in our chair. More medium size decisions are things like what to have for dinner, plans for the weekend or even what color to repaint your living room – decisions we make that are fairly low risk and usually don’t require our finances to take a large hit. These medium decisions are where you may start seeking input or opinions from others. Oftentimes the first person on your list will be your spouse, especially if that decision, like the ones in our examples, impact them as well. They’ll eat the dinner you selected, likely enjoy the weekend plans with you, and of course, live in the repainted living room – hey, you may even make a decision that requires their help to execute it!
At the far end of the decision-size spectrum are the big decisions. These are the ones that are life-changing or at least feel significant because of the financial impact.
There’s variety in just how big these decisions feel, and that will vary by the individuals involved. Some of these big decisions would be adding a new pet to the family, moving to a new state, switching careers, buying a house or a car, or even expanding your family by having a baby or adopting.
Decision-making is a concept that is related to the roles and responsibilities you share with your partner. There’s some delegation that has happened – whether intentional or not – that designates who does what. And some of the things we have to make decisions about may already have a designated “owner” depending on how you’ve split up those roles and responsibilities in your relationship and household. Maybe you always make dinner, so you decide the meal each night. Or maybe your partner takes care of all car maintenance, so when it’s time to buy a new car, that decision is in their court.
Of course, in your solo decision-making on behalf of both of you, you likely still employ the “rules” that have been set – sometimes clearly defined, and other times completely unwritten. Rules such as, healthy meals during the week and indulgences on the weekend, or that you only drive pre-owned cars, so going to the dealership to purchase something brand new is out of the question. Relying on these previously defined roles, responsibilities ,and rules to execute those decisions means that some of those medium to bigger decisions get made without a lot of discussion between you and your partner.
But, when these decisions are big and hefty, and kind of uncharted territory, how do you decide?
There are a lot of different ways to go about decision-making. And of course, it will vary between couples. The decision-making process for one couple may look and feel completely different for another couple, and that’s ok! What we want for you is a decision-making process that minimizes argument and is free from resentment. Ultimately, you and your partner need to come to a decision that you both agree on and feel good making. We know this can be hard – there are often many things to consider, nuances to understand, and future circumstances to envision. It can be even more difficult if this is one of the first big decisions you’re making together. Here are our three tips for making big decisions together.
And quick BONUS tip – learn from the process. At some point after the decision has been made, look back at what you did together to get there. Have a conversation about it. Reflect on what went well and how you felt about it and ask your spouse those questions. Decision-making isn’t a test, and no one is going to grade you as a couple on how well you did. But there’s a lot of value is talking about and learning from the experience. Just as with most things in your relationship, your decision-making process will evolve, change, and grow. Taking time to communicate about it ensures you both stay on the same page.