"We are just going to agree to disagree". Ever heard those words? Maybe even said those words? Early on in our marriage, we may have...not realizing the damage that "disagreement" can do. According to the dictionary, AGREEMENT is the absence of incompatibility (inability of two people to live together harmoniously) between two things/people. Whoa! That's a mouthful! Compromise, however, means to accept standards that are lower than desired. Well, that sure doesn't sound like much fun! Compromise is usually made to sound like a good word, but that definition leads me to believe otherwise.
What does all that mean though? In our relationship, agreement most of the time looks likechoosing not to move forward in a decision if we disagree. Holding off on making a decision until we can agree is much more beneficial to our marriage than just forging ahead without agreement...especially in big decisions! Admittedly, there are the rare times that a quick decision needs to be made and there's not always time to discuss it and find agreement. That is the exception however, and not at all the norm. (More about that in a bit).
To begin with, I think we could all agree that disagreement usually comes when you are trying to make a decision. It could be a simple decision, such as:
- Where to go out to eat (or even if you should),
- which outfit you should wear for family photos with Allen & Carol (ha-ha)
- What movie to watch, etc...
Or the more difficult decisions such as:
- How to raise your kids
- Which house to buy
- How to manage finances
- Which job to take
- How to school your kids
- Which church to go to
Whew! Just thinking about all the ways you could disagree on those topics can be exhausting, right? Where to begin? Okay, so here is an important question to focus on:
What is it that you CAN agree On?
Something we have learned is that even in disagreement, we both really want the same thing. For example,
- we both want to eat dinner (just not sure where);
- we both want the family to look nice for photos;
- We both want each other to feel loved;
- We both want the other to feel listened to and cared for;
- We both want a strong marriage;
- We both want to manage our finances well;
- And we both have the same goals for our children.
You can usually agree on the end goal (the destination), but agreeing on how you're gonna get there (the route) is much harder. In order to come up with a "route" we agree on, it will most likely require one or both of us flex and bend and give up our right to be right for the greater good of our marriage. In that flexing and bending (and putting each other first), our marriage becomes stronger than before. Yes, we may have to wrestle through it, and it might get really tough for a little while, but it sure beats being selfish and giving up and going through the pain of either having a crappy marriage or ending in divorce eventually. It seems like "disagreement" is a slippery slope that could easily lead to the destination of divorce. Disagreeing may seem like a small thing, but it is something that can grow in a marriage and take root and eventually take over. There's no way we can truly "become one" with disagreement entangling us and taking over.
Several years ago, when we were deciding which home to buy (that's a big one, right?), Allen had an idea of what he wanted and thought was best, but I (Carol) really struggled with it. I could not at all catch his vision. It didn't make sense to me, but to be honest, looking back, I was really just being prideful and stubborn. I did NOT want to bend or flex on that decision. So what to do? Well, my very sweet and patient man just waited. He didn't push me or get frustrated with me. He just waited. We set the decision aside for a bit, prayed about it and decided not to forge ahead. Now Allen is very logical, and is most often right in our marriage (yes, I just put that on the internet for the whole world to see. Scary! Ha-ha). It's true! He really could have forged ahead with that decision, knowing he was probably right. He could have not considered my opinion or thoughts on it, but that's not the kind of man he is. He is loving and thoughtful and considerate and wanted my input. So that required him to be patient. Guess what? A few months later, we were eating breakfast while on a business trip to California, and out of my mouth came, "I think it would be a great idea if we bought this kind of house" (exactly the kind he suggested!). I thought it was such a brilliant idea that I had come up with. LOLDid I mention how patient Allen is? He just kindly agreed and when we returned home, we pursued it. And to this day (10 years later), we still both agree it was a wonderful decision. Could we still have ended up in this house if Allen would have forged ahead? Sure! Would I have been happy in it? Probably. Would our marriage have suffered if he forged ahead? Most likely. I would not have felt listened to or cared for or loved, which would have chipped away at our relationship.
All that to say, that is not how we make every decision, but it is how we make the big ones. If we aren't in agreement, we take a step back and wait a little longer (if possible), and pray about it, discuss it, and try to listen to each other. It's not always pretty, but it works.
One last thing, there are times when decisions need to be made quickly and there's not time for that long process. In some instances, Allen defers to me (example: schooling decisions for the kids, etc), but mostly, I defer to him and trust his judgement. After all, God made him head of our home, and he is responsible to God for the outcome of his decisions. I am responsible to God for honoring my husband. This would be quite difficult if I did not trust Allen's judgement, if he was not a man of integrity, and if I did not know that he loves me dearly (which I do know) and puts me first in all decisions (seriously...all of them. He is the most unselfish person I've ever known). So, I do know that the way he loves me makes it much easier to honor him, but I also know that even if he were not that kind of man, I would be responsible to God to honor him, nonetheless. This doesn't mean that I don't have a voice in the decisions. I am responsible to have a voice and communicate my thoughts on a matter as well, but I can honestly tell you that I have never regretted one single moment that I have chosen to follow his lead. God has always worked it out when I've done that.
Agreement for you and yours may look a bit different (the process), but we just wanted to encourage you to get on the same page no matter how hard you have to wrestle through decisions. It makes life so much sweeter for you, and especially for your children.
In the end, What's the most important thing? That you get what you want or that you have a strong marriage? We hope you'll always opt for the strong marriage! As we've said before (quoting someone dear to our hearts), THE PRIZE IS WORTH THE PRICE! Don't forget that AGREEMENT IS YOUR ALLY and you're going for the same goal. For more on this, see our post Teamwork makes the Dreamwork.
Cheering you on,
Allen & Carol