Is It Worth The Argument?
(It’s A Lose-Lose Situation When The Goal Is To Win)
Although in my past columns I’ve discussed the importance of inviting differences into life in order to grow through seeing other perspectives, there is a good reason to limit discussion of your differences when it comes to making decisions. There are very few decisions in life worth fighting for. If it will not be included in your memoirs, it isn’t worth the disagreement. That china pattern or model of TV can’t be important enough to upset the one you love, or threaten the warm marriage you want. To show each other why you think differently is fascinating and even fun, but when it comes to making a decision, you don’t want to feel as though you need to prove your point to your spouse.
Respecting differences means listening to and understanding your spouse. When all you care about is winning or proving your point, I guarantee you’re not truly listening. So when it comes to a decision, state your opinion, listen to your spouse and allow the person in charge of that area to make the ultimate decision, because your partnership has placed that spouse in that role.
This is how any other successful system works. Partners know that there will be disagreements that will not always be easily resolved. So the person in charge of that department should genuinely listen to his or her partner’s opinion, discuss it and consider all or part of it when making the decision. We can’t put all our energy into each decision. So we split the decisions. We are not avoiding our differences, but using them strategically in a way that respects the many demands our busy schedules place on us.
What has always fascinated me about the time and energy we put into decision making is that we seldom truly know whether we’ve made the right decision. Decisions have a way of revisiting you, years in the future. You can point to something you once thought was a bad decision and then, years later, realize something great happened because of it. Consider three major decisions you’ve made in your life. Were they the “right” decisions? Are you sure today that if you had done something differently, it would have been better or worse? Did these decisions cause the exact outcome you anticipated? Few people I’ve counseled can draw a straight line from point A to point B.
Before making a decision with your spouse, remember that right or wrong doesn’t enter into the discussion as much as understanding each other’s feelings and thoughts Through the ability to make a joint decision, you and your spouse will feel closer. Ultimately, that feeling is more important to your lives than the outcome of any specific decision. After all, if you and your spouse have a horrible fight over an investment, and in the end you make money on the investment, is your quality of life better compared with the love you drained out of your marriage? What is your priority?
When couples fight about a decision regarding their children, I explain that no matter what the outcome of the decision, it can’t possibly outweigh the damage the children will suffer because the marriage had to sustain such fighting, When a couple told me they had fought openly and bitterly for days about which boarding school they should send their “difficult” child to, I felt so sad for this “difficult” child. I sympathized with the parents’ stress and their wish to do what was best for their child, but they had lost sight of what was really important. Couples who fight like this over childcare issues are not helping their children. Ironically, they forget that what is truly going to help their children more than the “right” decision is a warm, loving home, which begins with a warm, loving marriage.
RABBI NEUMAN is a Florida licensed psychotherapist and author of two books, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way (Random House) and Emotional Infidelity, How to Affair-proof Your Marriage and Other Secrets to a Great Relationship (Crown). He and his work have been featured many times on The Oprah Show, Today, The View and in People, Time and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and five children in Miami Beach, Florida. For more information on his work, visit www.mgaryneuman.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.