In every marriage, important decisions will need to be made. How they are made and how both people respond when it doesn’t work out well will go a long way toward determining the overall happiness of a marriage.
Leah and I are both very traditional. She wants me to make the final decision when we can’t agree. Today, there are a lot of marriages where they have equal power, but this often leads to fighting. It’s like Congress not being able to decide on a satisfactory budget, so they just keep raising the debt ceiling. Neither of them want to lose or give way and neither has the power to force their idea of a budget through without the other’s cooperation. Also, if the default is to do nothing until a decision is reached, this could potentially result in giving the other one authority to make the decision.
For example, say a man has the opportunity to relocate from northern Virginia to Seattle to take a promotion at his company. The pay is 25% more than he was making and he thinks this is what’s best for his family. His wife disagrees, wanting her and their children to keep the same friends and liking the school the kids are in. If there’s no final authority and nothing is done until an agreement is reached, she wins by default.
I’m not saying that every decision is mine or that at the first sign of disagreement, I assert my authority and run over her to get my way. I ask for her opinion for most decisions. I want to hear her reasons because she’s often right or, at least, she has a viewpoint I hadn’t thought of yet. When we disagree, we try to compromise, whether it’s a big thing (such as a recent conversation when we tried to think of who our children’s legal guardians would be if we died) or a small one (such as which movie to watch). In nearly everything, we’ve agreed pretty quickly or been able to find a compromise. For big decisions, we pray first and wait to hear from God. It’s only in those few cases where this doesn’t happen that I’ve made the final decision.
Some of you may be asking, “Why is it you who gets to decide? Why not her? Or why not take turns?” I would answer that anyone who desires the power to make someone else do what they want isn’t really ready to have it.
Leadership, when done right, is a burden, not a privilege. Leading a family doesn’t mean I get what I want all the time; it means I put my needs behind their needs and my wants behind their wants. I don’t come first because I lead, I come last. In order, it’s God, the family as a whole, my wife, my children, myself. Leadership is service and sacrifice. It’s a form of love and shepherding that has been misinterpreted as either an unnecessary burden or domineering.
Similarly, submission doesn’t mean being a weak-willed sycophant. It doesn’t mean my wife is less valuable. We’re of equal value, but with different roles. Of leadership and submission, the latter is often easier if the leader is doing the job well. I don’t mean that just in terms of making the right decision most of the time, but also in loving and serving.
When I lead with her best interests in mind, Leah finds it easier to submit to me. When I make a decision she disagrees with, she doesn’t yell at me or do anything passive aggressive to sabotage it. She tries her best to make it a success because we’re on the same team and she knows I made the decision with her needs above mine. If the decision doesn’t work, she doesn’t say, “I told you so,” or secretly harbor a grudge against me. Instead, she tries to mitigate the damage. When a decision yields poor results, it doesn’t necessarily mean that doing what the other person wanted would have been better.
You don’t necessarily have to have the same process that we do. I’m simply saying what has worked best for us and also telling the difference between true leadership and what it’s been made out to be. If the burden is supposed to be yours, take it; if it’s not, don’t seek it.