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When 1 + 1 Doesn't Equal ONE: Decision-Making When You Don’t Agree

By Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Early in our marriage, we resolved that we would always make decisions together, and if at all possible, we would work to be in agreement with each other.

But there have been times when we reached an impasse after much discussion and prayer. Then Barbara agreed that because God has given husbands the ultimate responsibility as the head of the home, we’d go with Dennis’s decision in the matter.

This process works as long as a husband is fulfilling his role as a servant-leader in marriage and his wife agrees. According to the biblical model, God’s organizational structure for the family begins not with the husband, but with Christ. Read this passage by Paul in Ephesians 5:23-28:

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

Though God has given the husband a position of authority and headship, this passage makes it clear that instead of emphasizing how his wife should submit, the husband should concern himself with how he should compassionately lead his wife. Husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” That’s the opposite of selfish leadership.

A husband’s leadership in marriage does not mean that the man lords it over the woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command … just as Christ does not harshly demand complete obedience from His church. An arrogant attitude violates Scripture, and it is demeaning to a wife.

God’s blueprints for marriage teach that each spouse is made complete by the other. Paul’s statement applies here: “… in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman” (1 Corinthians 11:11). We need each other. We marry to do life together, to be a team. Why would anyone knowingly choose to ignore or dishonor the other in decision making? Both husbands and wives have a responsibility to listen to one another in decision making. It just makes the most sense.

Some in the Christian community hold the notion that there should be no head of the home (a roleless marriage), and that a husband and a wife should share in all decisions equally. Sometimes you won’t agree, even after days of discussion, prayer, and carefully listening to each other. In a roleless marriage, who decides—especially on a major decision? Many couples end up in a bitter struggle for power and control.

Likewise, there are others within the Christian community who embrace a dictatorial model like I described earlier—leadership by the husband that disregards the value and counsel of his wife.

Both of these models dishonor God’s design for husbands and wives in marriage and neither has a great outcome.

So, what pattern will you follow? How will you go about making decisions? Let us illustrate what happened in the first decade of our marriage.

Our first schooling decision

Every individual and every married couple make a lot of smaller decisions every day. We have learned to get one another’s opinion on most everything because we truly value our different perspectives. Rarely have I (Dennis) gone against Barbara’s counsel, but on occasion I have made a tough call that she disagreed with.

One of those major decisions was our first schooling decision. Our oldest daughter Ashley’s fifth birthday was coming up in August, meaning she would be the youngest child in her kindergarten class. Here’s how Barbara told the story: