Discussion Guide for Married Couples
PURPOSE: To reflect on how we make decisions, and how the decisions we make impacts our relationship.
We start each discussion guide with several questions. It’s best if these questions are answered by both husband and wife either in the visiting room or by mail. By answering the questions and sharing our feelings, we are able to have an understanding between us which will help us to make decisions more quickly that are acceptable to both of us.
QUESTIONS TO GET YOU STARTED:
- Name one decision I made recently that affected our relationship and how do I feel about it now?
- Am I comfortable making decisions with you and what are my thoughts and feelings about my answer?
DECISIONS: Our lives are full of decisions. Who we are today is the result of our past decisions – both good and bad. Some of our decisions will affect us for only a short time, but others will affect us for years to come, some for the rest of our lives, some may determine how we spend eternity.
One of the goals of our decision making is to maximize our strong (good) traits and minimize our weak (undesirable) traits. We should strive to use our decision making process to help each other become more the person God created us to be.
Just as athletes train to improve their skills, so can we improve our decision making skills both in calm times and under stress. The difference is sort of like the difference between catching a ball hit right at you or one that is going over your head. “Practice makes perfect”.
Following is part of a Marriage Encounter presentation given by Paula and Reggie, while Reggie was serving time at a Federal Prison Camp.
REGGIE: As our marriage partnership continues to grow, we realize there are many aspects of our individual lives that must be merged into that partnership. One thing that we’ve had to work on is our decision making process. Paula and I try to consult one another whenever possible, before making serious decisions that involve the kids, finances, our future, etc. However, this is not always possible, since she can’t call me if an important decision must be made immediately. In these cases we discuss the decision after the fact and in most cases I agree with her decision. But that doesn’t happen 100% of the time.
Not long ago, Paula decided that it would be a good idea if she placed both our names on the tithing list at her home church. When she told me, she was bubbling with enthusiasm that she had done this “for us”. I have to tell you that I was definitely less enthused. I tried to understand how that made her feel more like a family, but I was a member of another church before my incarceration, and my loyalties remain there.
I explained to Paula that in the prison environment, I don’t get the chance very often to make my own decisions, so when the opportunity arises it’s important to me that I can help to make those decisions. When the opportunity is denied me, I feel like part of me is not valued. I worry that I might be losing my ability to make decision, so it means a lot when she respects my opinion on the topic.
PAULA: It was then that I realized how important the decision making process is in our marriage. To me, making so many decisions alone had become a chore. I was excited about this decision because I envisioned Reggie and I going to church together when he is out. I knew his faith had grown stronger since he’s been incarcerated, and I thought we were on the same wavelength regarding spiritual matters.
I tried to put myself in his shoes, and I suddenly could see that I was being selfish. I wanted everyone at my new church to see Reggie when he came home. This wasn’t a decision that had to be made immediately. I had to let go, and trust that God would help us with this decision. Most of all, I needed to listen to Reggie.
REGGIE: And I needed to listen to Paula. We finally decided to wait to make the decision after I got home. I offered to go to Paula’s church, and she agreed to go with me to my old church.
Now our decision making process is more defined. We discuss and pray about the issues which must be decided upon, and then act on them accordingly. Of course, this is not always possible. We each trust the other’s judgment, and if decisions have to be made without the other’s input, we accept that. I have learned never to say “I told you so”. But that doesn’t keep me from saying, “Haven’t we discussed this before?”
PAULA: As we discuss more topics and share our feelings we gain basic understandings which help us to make mutually agreeable decisions. We can see how God is working in our marriage.
REGGIE: I have always been a very head strong and free-willed individual, always taking great pride in my accomplishments. But prison is a very humbling experience, which has allowed me the chance to look deep inside myself, find my flaws and allow God to change them. The changes haven’t always come easily. I have come to realize that the more I’m willing to give up of myself, the more love I have to give to Paula and God.
PAULA: Reggie and I believe that God has a plan for us. He is the center of our relationship and of our marriage. And we know that through Him all things are possible.
REGGIE: I’ll close with this admonition to the husbands here today, from the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave His life for her.”
Questions for Couple Dialogue
- What important lessons have I learned from this exercise and how does that make me feel?
- What positive steps can we take to help our decision making process go smoothly so that each of our needs are met?
- What decisions do we need to work on now?
- When making decisions, how can I be more sensitive to my spouse’s input?
1 King 3:5–14
“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for–both riches and honor–so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
Steps in Making a Decision
Often the only way we are going to lessen the stress in our life is to make a conscious decision. It may be a decision to slowdown or set priorities so we don’t continue to make everything of equal importance. It may be a decision to change our attitude or our job. Perhaps the decision is to re-evaluate our expectations. For some people it might be a decision to move or a decision about losing weight. It may be any number of things.
If you have identified some issues for which you need to make decisions, here are 6 steps to help you through the process:
- QUIET TIME. Most of us know the truth and most of us know the answers. What we need to do is be quiet and listen. Stop and think. Clear your mind. Be quiet and listen to yourself.
- JOURNAL. Each day write about the issue you are trying to clarify. How do you really feel about it? Is it a real issue, or have you created an issue? What is going on? What can you do about it? Make a list of your options. Anytime you write about something, it becomes much clearer to you.
- CONSULT WITH WISE PEOPLE. This does not mean to be mindless or to automatically assume when somebody tells you something that they are right. Rather, it means to get input from other people. If you think they have some insights to share, seek them out, get the input, put it in your mind, process it, think about it, journal about it, be quiet, and the truth will reveal itself.
- PRAY. Ask God or your Higher Power to give you wisdom and some insights. You will find that in prayer it is not so much that an answer is given, but that your fear is taken away so you can recognize the answer you have known all along. Prayer changes no one as much as it changes ourselves.
- MAKE A DECISION, ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES, AND DON’T LOOK BACK. Your decision may be to postpone making a decision for a certain length of time. This is an acceptable decision and can be very healthy. However, some decision needs to be made if there is ever going to be change.
- ACT ON YOUR DECISION. Outline the necessary program or practice which will enable you to get results from your decision. This may mean taking definite steps to change your life, your behavior or your attitude, or forgiving someone or asking for forgiveness, or some other course of action. As Ernie Larsen often says in his books and seminars: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” There’s a lot of truth to that very simple statement. We are where we are because of what we have done. If we are not willing to do something new, there isn’t going to be any change.
Help Us with This Decision
Dear Lord, we have an important decision to make and neither of us seems to be able to determine what the right decision should be. We have taken time to examine all the options and their consequences, and we still feel terribly confused and uncertain. O Lord, don’t let us go on floundering in this way. You promised that you would help us if only we would ask. You promised that you would always instruct us and direct us in the way we should go. We believe in your promises, dear Lord, and we believe in your wisdom. You know what choice is best for us, Lord. So guide us and show us the way, give us the strength, the confidence, and the wisdom we need not only to make the right decisions but to also have the ability to accept the decisions we make.