How to Make a Decision When You Disagree

How to Make a Decision When You Disagree

Make compromises when it counts

What should we do when we both feel right during a disagreement?  How should our disagreement be handled while making a decision? These questions are common…especially since “most marital arguments cannot be resolved,” stated by John Gottman in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  To make a decision when you disagree as a couple is an issue I continue to see in my therapy practice.

I’m sorry to say that there isn’t a magic-wand to correct the issue, but there are a variety of things you two can do to come to a decision without creating conflict!  Here are a few quick tips on making a decision:

  • Rate it: Take a step back and evaluate how important the decision actually is to you.  Rate how important the issue is on a scale 1-10 (1= not important at all, 5= Neutral, 10= extremely important).  This will help you determine if it is worth fighting for or to leave it alone.  And if you find that you are passionate about most decisions and every issue is rated high, this is your hint to take a deep look within.  The more “right” you have to be, the more it influences your partner to fight to be heard.
  • Flip-Flop Decisions: Instead of battling out making decisions, take turns on who gets the last say.  Rotating the decisions creates a feeling of being more connected because both people get turns and a chance to lead the relationship.
  • Figure out the Underlying issue: Ask your self , “Why is it so important to have the last say?”  Is it because you simply need your partner to hear you or to validate you?  Is it because you may feel powerless and fighting for just this one issue gives you more validity in the relationship?  Or is it because you want to know that you have value and needed by your partner?  Your “head strong” approach can send a negative message to your partner and not address what the underlying reason is.  Understand why the issue is so important and share it in a clear manner. The more direct, the better.
  • Communicate! If you have read any of my other articles, you probably have learned that I am a BIG fan of communication. Try to discuss the importance of the issue in a calm manner.  Speak up and share the significance without a “tone” and avoid biting your tongue. The less “avoiding,” the better your partner will understand the impact it has on you.  If you are “head strong,” try to share with your partner the importance without it coming out as “anger” or “frustration.”  It is important that you both feel validated and heard, so take time to share and validate one another.  The book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson can help you learn how to communicate and build a healthy bond.
  • Team: Don’t forget that making a decision of “who gets the last say” is still team work. Give reassurance to your partner and try to support one another while handling the difficult decision. Relationships can’t win if there are two opposing teams!
  • Avoid Win/Lose Concept: Avoid trying to battle simply to have victory and your partner has defeat. “Team” quickly disgreementsbecomes non-existent and the power struggle will keep your relationship in an uneven pattern of one-up and one-down type of relationship.
  • Avoid Bottling Up Resentments: As humans, we face making decisions on a daily basis.  Sometimes people “bottle up” emotions of ongoing compromises they have done.  Have you compromised too many times and this time you just won’t cave? The more “bottling up,” the more it creates pressure, resentments, and resistance to finding a middle ground.  Instead of waiting for the next conflict, begin working on letting the steam out and share what bothers you. The less the bottling, the less pressure things will come out when you address the issue.

And if that still doesn’t work, then draw straws, flip a coin, or use the Magic 8 Ball!

About Jennine Estes, MFT

Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653