The following is a resource from the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Decision Making” seminar.

You will remember what you rehearse. You will rehearse what you enjoy. Marriage is meant to be enjoyed but requires rehearsing (i.e., remembering) the things that are most important. For this reason, each seminar in this series will provide a collection of dates that are designed to allow couples to review what they’ve learned. Two things you should note:

  1. Each date can be taken multiple times. You and your spouse will change over time. Because you change, the same date, with the same person becomes a new experience. Marriage resists becoming stale when we enjoy anticipating and learning what God is doing in our spouse’s life and marriage next.
  2. Create the habit of reinforcing key marriage lessons with playfulness and romance. Learn from the content and pattern of these dates. Pick a section of this seminar that was useful to your marriage and create a date that allows you to review those truths in an enjoyable way.

Finding God’s Will Date

Preparation: Make a list of all the things you felt pressure (past or present) to get “just right” because you felt there was only one possible outcome that could be God’s will. Reflect on how this sense of pressure impacted your approach to each part of the decision making process.

Activity: Share your lists and discuss which ones (a) you couldn’t imagine being different than they are, (b) have changed or will change several times over the course of your life, (c) you still feel pressure to get “just right,” and (d) you’re most comfortable trusting God to guide without a sense of pressure on you.

Ending: Go to a place that reminds you of God’s direction over your life (i.e., the place where you “happened” to first meet your spouse, where a unique opportunity “happened” to present itself, etc…). Share the stories that come from that place and other ways God has been faithful in directing you without putting pressure on you.

Follow Up: In the coming days (hopefully creating an ongoing habit) verbalize the “little” moments when God is faithful to make decisions clear through wisdom and common events. Share how looking for these moments helps you live in less fear that you’re going to make a mistake in some choice that will derail you off of God’s perfect will for your life.

Goal for Date: To rest in God’s faithfulness to lead His people more than you fret about missing His will. To cultivate more conversation in your marriage about God’s faithfulness and daily guidance to decrease fears you may have about “big” future decisions (which is likely a source of anxiety for at least one of you).

Consensus Date

Preparation: Together, before the date, pick a marital enrichment event (i.e., anniversary trip) or home improvement idea that the two you would both be excited about and the budget you’ll have for this endeavor. Separately, before the date, brainstorm ideas for this event or project.

Activity: Begin by examining the different ideas that you each brought. Over the evening, use the process described in chapter four to decide when and what you’ll do for this date or project. Allow the energy from planning a trip or project to add to excitement of an evening together.

Ending: Review the pieces that you took from each spouse’s original set of ideas. Affirm the way your spouse honored you and took your ideas seriously. Point out ways that your spouse responded that were particularly encouraging and caused you to feel more willing to share and excited about the trip / project.

Follow Up: Go on the trip or complete the project. As you do, look for opportunities to affirm those aspects that came from your spouse’s list of ideas and thank them when ideas from your list are implemented. Allow the process of consensus to magnify the enjoyment of the end product.

Goal for Date: To create an easy “win” for enhancing your consensus skills by being intentional with something you were probably going to do anyway.

Headship-Submission Date

Preparation: The husband should plan and arrange the date around his wife’s preferences. The husband should identify one or two decisions or areas of growth needed in the marriage; consulting with his wife after writing his thoughts. The husband should ask his wife to consider the one or two items that remain at the top of the list. For this date, choosing items that could be resolved / decided in a couple of hours is advisable.

Activity: During the date the husband should share why he chose these areas of focus and ask for his wife’s assessment of how they should be addressed. He should ask questions to understand why these things are important to her and/or seem most wise. Whether he agrees or not he should value what she says, feels, and values. Allow the setting of a date to temper any tension that might arise.

Ending: At the end of the evening (taking into consideration what he has learned from his wife), the husband should express to his wife what he believes is best for their family and ask his wife to support him in that decision. Together they should discuss how to implement that decision – time table, key points of cooperation, individual tasks, etc…

Follow Up: After there has been time to execute the decision, discuss how the roles of leading and supporting felt. What did each of you learn that gives you greater confidence in this type of decision making in the future? What could each of you do to better encourage one another in your role during these kinds of decisions?

Goal for Date: To serve as a “taste of success” for both the husband in leading and wife in supporting. Too often couples wait until a big / difficult decision emerges to practice this type of decision making. Their confidence and coordination, like an unpracticed athlete, are then awkward and they struggle to fulfill their unique roles in a way that is natural and promotes unity.