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Breaking the Tie

September 1, 2014

Whenever anyone talks to me about the need for the husband to be the ultimate authority in a marriage, they always bring up the issue of how to break a tie.  How, when a husband and wife don’t agree, do we break the tie?  Who gets to decide?  Put another way, if Peggy and I each get one vote how do we break a one-to-one tie?

While I respect couples who are both satisfied with the “husband as leader” concept it does get a little tiring when this tie-breaker question comes up but I suppose it needs an answer so here goes.  It starts with a principle that for some reason always stuns people:

There Is No Such Thing As A Tie-Breaker. 

If we accept that, in marriage, “the two shall become one” then there are not two votes, only one.  This principle gives us the assurance that disagreements are not contests between us but rather obstacles we need to overcome together. But what if we are uncertain?  Here are our thoughts.

  1. Which spouse is the most affected by the decision? This could be major, like job changes, or minor, like whether we need a new lawn mower.  When we consider whose job it is, or who cuts the grass, the “decider”, if it can be called that, is the one most affected and this person will lead the decision.
  2. Which spouse has the most knowledge about the situation? If we are deciding investment strategies for our retirement funds or meal planning for some upcoming guests or a host of other things it generally is not that hard to figure this out and go with the best informed.
  3. What is the level of emotional investment? It is rather easy to tell, in most cases, how important this decision is to each of us.  For example, I really want to, someday, go back to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I haven’t been there since I was a kid.  Oddly enough, this is not a passionate desire for Peggy.  But it is easy for her to sense that I am much more emotionally involved.
  4. Neither of us feels the need to stay silent on any decision. It would be irresponsible to not give input into a decision, not because we are trying to win the day, but because we care about each other’s well-being.  We both accept that the other may have a key insight that we have missed.
  5. If we can’t naturally come to agreement we either postpone the decision or, if needed, consult others or do more research. We value each other’s opinion enough to wait until things are clearer.
  6. In most areas we have decided, almost without a complicated processes to do so, where we each have the freedom to act.  Neither of us always needs the other’s approval to make a whole lot of daily decisions.
  7. We do our best to refrain from saying “I told you so.” This allows decisions we wish we could unmake to be learning experiences, not defeats.

There is a complementarian illusion that people like Peggy and I continually face struggles to make decisions where there is no tie-breaker.  This is simply not true.   A marriage that cannot come to agreement regularly is a weak marriage.  A marriage where both parties have equal say and can choose to submit if the issue means more to other person is really quite easy, particularly over time.

OK, it may take some time at the start but the payoff is great.  I am freed from the temptation to take charge or “man up” and Peggy is freed from the potential for resentment or manipulation.  Together we are freed from creating theological fictions like “I have decided to go to the store because my wife needs something” or “I’m not really the boss, just the final decider.”

Does this work for everyone?  I don’t know, maybe not.  As I said before, we respect people who have chosen together to steer another course.  But we are comfortable in a marriage that doesn’t play “Who’s the Boss.”


From → Christianity

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