“Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.” – Jimmy Carter

“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” – Bible

Tom and Tanya were in the process of buying a new car. They had looked at several makes and models but couldn’t make up their minds. Part of the problem was that they each had a slightly different car in mind. Tom wanted one that was sporty looking. Tanya was more interested in a family car.

One day Tom arrived home in a new car. It had that sporty look but he also felt like it would be adequate for their family as well. Tanya met him at the door with a shocked look on her face. In no uncertain terms she told Tom she was hurt. Tom tried his argument that it was a sporty family car and hence satisfied both their desires.

Tanya explained to him that even though she might be convinced that it would work as a family car, she was upset that he didn’t have the courtesy or even respect to consult with her on this final decision.

Dr. Willard Harley, marriage counselor, and author of many books and articles, suggests that a marriage based on the policy of joint agreement will prevent many trials and tribulations. The policy simply reads “Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.”

Tom ignored this policy when he chose to purchase the car without his wife’s agreement.

As Dr. Harley puts it, the policy of joint agreement helps produce a compatible lifestyle. Compatibility does not mean that husband and wife both get their own way all the time. That could only occur if both were exactly alike, which would be very boring, and is indeed impossible given the uniqueness built into each of us by our creator.

Compatibility rests on the desire of husband and wife to make decisions that take into account the needs and wants of both. Most marriages start out reasonably compatible because the initial attraction between man and woman encourages pleasing the other person.

However, as the marriage progresses, old habits tend to arise. These habits are usually built on personal preferences and not on someone else’s desires. This is where the policy of joint agreement requires conscious decisions to implement.

Resentment can build up if you feel something your spouse did was hurtful to you, or if you were forced to not do something you wanted to do because it would hurt your spouse. Our selfish nature tends to rise up whenever we feel we need protection.

Dr. Harley suggests a procedure for reaching joint agreement.

First set the ground rules to make all negotiations pleasant and safe. Agree not to get angry and not to cause pain or suffering, even if negotiations fail. If you can’t reach agreement right away, take a break and then pick it up again later. Don’t negotiate when you are upset or tired.

Next identify the issue from the perspective of both husband and wife. Be able to state your spouse’s position and describe the pros and cons. Respect differences of opinion.

Then brainstorm all solutions, even those that seem silly. Don’t correct each other during the brainstorming session; just list all possible alternatives. Don’t attempt to protect your own interests at this time. Do your best to consider all options that might please either or both of you.

Choose solutions that have the possibility for satisfying both of you. I hesitate to use the word “compromise” here. If your love for each other is unconditional, you are going to get joy and satisfaction out of pleasing your spouse, even if it means choosing a different path than you originally proposed.

One of the biggest challenges of marriage is bringing together two unique individuals and creating a third entity, the married couple, with its own unique needs and wants. Only with God’s help can unconditional love overcome our selfish nature to bring about the harmony we all want in our marriages.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, Executive Director, FAMCO, 803-640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.