Making Decisions

Over 14 years later, I can still remember the day—during our pre-marital counseling—where I got the best marriage advice I ever received. We had just taken our personality inventory, and neither of us had seen it, but the man (we’ll call him Reverend Henry) who was leading our pre-marital counseling had. And he wasn’t impressed.

Our personality tests had uncovered most things that we understood. We’d discussed the nuts-and-bolts of living together (who would take out the trash or do the dishes, for instance), but the personality test was left until last.

Here’s what we learned: we were opposites on almost every measurable standard. As a couple, we were yin and yang, black and white, apples and orangutans. Different.

Reverend Henry slid the packet of papers across the table to us and began showing us the results. He moved quickly, until we got to the part about leadership. I began to smile as he described Sunday, my wife, as a super-follower, one who loves following a leader.  She and I nodded and smiled as he talked. Then, he shifted to me. He described me as the polar opposite of my wife, one who loves making decisions and taking charge. We thought everything was perfect: I would make the decisions, and she would follow them.

Our faces didn’t change from their happy state until Reverend Henry began speaking.

He said, pointing at me, “Looking at this, I have one thing to say: you better watch yourself. With your personality, you could crush Sunday’s spirit in a minute.” His face was all-of-a-sudden red, and his breath was short. This guy was tense and a little upset.

Frankly, I was floored. I thought that my role as a husband would be enhanced by my natural inclination toward being in charge.  Wasn’t I the leader? I was made for leadership, right? After all, wasn’t that my role?

Reverend Henry continued, without our requesting his input,

Here’s how you should make the decisions in your marriage. Let her go first. When you’re deciding where to live or what car to buy or where to go out on dates, let her speak. Let her go first.”

It sounds simple, until you realize what Reverend Henry was saying. He wasn’t just suggesting I be polite by letting her speak before I did. I wasn’t to be merely chivalrous. He was suggesting that I put aside my personality in order to protect hers.

I’ll tell you this: the advice to let Sunday go first was really great. On nearly every decision—great and small—that we’ve made, Sunday’s gone first. According to her, it’s been great. But that’s not why you should do it. Good decisions aren’t the purpose of a marriage, or even a good relationship.

It’s great advice, and it’s also biblical. Ephesians 5: 18b-21:

“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

So did you get that? If you’re married, and you’re a Christian, then you should be submitting to each other, regardless of gender. Maybe this command is especially pointed at people who are more comfortable leading. Like me. Perhaps like you.



Matthew Towles is the Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Liberty University. He and his wife, Sunday, help to lead a marriage ministry at Blue Ridge Community Church in Forest, Virginia.


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