All couples make small decisions daily without consulting each other. But what about when one of you decides on a bigger issue without consulting the other? Or you want to move full speed ahead and your spouse is still undecided? Therein lies the rub!

If you’ve found yourselves running around in circles, experiencing sleepless nights and increasing conflict because you can’t seem to reach a mutual compromise, you’re not alone. Quick, definitive decisions elude many couples and strain the relationship, depending on how you or your spouse responds to stress or change. An illness, the birth of a new child, sick parents, a new home purchase or a job transfer – everyone responds differently to these situations.

The good news is, there’s is a simple tool you and your spouse can use in making decisions. This tool can diffuse the tension between you and provide you with some clarity on where you both are at. in the decision-making process. It’s called Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light. The stoplight metaphor allows you to express feelings of either wanting to go full speed ahead, proceed with caution, or put your foot on the brakes.

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Recently, my husband, Jim, and I had a major decision to make. My immediate response was, “Give me some time. I need to pray. I’m sitting at the red light.” I seldom travel through a green light without a sense of direction from the Holy Spirit. If I don’t feel that, I usually find myself wide awake at 3 A.M. with an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach. That’s the equivalent of a yellow or red light flashing before me! Exhausted, I’ll drag myself out of bed to pray some more to gain a sense of peace. Years ago, a marriage mentor encouraged me to pray, “Lord, if you want us to move forward, provide us with your peace and wisdom, and put all the puzzle pieces together.”

Even after discussion and prayer, if you and your mate find yourselves sitting at the green light, your decision-making process isn’t necessarily over. How do you know you’re making a wise decision, one that’s not based on feelings alone?

  •  Consider talking with a pastor, Christian friend, or mentor an instructor who’s driven many more miles exploring life experiences to provide a seasoned, godly perspective. “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances” (Proverbs 11:14, MSG).
  • An unsettled feeling often means Holy Spirit nudges are at work. There’s a reason God gave peripheral vision. Have you ever sat at a green light and had a feeling you shouldn’t yet step on the gas and pull out into the subdivision? All of a sudden you see a car out of the corner of your eye and you instantly know the driver’s going to run the red light. A day or two of sitting at the green light of decision-making provides the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to tell you if you are safe to move forward.
  • Coincidences are not always coincidences. Do you occasionally talk to friends, receive a text message or email, or read a daily devotional and see a very similar theme running throughout these things? When you have a very busy week and little time with God, he still finds a way to speak to you. Reflect on your week and see if there are a number of things that aligned to guide you toward your decision.

The truth is, two imperfect people united in marriage will never see eye-to-eye on every decision. Marriage calls for a commitment to loving compromise. But using the stoplight method should go a long way to helping you end up on the same road together.