Because of this, the quality of a marriage can come down to how decisions are made. A yes-no dynamic tends to get established that each party sees playing out in predictable ways. Does one person tend more to get his or her way? Do stalemates result instead of decisions, after an exchange of predictable yet incompatible opinions?
Each party to marriage has a will and a need for respect, along with distinctive desires, fears, and moral justifications. Each has a distinct mode of operating. We say ‘the big yes’ to each other when we get married. What’s harder is to keep saying ‘yes’ to one another later.
For years, a friend has been talking about remodeling her kitchen, which hinges on getting her man to agree. She lays the plans, gets her ducks in a row. But when it comes time to ‘push the button,’ the guy says no. His ‘no’ is decisive, because it’s not just her kitchen but their kitchen and his money. (A lot of distinctions are maintained in modern matrimony.)
It’s all very unjust, because, in a marriage, ‘no’ is more than a tie vote: it’s a veto. Saying no is a great way to skirt the prospect of change. And there’s an unearned bonus: the nay-sayer gets to feel more powerful than the nay-receiver. For these reasons, saying no to a spouse is very seductive: it’s personally satisfying as well as corrosive.
I hate being on the receiving end of ‘no.’ I feel indignant and hurt when my husband nixes my plans, and I find it easy to dismiss the validity of his reasons. What’s harder is to admit is how often I say no to him. Because when either of us says no, we cut off the hope of a decision. We establish the limits of our mutual trust. We forego harmony by declining to entertain the prospect of change.
For here, after all, is a person I decided it made sense to marry. I trusted that person enough to put my future at least partly in his hands. Why can’t I trust him enough to let him decide what kind of puppy we will buy, or just agree when he wants to buy stock in Twitter or Facebook? For not only does saying yes build up good will, it satisfies the promise of marriage by opening the door to personal and mutual change. Just think how happy we could be if we each said yes to what a trusted other was saying.