Having difficulty making decisions is a tendency often attributed to the people-pleasers of the world. As a recovering people-pleaser myself, please know I use the term endearingly. Learning to set aside needs and feelings for the sake of preventing conflict is a creative (albeit long term unproductive) form of self-protection. But I digress…
I’m here to talk about another, lesser-named culprit at the root of our decision-making dread: decision fatigue. This “ailment” usually plagues those in a position or role (at work, school, or at home) that requires a great deal of decision-making- especially when the decisions have potentially significant repercussions.
This concept was brought to my attention by a loved one in law enforcement. This person shared their experience of being confronted with a thousand daily decisions, many of which have the potential to carry life-or-death consequences. With this in mind, it makes sense why an individual may be tempted to defer to someone - anyone- else about the details of weekend planning, what bottle of wine to take to the new neighbors, or what show to put on Netflix after dinner. Sufferers may notice themselves cringing or being flooded with dread at the thought of being asked to make yet another decision. This can also lead to confusion for a loved one who thinks they are doing a loving thing by asking for input.
Whether one or both partners are working, caretaking for a family member or loved one reliant on support, raising children, etc., the prospect of decision fatigue coming up in a marriage is likely. As nice as it would be to opt out of making decisions, this simply isn’t practical. More realistically, the question becomes: How can this burden be effectively shared?
Perhaps it’s taking shifts- one partner is responsible for making any minor decisions on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the other Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and Sundays- take turns! Or maybe your good friend the nickel becomes the decider of your fate- will it be Chipotle again, or are we venturing out to that new place we’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten to?
Whatever you decide, the most important part is communication. Express to your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re needing. Use “I-statements” and acknowledge the other person’s contributions to avoid getting into a “who has it harder at work and shouldn’t have to share the load” competition. Remember, validating the contributions your partner makes to your relationship or the weight of decisions they make daily doesn’t negate yours. And, don’t forget you’re a team- it benefits both partners to be communicative and on the same page about how decisions will be approached.
Christian Makenna Clements is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #111159.