Importance of values in a relationship
Most of us have heard that knowing your values and living by them will help create a meaningful existence. And who doesn’t want a meaningful existence. But this is a blog about relationships, so what about values in a relationship? There is a common belief that successful relationships must share core common values, such as loyalty, trust, communication, equality, empathy and honesty. But what if you or your partner’s values are not those listed above? Does it mean your relationship will be lacking in some way? It will definitely be helpful to your relationship to have such shared values with your partner, but there is no need to stress. At My Love Your Love we don’t believe you have to share these pre-selected values to make your relationship work. Instead we encourage couples to explore what shared values they have and connect with these – no matter what they are. For instance, you and your partner might have a shared value of exploration and adventure or environmental sustainability – both of which will become essential as a point of connection with one another. For you to get to the point of examining whatever values you share with your partner, you need to know what your own individual values are. So it is just as important, if not essential, to get familiar with what values you as individuals ascribe to in life, before even working out what you share with your loved one.
But let’s back up a little, and clarify what values actually are. Values are how we want to be in this world. They are our desired and chosen guiding principles of our behaviour on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis. There are no right or wrong values, rather values are about our individual judgment of what is important in life. Values are super important as value-based living is directly linked to happiness and contentment. In the My Love Your Love app we provide users with an extensive list and brief explainer of values to sift through and select, taking the hard work out of identifying your values. Examples of values include: health and wellbeing, discipline, authenticity, loving and affection, patience, safety and stability, spirituality….the list goes on.
When thinking about values, it’s helpful to distinguish values from goals. Both are important, but values are very different from goals. Goals are targets, which are outcome focused. We can reach a goal and tick it off. We might have a goal to travel around the world, complete a marathon, or have a baby. We can achieve all of these. Values, rather, are focused on the process rather than the outcome. Why is it important to travel the world or complete a marathon? What kind of parent do we want to be? Ideally, we want to allow our values to guide our goals. But unlike goals, we can choose to engage with our values at any given moment for the entirety of our lives.
So why is this relevant to relationships?
Well, all of us have values that matter to us. These might look different to the values of your family, friends and even your partner – which is totally ok and even normal. We also have shared values, which in a relationship context refers to the guiding principles you share with your partner. Both individual and shared values are essential to a healthy relationship. When it comes to individual values, it’s important to remember that although you and your partner are connected, there are two individual people in this relationship, and a key to sustaining a rewarding relationship is to celebrate and build on those differences. It’s important for your individual growth to explore and connect with your own values, and it’s essential that your partner stays open and curious about your individual values, and supports you to connect more with them, and vice versa of course. In our My Love Your Love couples app, we help couples to identify their own individual life values and learn how to support their partner to increase valued-based action in their everyday life. Seeing our partner engaged in an activity separate to us that brings them meaning builds attraction and respect, and is a trusted turn on!
What about shared values?
As we discussed at the beginning of this blog, shared values are also important to building a connected relationship with your partner. But these aren’t a pre-determined list of values that a healthy couple must have to be successful in their relationship. Rather, shared values are those individual values that crossover with your partner. This means, working out your individual values first is important to see what you and your partner have in common. If you find that you don’t have any shared values naturally, that’s ok, it just means you will need to explore a little deeper what might matter to both of you. Once you have some shared values, the important next step is to work together to connect more with these together. These shared values are a great springboard to building big couple goals. Working together towards value-driven goals is a relationship connection fertiliser. When we feel we are growing as individuals within our relationship, we will have a stronger sense of respect, love and togetherness with your partner.
Understanding these important sets of values in a relationship: my values, your values and our values, will provide your relationship with the strength, tenacity and solidarity to move through many difficult times and simply create a better life.
Written by Helen Robertson