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Why It's So Important for Couples to Talk About Their Values

Core values are important, and so is sharing them with a new potential.partner.

Key points

  • Core values in a relationship are the guiding beliefs that direct your words and actions.
  • Knowing your core values will help you know when another individual's core values do not align with yours. 
  • If you are not aware of your core values, it will be difficult to find a partner with whom you are truly compatible. 
fizkes/Shutterstock
Source: fizkes/Shutterstock

Romantic relationships are challenging, especially when you are wearing your heart on your sleeve and braving your true self with your partner. When we begin dating someone new, we willingly drown ourselves in the heavy currents of infatuation and attraction. As a result, we often forget to check for compatibility—catching feelings for someone and sharing similar interests and hobbies does not equal compatibility. When we initially look for compatibility, we look for similar interests. Maybe you want to date someone who loves dogs, enjoys skiing, and spends a lot of their free time engaging in physical activities in the outdoors. These are all excellent traits to have, but what happens when you age or injure yourself and no longer ski every day in the winter? Is your relationship compromised because you do not share enduring core values? Interests and hobbies change over time, but core values do not. Talking about your core values early in a relationship is crucial for many reasons. The primary reason is that you don’t want to invest time and emotion into something that will not last based on not having similar core values.

What are core values?

What are relationship core values? Core values in a relationship are the guiding beliefs that direct your words and actions; your perspective is about yourself and other individuals and the world around you. Core values are the foundation of how you live your life.

Why do core values matter in a relationship?

In a healthy romantic relationship, each partner has other individuals (friends, co-workers, family members, etc.) who play the various roles that fulfill all of their other individual needs that their romantic partner cannot fill. Your partner cannot always be your travel companion, therapist, confidant, financial safety net, co-parent, and lover. Therefore it is essential to have other people in your life to fulfill these needs. However, your romantic partner should be able to fill your core values. Issues will arise, and you will have hurdles to overcome in your relationship. Having compatible core values will arm you with the necessary strength and camaraderie to navigate these hurdles together. Shared interests, chemistry, and the attraction will fade and maybe come again, but core values will always be there.

Common examples of important core values:

  • Trust
  • Family
  • Accountability
  • How you express anger
  • Religion
  • Empathy
  • Gender roles
  • Financial matters
  • Self-improvement
  • Loyalty
  • Communication

How to determine your core values

Identify your values through honest introspection. This is not an exercise in choosing what you aspire to be, but rather it requires digging deep down and being non-judgmental about the things you care about the most.

What makes you feel the most “you”? What makes you feel expanded, open, or joyful?
If it is playing with kids, perhaps one of your core values is family. Maybe you want kids in the future.

If it is making sure everyone has their desired amount of food on their plate, maybe you value fairness or service.

If you do not like working for a boss, even the best boss in the world, maybe you value autonomy.

If you continually plan for the future by putting away money each month, maybe you value financial freedom.

If your partner does not share these core values with you, your core values are deal breakers in a relationship.

Knowing your core values will help you know when another individual's core values do not align with yours.

If you are not aware of your core values, it will be difficult to find a partner with whom you are truly compatible.

When to start talking about your core values

You should get a feeling for someone’s core values as you are slowly getting to know them. Suppose you go on a first date and notice that you both have physical and emotional chemistry with each other and you begin to see each other weekly, then by the 4th or 5th date. In that case, you should be asking and talking about core values.

Maybe you start to learn about their family. Do they talk about their family? Do they visit their family? Do they communicate with their family members often? These actions can clue you into whether they are close with their family, believe in strong family values, or have any interest in having children in the future. Part of getting to know the person you are dating means that you take note of their actions. You constantly ask them questions and look for any signs of shared core values. Be mindful about how your partner communicates with you, especially when they are going through difficult times. Do they become angry? Do they shut you out? Do they need to take time to themselves so they can sift through their feelings? Do they pour their heart out to you? Are they needy? Communication is a core value that is important to many. The more questions you ask and the more time you spend with your partner should allow you to learn if your core values match up with your partner’s core values.

It is also a wise idea to be direct and have a conversation about core values. This should be done as early as possible, and it can be done in a casual conversation by simply asking if they are religious, if they want children if they are close with their family, and what values are important to them. Ask them about their past romantic relationships, their friendships, and their family ties. Ask them what their core values are and why. Ask them about their career goals, what financial freedom means to them, and inquire about how they handle challenging situations. It is crucial to keep in mind how they answer these questions and talk about their core values. Do they shy away from the topic by making excuses or changing the subject? Do they respond right away and with concrete examples? Do they become guarded and wonder why you are asking so many personal questions? Are they answering these questions too eager with perfect answers?

Regardless of your differences or similarities with your partner, it is almost certain that you will not share the same values, and that is okay. But verbalizing the values you hold on to, whether you realized it before or not, can help you understand what is important to you in a spouse and if your partner shares those values, too.

Facebook image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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