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What is the Importance of Core Values in Your Relationship?

SunflowerMAUDE: In the last weeks we have been sharing critical aspects of our togetherness and how they are important in relationships. We have written on mutuality and union. The third in this triumvirate is core values.

Whether you have been aware of yours or not, they underlie all your behavior. They are core because they give meaning and value to your life. They are the principles you live by. These aren’t intellectual constructs, but rather, deeply felt truths that arise from your innermost being.

Whether you’re developing a relationship or have been in one a longer time, core values are the foundations on which relationships are built. In order to practice the art of relating as we share it, you must have matching core values. These must match in deeds and not just in words. How you enact these values in your day to day existence will vary from your partner’s, sometimes considerably, but they must be the same in their essence. There has to exist a basic harmony between you in your approach to people and the world.

In order to assess if your values match, it is first necessary for you to know what yours are. This takes some searching within yourself. Look for the principles that underlie your important decisions, the ones that you feel are essential to who you are and how you express yourself. These are your core values and are at the very heart of your presence in the world.

Core values rarely change. They are not situational, but rather underlie our responses to situations. It is possible to go through transformations that actually change these values, but more frequently they may expand within your expression of them in your life, but not really alter.

Once you have ascertained your values and find that they are shared, this provides the fertile ground for total acceptance of your partner and full respect for their separate individuality.

I was amazed by this experience as the relationship between Phil and I grew. Our values were deeply aligned and yet our way of expressing them was often quite different. I found this profoundly enriching. Here was an opportunity to see how the very same meanings and values could be differently enacted in the world. This greatly expanded my world view and understanding of what is possible.

Understanding core values and at the same time realizing that they will be expressed differently by each person even if they match deeply, is a key to a peaceful conflict-free relationship. You can celebrate the difference in how they are enacted by your partner, and be enriched by their unique way of bringing your values to realization. What a gift!

PHIL: We’re continuing this week with a third factor that bonds people together, which is shared core values. Core values are how you feel and respond to other people and the whole world. They are hard to recognize because they are feelings, not thoughts, and like most feelings, you don’t know what they are until you name them.

Another reason you may not be aware of core values is that you mainly pay attention to your daily activities. You do those things because of underlying wants such as hunger, thrills and approval, and those fulfill deeper needs like sustenance, sex and security. And so on, deeper and deeper, and at base are core values. These lower layers are not usually visible to you without serious introspection. To know yourself is to be aware of your needs and desires and to act appropriately.

Your deepest beliefs are based on a sense of rightness, of how things should be in the world. This is why you have to have matching core values with your partner. When they don’t match, it creates a sense of injustice.

I haven’t described specific core values much because I think they are different for different people. I do think they vary according to political outlook, or more accurately, it’s the other way around: political outlook stems from core values. Peoples’ positions on trust, empathy, power and fairness are strong factors in how they believe others should be treated.

I don’t want to claim that core values are immutable; just as your underlying feelings may change in therapy, your core values may change in response to your progress through life.

So far I’ve been talking about core values at the deepest level. There are many other more pragmatic values such as careers, location and lifestyle that can be a struggle for people. If you can find the underlying needs that these fulfill, you will have a better chance at finding a successful resolution. We use a process that, in brief, consists of declaring we are on the same side, and exploring possibilities until we find where our core values match.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner

BookshelfIn this week's blog, we discussed core values, the third of a triumvirate of factors that bond people together. Here are three articles that discuss this from very different points of view.

Why Is Recognizing Needs and Values Important in Relationships? "Needs and values — the things we care about, the sources of our wants — matter because they are the contents of our core selves. They make up much of the terrain of our inner worlds.... Needs and values are indeed highly interconnected. There will be times, in your process of gaining deeper understanding of another person, when it won’t be important to distinguish whether you’re exploring a need or a value. But there is an important distinction between the two: needs tend to be very similar for all people, whereas values tend to be highly individualized."

Shared Values Over Shared Interests: What’s Most Important in Relationships "... While I share that story to reveal that there are indeed, instances where opposites are attracted to each other, it’s important to also note that while individual interests might vary, for a relationship to last for the long-term, there have to be mutual, shared values. That means that one partner might love swing dancing, chick flicks and staying up late, while the other prefers action movies, watching baseball and going to bed early. Still, they should agree on the “big” stuff in life, like their future plans for children, where they want to live, and what they ultimately want."

Are Relationships Workable When You Have Clashing Values? "I remember a few years ago I was in a relationship with a woman whom I loved deeply. The passion and feelings were there. They were strong. Yet, the relationship never felt right. In terms of our values, we were mismatched. While my heart was in it, my head was trying to pull me away. Our emotional connection was fierce, but we did not connect in some of the crucial areas of alignment."


Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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