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Why Looking at Wants, Needs and Values is so Important for Your Relationship

Porsche 1600 SuperPHIL: The tensions in a relationship can arise from different wants, needs or values.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good starting point for thinking about needs. At the lowest level, there is no compromise: food, air and water are essentials. At higher levels, there are multiple ways those needs can be met. We can shelter in a cave, a castle or a condominium.

These higher needs like shelter, friendship, respect, are still abstractions, and we try to satisfy them through specific wants, e.g. “People will respect me if I drive a Porsche.” These wants may seem the only answer until we reflect on them and become aware of the underlying need. Because the desire comes from that need, there are always alternative ways to satisfy it.

But it’s not always that simple to make that change because people have developed associations through their culture or family. Maybe that would-be Porsche owner has been told that his identity is tied to the vehicle he drives, so he doesn’t have a wide choice. He could still get respect by driving a Corvette, but doesn’t feel he could get it from something completely different like his rock-climbing skill. To change this attitude may need a deeper dive into the origins of why respect comes from car ownership.

These wants and needs may cause conflict in your relationship if you lock onto them and don’t look deeper, but there is always the potential for resolution because the deeper you go, the more your needs are aligned, and the higher needs in Maslow’s hierarchy are not a zero-sum game. Both of you benefit from cooperation, friendship and love.

Values are how you behave in life, and how you expect others to behave. Ethics, if you will. They are relatively stable, though it is surprising how many people confess to shoplifting in their youth, which shows how we come to our values slowly.

Values are how you choose which of your higher needs are important to you. They are, literally, what you value in your life, what is important to you. You need to match with your partner on these, or your life together will never be harmonious. Bonnie and Clyde were a great match for each other, but probably neither one would have been a fit for you.

So look deep, past those wants and Porsches, and find the reasons that you and your partner connect.

MAUDE: Phil and I often talk about how important matching core values are to harmonious, peaceful relationships. They are the underlying factor in successfully dealing with the uniqueness of every individual and finding ways to accept and celebrate each other.

And yet, many people have not really considered what their values are, or how these values play a role in every one of their decisions and actions; how important they are to how they conduct themselves in every one of their relationships. Even among those who have, there remains great confusion about the difference between values, wants and needs.

Values are not really malleable, they seldom change, unlike wants which are often situational, and alter as one goes through life. Even needs change; some get fulfilled and are replaced by others, and as you change and grow both your needs and wants continually get adjusted.

Wants and needs arise from the material world. Although values find expression in your words and actions, they are not material. They arise from an inner resonance with Truth, Beauty and Goodness. They tend to reflect ethical and moral principles. They can come from an inner sense of right and wrong, as well as a community sense of the same. Those values rooted in an inner sense of that which is right and good tend to be less changeable than those that arise from upbringing and/or shared group values.

Core values generally center around your relation to other beings and what you deem the basic and correct way to treat them and be treated.

When you have a sense of kindredness, of shared values, it becomes possible to find ways to communicate about your wants and needs and to find mutual solutions to disagreements over them. Understanding that you are on the same side in what truly matters, regardless of differences in wants, allows you to be open to other ways of satisfying your wants that will work for both of you.

If it feels like you have different wants than each other and that is causing conflict, look for the values that underlie your wants and not just the specific shape that the fulfillment of those wants should have.

Knowing your values and sharing them is a key to true peace in your relationships. When those values match or are complementary, then you can use the sense of connection that arises from that match to practice acceptance of each other and your differences.

Footnote: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Porsche 1600 Super

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we looked at why looking at wants, needs and values is so important for your relationship. Here are some articles that discuss why values are important in relationships.

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

Relationship Series: Shared Values "This is the second post in my Relationship Series and will cover the importance of shared values in your relationship.  Values are important in your partnership because values are going to help define what is important to you as individuals and as a couple.  This doesn’t mean that you have to agree on everything, but it is important that you agree on the issues that you define as most important."

Couples Who Share These 8 Core Values Have The Happiest, Healthiest Relationships "What are core values? According to the basic definition, 'Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong.' To sustain love and create a relationship that has what it takes to survive for years to come, we have to be intentional and mindful of how we create that."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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