What is the Most Important Thing at the Core of Your Relationships?

What is the Most Important Thing at the Core of Your Relationships?

We just did a podcast interview with a Pastor who counsels  couples  about their relationships. We didn’t have enough time to describe all the areas we teach about, so we chose the single area we thought would be most useful – core values.

MAUDE: Understanding core values and learning what yours are is foundational to the process we teach for creating peaceful harmonious relationships. We differentiate values from wants and needs on a spectrum of ever-increasing importance. This scale starts with wants which are the most ephemeral, moves through needs which are sometimes difficult to differentiate from values, and then to values which rarely change, even when you formulate them in different words or images.

Your core values are those upon which you base your life, your actions and decisions, even when you are not clearly aware of what they are. This can occur because values are often felt rather than thought, and as a result you may not have actually put them into words for yourself. And yet they are so critical to your life, inner peace, and all your relationships.

A knowledge and understanding of what yours are can be a great tool for creating mutual solutions to disagreements and misunderstandings in your relationships, as well as finding a more fulfilling way of applying them to what you do and how you do it in your life. We recommend setting aside time to take a deep dive into what yours are and formulating them for yourself. When you have done this, it will give you the opportunity to reflect on whether and how you put them into action.

Once you are aware of your core values, those most central to who you are, you can take a look at your relationships in terms of how much your partner, friends and even relatives have matching values. As it is a critical factor for creating peace and mutual solutions in your relationships, a match of core values is very important. When we say match, we mean they fit together, are the same or complementary and not opposed.

Working with this knowledge will help you to understand areas that may be causing a feeling of disconnection or discomfort in any given relationship. It will also enable you to look at things that appear to be causing problems even though they are not a conflict of values. When this is the case, ask yourself, if this is not opposed to my core values, why is it disturbing me so much? Prioritizing issues according to their alignment with your values can help you learn things about yourself and work on areas that may be getting in the way of peaceful relating.

Formulating your values and having an ever increasing awareness of what they are gives you a strong tool to move toward inner peace and peace within your relationships. We recommend a regular evaluation where you spend some time looking at your core values and what you are doing in the world. Are you walking your talk? Are you spreading your values in the world through your actions and interactions? This evaluation is not to judge yourself or give yourself grades of good or bad. It can be a way for you to reevaluate what you are doing. Ask if there are things you can do that would spread your values more fully.

The more you know your values and know what they are on a visceral level, the easier you will find it to walk through the world and find satisfaction and fulfillment.

It can also be really juicy and useful in partnerships and intimate relationships for both of you to make lists and share them with each other. This helps when disconnects arise; you can look at whether they are really about values or are just different ways of expressing the same values. Again, if its not about values, then why is it disturbing you?. This can be a fruitful area of self-inquiry.The more you know your core values, the easier you will find it to walk through the world #quote Share on X

PHIL: We’ve come to see that having the same values as your partner is a key part of having a successful relationship. Without them, you’re going to clash again and again over what to do. When your values match, you can always find choices that work for both of you.

The language is tricky because pretty much everything can be described in terms of its value, whether that is its usefulness or its financial valuation. We find it helpful to think in terms of a spectrum of wants, needs and values that are progressively less malleable. What you want and need can be valuable in a material sense, while values are about how you live in the world, how you treat others, the areas of aesthetics, morality and ethics.

Although many, many books have been written on these subjects, the basis for them is how we feel. Some examples are fairness, respect, autonomy, obligation, and caring,– but these are just suggestions; please choose your own.

The words come afterwards and are chosen to support those feelings. Very few people hold positions that they feel are wrong. (Let’s leave aside the issue of writing to deceive.)

The most important of these, the ones on which you cannot compromise without feeling bad, are your core values. When you find those and give word to them, you have a rock to stand on. With this and a partner with matching or complementary values, there is no need for conflict.

This rock, this sense of your core values, also eases your path through the world. Without knowing your own values, you choose that path according to the values of others, but when you know your own values, you are well on the way to heeding Socrates’ words: “Know yourself.”

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: It’s surprising what underlies things!

Read what some other writers have to say on this topic.

Get our free weekly newsletter about how to have a harmonious relationship.

* indicates required

Tell your friends!

5 Comments on “What is the Most Important Thing at the Core of Your Relationships?

  1. I recently became legal guardian to my two nephews. Both parents have history of drug abuse and incarceration.
    The parents have lived there most of there lives in the “wants” zone.
    so bad that I find it difficult just getting my nephews to start with at least their “needs” first.
    What are your thoughts on impressing upon them how to set aside “wants” until “needs” are covered?

    • Wow, that sounds like a heavy lift; thank you for stepping up. My first thought is that you have to get them to know that their world has changed and they are in a place they are supported and cared for. It’s a challenge for anyone to change their worldview, and I imagine this will take a while to sink in.
      You don’t give their ages, but I imagine they’re not very capable of introspection. You could take the approach that we use for resolving differences and gently ask why they want what they want; in other words, look for the needs underlying their requests (or probably demands!)
      The insecurity of a new place and the separation from their parents means their needs are going to be pretty intense. They are going to need to feel safe and loved, and that they will not be abandoned. Good luck, and thanks again for taking them in.

  2. Your very thoughtful and (as usual) excellent blog posed for me an interesting quandary. What do you do when you have long term “friends” that do not share your core values and have diametrically opposite ones? Cut ties? Continue interacting even though you are not in any fundamental accord? Sometimes I think my loyalty to the history knowing each other precludes my need for harmony in a relationship

    • Yeah, that can be a tough one. Whether you cut ties or continue is a personal choice. I think of values as how we treat each other, as the balance between how we prioritize ourselves and how we support others. We’re all somewhere between psychopath and saint, and perhaps the question is how much of a difference can you tolerate?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *