Value to Look for in a Relationship

What are the core values in a relationship?
Read time: 10 mins

Our morals and values make up a key part of who we are. 

Even though there are a number of factors that go into finding the right person for you, finding someone who aligns with your morals and values in a relationship — that’s the real test. 

Opposites may attract, but compatibility is key. By sharing core values with your partner, it is a sign that you are more suited for each other in the long run. 

Our relationship's core values affect everything from daily decision-making to long-term life plans — so making sure you and your partner share the same values will help you build a fulfilling, healthy relationship.

What are core values in a relationship?

Our core values make up an intrinsic part of who we are. 

These core values go beyond our wants and needs in a relationship, but define our personalities and who we are. These values are usually about how you want to live, what matters to you, and your plans. 

Studies show that these values play a crucial role in shaping our relationship well-being, as our behaviors in a relationship are directly affected by our core values. 

Values may be more abstract guiding principles — such as valuing kindness and empathy — or making your career or personal development your priority. 

In a relationship, there may also be more specific examples of core values that your partner will not compromise on. Common examples of these values are religious beliefs, whether you want to have children, financial stability, or the kind of lifestyle you aspire to achieve.

Why is it important to have shared values?

While opposites can attract, a couple with polar opposite values may find it hard to achieve lasting relationship success.

Some differences can be more compatible than others. For example, a workaholic and a partner who values their leisure time could be a good fit if the partner with more free time enjoys autonomy or pursues hobbies with friends and family members. If they want to take a sabbatical to travel with their partner who prioritizes work above everything else, there might be a bigger issue.

New relationships are often influenced by hormones, physical attraction, shared hobbies, or similarities such as friends or careers in common. However, it’s important to remember that this rush of feeling is often transient and long-lasting relationships aren’t so surface level. A couple who share important core values will be best placed to weather changes in lifestyle and interests throughout a long-term relationship.

Trying to understand your partner’s point of view can go a long way in working together on compatibility. However, some core values may be impossible to compromise on. If one person wants children and their significant other doesn’t, it will be unlikely to find a middle ground, no matter how much they love and respect one another.

What are some important relationship values?

Core values are inherently personal and will vary for everyone. Some couples may prefer to have more in common, while others enjoy their different points of view. There’s no formula for the values you and your partner should share, but these are some of the most important deal-breakers that can affect romantic relationships.

Trust: Building trust is an important part of any romantic relationship. To feel secure, you and your partner must believe you can rely on each other for love and support. As well as agreeing on the importance of trust, discuss how to show and build it healthily. Some people may see intimacy and time spent together as a sign of trust. Others put more value on keeping their independence.
Communication: Valuing communication and understanding each other’s communication styles is integral to building a healthy relationship. Research suggests communication problems can negatively affect mental health. Effective communication demonstrates mutual respect, reduces conflict, and helps well-being.
Family: One of the key deal-breakers for many couples is a desire to have children. This is an important conversation to have early on. Feelings may still change during a long-term relationship and need to be revisited. Family values can also be much broader. One partner might want to see family every weekend, or expect to help relatives out financially. Others may prefer to keep their distance. Similar values related to extended family, not just children, are important.
Fundamental beliefs: Significant differences in fundamental beliefs can cause conflict in a relationship. These may be religious differences or conflicting political or social views. When starting a relationship with someone with different fundamental beliefs, consider the future. Some differences may not matter in early dating, but become important if marriage and children are on the cards.
Finances: Attitudes to finances are an important core value. Do you spend or save? Would you like to retire early? Are you worried about debt? Money affects a whole range of daily decisions and long-term goals, from weekly grocery hauls to owning your own home. Understanding how your partner feels about money will help you decide whether to build a life together. Lack of trust around money and financial infidelity can be serious threats to romantic relationships.
Lifestyle: Religious commitment or wanting children can come up early on, but problems caused by lifestyle differences may be less obvious until you move in together. Similar core values related to lifestyle don’t mean your day has to be identical. However, if you both like to do different things all the time, spending no more than a few minutes a week together, then this could be a sign your lifestyles are incompatible. You don’t have to eat the same things or exercise the same way for health to be a shared priority. What matters is a similar attitude to issues such as work-life balance, leisure, and how to spend your time.

How to talk about values in a relationship

Talk about your values early and often. By finding out what a potential partner values in early dating can reveal any deal-breakers that signal any incompatibility. 

“Prior to discussing values with your partner, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your own values,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.

“Begin by reflecting on the values that were present in your childhood home. This could include small things like how family members were treated, or larger values that you learned from attending a religious institution like a church, synagogue, or mosque.” 

By defining your own values, it gives you a good starting point for discussion with your partner. 

“Ask them the same questions and identify where your values overlap and where there are significant differences,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Consider how these differences affect your individual and collective decision-making. Are these differences or are they potential deal-breakers?” 

By having these conversations early on, you can open a line of communication so that you can continue to share your values as they shift and change throughout your relationship. 

“Keep in mind that for each of you, your previous way of life was your definition of normal. That can help bring compassion and empathy into these discussions,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

Relationships change us and can open us to a whole new realm of possibilities. As you build your life together, strive to find a new normal that incorporates both of your values. 

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