Our morals and values make up a key part of who we are.
Values in a relationship are a key part of compatibility. Even though several factors 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.
Our relationship's core values affect everything from daily decision-making to long-term life plans. Making sure you’re on the same page in terms of core values will help you and your romantic partner build a fulfilling, healthy 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.
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. To foster a successful relationship, it’s important to discuss these values early on and define your dealbreakers.
Generally speaking, core values are about more abstract guiding principles, such as valuing kindness and wanting to help others, 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. These can include things like religious beliefs, whether or not you have to have children, or even how you choose to handle your finances.
While opposites can attract, a couple with polar opposite values may find it hard to achieve lasting relationship success.
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. This is why it’s so important that you and your partner share important core values so that you will be best placed to weather changes in lifestyle and interests throughout a long-term relationship.
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.
If you and your partner have different values, it’s important to try to see your partner’s perspective and if you’re able to reach a healthy compromise — that doesn’t jeopardize your belief system or your relationship needs.
It’s also important to remember that compromise isn’t always possible, and the relationship may have to end to preserve your values. For example, 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.
Core values are inherently personal and will vary for everyone, with some values inherently more important than others.
Some couples may prefer to have more in common, while others enjoy their different points of view. Ideally, there should be a balance in your relationship, where your partner can challenge you but can also align with your other views.
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.
Opening up the conversation about values in a relationship can feel like a daunting task, as you wonder about your overall compatibility with your loved one.
Even though it can be difficult to approach these conversations, it’s important to talk about these things so you can open a line of communication that allows you to share your values as they shift and change throughout your relationship.
When speaking to your partner, try to keep an open mind, and be responsive to their point of view — even if it’s different from your own.
“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.
Within any relationship, it’s important to establish your values early on, so you can both be clear on how to move forward. This process involves a clear process of communication, reflection, and healthy negotiation.
Before communicating with your partner, it's crucial to understand your own values. Reflect on what matters most to you in life, and what you want from a relationship. While your values or priorities might shift over time, it’s important to consider aspects like honesty, loyalty, family, career ambitions, financial management, and lifestyle preferences.
“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.”
When communicating these values to your partner, it’s important to emphasize why these things are important to you, and what you’re unwilling to compromise on. After discussing both of your values, identify values that are common between you and your partner, as these will form the foundation of your relationship going forward.
“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?”
Based on your shared values, it’s time to set clear expectations and boundaries for your relationship. Make it a practice to regularly discuss your values with your partner to ensure you’re still aligned and make adjustments as necessary.