Do Your Values Match? by Jessica McGregor Johnson

Good relationships are built around values, which are your internal moral code. I say internal because values cannot be imposed upon us, they are what feels right in our life. You know when one of your values is being transgressed – by you or another – because it simply does not feel good.

Think of a time in your relationship when you felt things were not alright. What was happening? Most likely it was a value of yours that was not being honoured. We all have our own values, often defining values is one of the first things that I do with a new client because it is so key to feeling fulfilled in life.

Your values show up in your life in two ways – when you feel things are going really well, you are most likely living a value. When you feel frustrated and angry – you or someone else is not honouring your values. Values are not aspirational – something that you’d like to be – they are inherent in your being and something that you developed early on in your life. They rarely change, but they may evolve.  

Feeling fulfilled in your relationship is based on values. You don‘t necessarily need to have identical values but it is good that you understand each other’s and honour them within the relationship. It is even better if you can have an agreed set of joint values. However do not leave these values to be just individual words. It is really important that you understand what each of you mean by particular values.  

The classic example is the situation of a couple at couple’s therapy. They are both feeling very misunderstood and blaming each other for the misunderstanding. What came out was this:  They had agreed that the value of trust was paramount to their relationship. He was complaining that she was flouting that value by flirting with men when they went out to a party. In his mind, trust meant that she only had eyes for him and would not look at another man.  In her world trust meant that she could look and flirt with whomever she wanted, and that he could trust her 100% that she would never ever act on it. For her it was a bit of harmless fun and in her mind she was totally trustworthy.  

Once this miscommunication came to light they could come to an understanding as to what their joint value of trust meant to them.  This can be a very powerful way of cementing and deepening a relationship. It is a great feeling when you know that your partner is in tune with you on that level, you can relax and simply enjoy each other.