Core values serve as the guiding principles that shape your thoughts, words, and actions. They influence your perception of yourself, others, and the world at large, and provide the foundation for how you live your life.
These beliefs and principles are fundamental in our life and that is why they define how we make life decisions and act. Core values are acquired through life and can change with time, especially after crucial events in our lives. Naturally, core values differ from person to person and can define how we see relationships and which partners we choose.
How do core values influence relationships?
Knowing your core values is crucial when it comes to understanding your compatibility and building long-term relationships. Sharing core values with the partner makes people in the couple connect on a deeper level, feel closer and understand each other better. Besides, sharing core values will help you resolve conflicts easier and live together through all the couple’s problems.
When you understand the core values of yourself and your partner, you engage in more meaningful conversations and understand why your partner behaves in a particular way. It becomes way easier to get the difference in opinions and find compromises. Looking for a partner with core values in focus allows you to find a person who is truly compatible with you and avoid unnecessary heart pain.
How can core values help your relationships?
Choose partners with compatible values
Some values become deal-breakers for us. For example, if you value honesty and you are not ready to negotiate it, you will look for a partner who shares a similar value or values related to it, say, trust, openness, and transparency.
You will also be able to communicate what you value in a relationship and set boundaries better. The earlier you start to compare values with your potential partner, the higher chances you develop a close connection only with people who really suit you. Depending on how well your core values match, say, your attitude to family, religion, or politics, already at early stages you can predict if you are going to have conflicts.
Find compromises and settle down conflicts
Knowing your own core values, you will have a clear understanding of what you are ready to compromise on and what things are too important for you to negotiate. You won’t fight with your partner for the things that are less important to you. If your values match, but some particular things differ, you can try handling conflicts by appealing to higher values.
Connect on a deeper level
Speaking about core values is a very vulnerable experience that requires opening your heart and soul to another person. It helps you better understand a person, and build trust and connection. Though it might be hard to open up like that at the beginning of your relationship, as a reward you will get a deeper level of understanding and more certainty in your partner.
What are core values?
This list of core values comprises more than 100 values, including altruism, accountability, achievement, belonging, cooperation, excellence, family, humor, patience, and recognition. Some values can be considered especially important in the context of dating, such as honesty, respect, communication, trust, flexibility, empathy, fun, and generosity. Still, what is really important is that the core values of partners are either similar or match well together.
How to identify your values?
There are many exercises available to understand your values. Below we will give you two of them to help you identify your core values. You don’t need to do both. They are rather alternatives that have a similar goal, just, one is based more on logic and the other one uses your memories and imagination. Pick the one that seems closer to you.
Exercise 1. Narrowing down the list of core values
We will go a similar way as was described by Brene Brown in Dare to Lead.
Step 1. Identify your values
First, you need to check the full list of qualities, which we took from the Brene’s website. Look through the values below and add yours if some are missing.
List of Values
Being the best
Being a good sport
Making a difference
Now you need to reduce the list to just two core values. The task looks impossible at first glance, so we will do it in steps. Read the list and circle no more than 20 values that you feel are the most important to you. Circle as much as you want and then recheck the list. Maybe some of the values already include others for you. For example, I chose optimism and humor. Optimism for me includes a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at any problem. So, I can exclude humor from my list. Excluding things like that come to 10-20 values that are crucial to you.
Step 2. Map values
As you can see many of your values are still related to each other. Colin Breck suggested mapping these qualities to further improve your understanding of them and identify the core values that influence the rest of the list. And this is really a good idea to now look at your 20 qualities and group them according to their meaning. In my case, I get something like this:
- Wisdom: Honesty, Trust, Optimism, Balance, Health
- Personal fulfillment: Competence, Efficiency, Growth, Perseverance, Success
- Independence: Freedom, Courage, Creativity
- Love: Family, Friendship, Caring, Gratitude, Cooperation
You can pick one more value from the list to give the name to each group or just take one from the group that can generalize all these ideas. In my example, I had to take two more values – Personal fulfillment and Independence – to name all four groups. Maybe you will want to put some of your values in two groups simultaneously. It is also normal.
What is indeed important is that this exercise allows you to narrow down your list to just 4-5 core values.
Step 3. Understand your two core values
Now, look one more time at your groups and decide how you can merge them into just two groups. Explore what these groups have in common and how some particular values can actually be the triggers or drivers for all the rest values in the group.
In my example, I can merge Personal Fulfillment and Independence, because Personal Fulfillment is already about developing your qualities and competence, growing, achieving, being efficient, and succeeding. And all these things can be achieved only if you have enough courage, creativity, and freedom. The values of this group will lead a person to the feeling of Personal Fulfillment. So, this is my first core value.
As for the second value, I decided Wisdom would be a broader concept. If a person has true Wisdom, they understand Love and Balance, and then they know how important it is to be honest and trust, how to be caring, cooperate, and develop healthy relationships with friends and family.
Step 4. Explain your two core values
So, now you have two core values and you know what exactly they mean to you. In my example, those are
- Wisdom: Honesty, Trust, Optimism, Balance, Health, Love, Family, Friendship, Caring, Gratitude, and Cooperation.
- Personal Fulfillment: Competence, Efficiency, Growth, Perseverance, Success, Independence, Freedom, Courage, and Creativity.
As you probably know, we understand something fully the moment we explain it to another person. So, now your task is to write a concise and clear sentence to describe your values to another person. It will help you better understand yourself and give you a precise picture of what you want to show to other people to find a compatible partner. I will give you my example below:
- I value Wisdom in all its aspects, including the wisdom of balancing my life and work, the wisdom of taking care of my health and mood, and the wisdom in communication and cooperation with other people.
- I value Personal Fulfillment because it lets me manifest my key life values, including growth, freedom, creativity, success, efficiency, and perseverance.
To check that these values are indeed yours, Brene Brown also suggests answering a couple of questions:
- Does this define me?
- Is this who I am at my best?
- Is this a filter that I use to make hard decisions?
- What are one or two behaviors that support your value?
- What does it feel like when you’re living into your values?
- What are the indicators or signs that you’re living outside your values?
Exercise 2. Reflecting on your life
Step 1. Analyze your life events
Some people may find it easier to understand core values based on their real-life events. In this case, take some time to reflect on your career and personal life and consider these situations.
Situation 1. Remember the moment when you felt really happy and satisfied and answer the following questions:
- What were you doing at that moment?
- Were there other people? Who?
- What made you happy? What other factors contributed to your feelings at that moment?
- Why was this moment important?
- What values from the list above make such moments special?
Situation 2. Remember the time when you felt proud of yourself and answer the following questions:
- What made you feel like that?
- Did other people share your pride? Who?
- What other factors contributed to your feelings of pride?
- Why was this moment important?
To answer these questions, you can still use the list of values above. Perhaps, you will identify several values for each situation. Most likely, you will get a list of 10-15 core values, which you need to make smaller now to reach the desired two main values. For this, you need to first prioritize them.
Step 2. Prioritize values
Now you have your list of 10-15 values. To start prioritizing them, read the first two of them and decide which one is more important for you. You can create two very negative scenarios in your imagination that would make you choose only one value. Use this scheme to sort and order all the values in the list. For sure, it will happen that during this mental exercise, you will have to move some earlier values by those that you will evaluate later. So be ready to create many situations in your imagination.
Step 3. Check core values
In the end, you will get a properly ordered list of values, with your two core values written at the top. This is the time to re-check your work. Look at these two top values and try to answer:
- Do you really feel happy and satisfied when you follow these values?
- Are you ready to speak out about your values?
- Do you use these values in your everyday life?
- Do you stick to these values when life throws challenges at you?
What should you keep in mind before talking about core values with your partner?
It is better to avoid stating your values as just two single words. People can understand the same words in a very different way. As a result, misinterpretation can make people understand you in the opposite way. For example, you may say that your core value is Freedom. Some people can understand you as an unreliable person who is not good for a long-term relationship or family. While in reality, you could mean that every person should feel enough freedom in a relationship to grow personally, achieve goals, have hobbies, and speak freely and openly without the fear of judgment.
By creating a sentence based on your secondary values, you can explain your vision of the core value more explicitly and avoid misunderstanding.
And one more thing to remember is to stay curious. When a person speaks about their qualities, don’t turn on your inner interpretations at once. Instead, listen carefully, ask questions, and try to understand what your partner means.
When to discuss your core values with your partner?
Though getting to know the core values of your partner is crucial, it is unlikely that you will start to ask such questions directly on the first date. Many people would feel puzzled by such a question or even feel like being interrogated. During the first dates, when you understand that you have some chemistry and common interests, you can start noticing some hints on your partner’s core values. Do they speak about family? What are their priorities? Do they become angry easily? How do they treat other people and you?
Starting the 4th date, you can start to talk about core values, directing the conversation in this area without asking these questions straight away. For example, you can start with some stories related to your values and ask about the opinion of your partner. It will be natural to talk about romantic relationships and values in relationships. You can also start talking about career and personal goals quite early as those topics can also relate to their core values.
What if you already have a partner? Does it make sense to discuss values? Sure, discussing values can be a great tool to better understand another person even if you have been living together for years. Understanding the values of your partner can help you better interpret why they react in a particular way to some situations. And you will notice a deeper level of connection between you after such a discussion. Discussing core values can bring your relationship to the next level.
Sharing core values can make partners more connected to each other, help them resolve conflicts faster, and even avoid many quarrels. If you are looking for a partner, knowing your core values will help you find a compatible person and build a stronger relationship from the very beginning. Take some time to do one of the exercises suggested in this article and you will get a better understanding of yourself and considerably increase your chances to start a soul-fulfilling relationship.