In our previous blog post we touched on the importance of shared core values in a relationship. We hear, all the time, about having shared interests; things in common which bind our relationships, yet hardly anyone mentions the importance of core values. These values are like red lines—if crossed, or broken, ignored, or dismissed by one partner it can signal the end.
“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” Stephan Covey
What Are Core Values
So what are these core values? Does everyone have them? Why are they so important?
A core value is an unshakable attribute, quality or belief that you hold so dear that you can never violate it. If you do, it will cause an emotional disturbance. For example, one of your in-built core values is that you believe in fairness and justice. When you witness someone being treated unfairly, it literally shakes you to the the core. You have to act on that core belief and do your best to restore the balance.
Why Are Core Values Important in a Relationship?
These values act as the foundation upon which a relationship is based. Doesn’t matter if it’s a romantic partnership or a friendship. While we are attracted to the look of a person, and are thrilled if we have common interests, what really motivates us to want to be with someone is shared values. It’s almost impossible to conduct a relationship if our core values differ widely.
Donna and David seem to have a lot in common and were strongly attracted to each other. One thing that David had a problem with was Donna’s obsession with shopping. He was frugal type and had been brought up that if you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it. Donna was the opposite, she believed in living for the moment and that money existed in the form of credit cards. As Donny witnessed Donna’s carefree, spendthrift ways, he realized that he could not live with someone who didn’t share his core value of living within his means. So the relationship ended.
Vincent believes that when he and his family go out anywhere together or as individuals, they should present their best appearance. He likes his kids to wear top-of-the-range clothing and his wife to be fashionable. His wife, Janie, doesn’t think that it matters what the kids wear as long as they are clean. And she has no interest in fashion, as comfort is more important to her. This disparity causes problems for Vincent and he either has to compromise or complain. He is deeply hurt when Janey mocks him for his concern about his own appearance. However, this value is something they can negotiate and compromise on, so it becomes not a core value but a secondary one.
Since leaving University, Diane has put her career above everything else. Her business is her baby. Even during her own children’s early years, she employed a nanny so she could continue to devote her time to her work. Her mother, however, disapproves. She believes that anyone who has children should put them first. She feels deeply that there is something lacking, some missing gene in Diane that manifests in her putting her business before her family life. Diane’s husband, however, is quite happy to let Diane be the main breadwinner in the family. He enjoys his job, but to him, it’s just a job and he is glad to spend more time with his children. Although their values regarding work differ, the arrangement works perfectly for them. Their core values complement each other, rather than push the marriage apart.
I stopped living according to my core values. I knew what I was doing was wrong but thought only about myself and thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. Tiger Woods
How to Discover Your Core Values
Most people have no idea what their core values are. They feel them rather than verbalize them. They are instilled into us from our parents and from our own observations. Some of us harvest our core values from religion, others from the Scouts or school. Could you list at least five of your core values right now? Probably not.
It’s a good idea to explore your core values, as it will help you understand yourself as an individual. Your values are a blueprint by which you are able to judge the quality of your relationships. That doesn’t mean for one minute that you can’t compromise or negotiate with a potential partner’s core values; it just gives you an idea what you are prepared to let go and what you can’t possibly ignore.
Go though the following list and mark four or five values that you hold dear and would never waver from. Then mark off a further four or five that you think are important but that you could negotiate.
After that make a note of those you aspire to. This is by no means, a complete list. You should add any you find are missing. 500 Core Values.
- Common sense
- Inner peace
- Living in the moment
- Respect for others
Developing Your Core Values
Once you have your three lists, journal about each value: how important it is, why you feel it’s part of you or why you would like it to be part of you. Try to remember when a particular value kicked-in when you made a decision, or experienced a problem, or found yourself opposing someone else’s point of view. Maybe you use your core values to determine your political stance? What about bringing up your children? Or dealing with elderly parents? How do your values manifest in your career? Do they affect your relationships with coworkers? Your choice of employer? The business you run?
Take your time—think about using this exercise as the basis of a year long self-exploration.
“Your values create your internal compass that can navigate how you make decisions in your life. If you compromise your core values, you go nowhere.” ― Roy T. Bennett
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