WRITTEN BY Felicia Kashevaroff
What are your core values, and why are they important?
The word value means something worthy or important. It can be applied to something with monetary worth, but in this sense, it means a person’s principles or standards. Essentially, our values are our guide to building a life of authenticity and meaning.
Most people think of themselves as having values, and they do. We all make decisions every day based on what we feel is right and wrong. But countless external voices influence us; cultural norms, familial expectations, work pressures, and financial concerns, to name just a few.
Explicitly defining our core values offers clarity as you navigate life’s challenges. Values become a compass or touchstone by which you can make decisions that lead to a happy, fulfilling life.
But what happens when you’re trying to build a life in partnership with another person? The same concept applies, but instead of using your individual core values as your guide, you need to define the values you share in your partnership. What kind of life are you trying to create together? Are your current actions serving your shared values? How?
Again, we assume that our partners share the same values as we do, but we’re inviting conflict and frustration without being clear about where our values align and where they diverge.
Defining shared values is at the core of the relationship coaching we offer at Tend Task. When couples are in alignment with their values, they’re able to create a clear map of the life they want.
The first step in the process is to get clear about your own values. Start by thinking about what’s important to you. There are several tools and exercises that can help you in this process. Here’s a simple exercise that we like.
Once you have your values defined, ask your partner to do the same. Use the notes and groupings from the above exercise to look for similarities. Maybe you chose the value of Ethics, but your partner chose Honesty. Acknowledge those fall into the same category and discuss your reasoning behind the word you chose. Determine which word better describes your shared value, or select a third word that makes more sense.
You won’t align on all values, and that’s ok! Differences between partners enhance our lives, and their values help to make them into the person that you fell in love with, so be sure to honor the differences that arise.
Once you’ve gone through the entire process and chosen 3-5 values that represent your shared vision, you can use those values to start a conversation about how you are each upholding those values within your relationship. This will become an ongoing conversation you can turn to when making big or small decisions that affect your future or everyday life.
Let’s look at some examples.
Say you’re a couple without children, and you’ve identified that Relationships are a shared value in your partnership. How does that manifest in your life? Does that mean you make time for a weekly date night to keep your relationship strong? Does it mean that you each make time to cultivate your individual friendships? Do you make an effort to build friendships with other couples? All of the above? Discuss candidly what the value of Relationships means to each of you and how you can center it in your lives.
For couples with children, a common expectation may be that your children are going to play organized sports. Couples who value Dedication or Teamwork might happily support their children’s athletic pursuits from a young age. But organized sports are expensive and time-consuming. If you value Freedom or Adventure, the structure of a sports routine might not make sense for your children. This is an excellent example of where external pressure might exert undue influence. Maybe all of your friend’s kids are signing up for youth soccer or t-ball, and you feel the pressure to do the same. Using your values to guide you can help you make an informed decision that works best for your family (and keeps you off the soccer field at 7 am on a Saturday morning).
Defining your core and shared partnership values is the first step in crafting an authentic life of purpose and meaning. Once you’ve done this work, it’s much easier to consider all the things you do to keep your household moving forward and use your values to divide the work more equitably.
Does this sound overwhelming? We’re here to support you. Book a session with a coach, or get on the waitlist for our upcoming Shared Values Workshops.