Shelley J Whitehead

Why do values matter in relationships?

30 November, 2022

If you want to improve your relationship skills, strengthen how you connect with others or are looking for a partner, it’s a really good idea to have a solid understanding of your own values as well as understanding the values of others. 

There are many reasons that values are really important in relationship terms and in this video I’m going to talk you through four reasons that values matter in relationships and how this knowledge can help you improve relationships in many areas of life. 

1. Understanding our own values gives a strong self of self

Good relationships start with a solid sense of self. What I mean by a ‘sense of self’ is knowing who you are and being in tune with what you need, to be fulfilled and happy in life. Values can be defined as the things that we hold most dear in our lives, representing the standards or founding principles on what means the most to us. They are an intrinsic part of who we are, representing our deepest needs. If you have a strong sense of your values, you will be on solid ground for having a strong sense of self. 

2. Having a sense of self supports good boundaries

A strong sense of self supports us in maintaining solid boundaries. Having good boundaries can be described as the act of taking responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings and needs (and not taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings and needs of others) – meaning you are accountable for your own behaviours and don’t confuse your own feelings and needs with those of others. If you know exactly what is important to you and are able to differentiate those things that are important from what might be important to other people, you have a stronger chance of being able to take a healthy degree of responsibility for what is yours. 

3. Negotiating with others to balance your needs with theirs

Good boundaries support healthy, interdependent relationships. Unlike codependent relationships (where needs and identities are merged and confused), or independent relationships (where individuals think solely about what is important for them without taking into consideration what is important to the other person), an interdependent relationship requires an understanding of both people’s needs and values and an ongoing negotiation between the two parties to support each getting their needs met. 

4. Compatibility in relationships starts with shared values

In my experience as a relationship coach and, having worked with hundreds of couples in couples coaching over the years, I have seen a very strong correlation between successful, happy relationships and shared values. It makes sense, because if you’re in a partnership with someone who has very different values to you, you are going to find that you are in constant negotiation around how to prioritise things and what is most important. In an extreme form, you may even find that your values are fundamentally conflicting. 

I’m going to give you an illustration of this with an example from my own life: I describe myself as a ‘wheatgrass person’. What I mean by this is that I care deeply about health and I spend a lot of time thinking about health and how I can make it a priority in my life. I will drink wheatgrass shots, despite the fact that they taste disgusting to me, because health is one of my most important values. Many many years ago, in my early years before I learnt about healthy relationships and the importance of qualifying relationships before getting in too deep, I found myself in a relationship with someone who has substance dependencies. It turned out that his idea of a good night out was a night where he took drugs of some kind. It didn’t matter to him if it affected his wellbeing or his functioning in everyday life, what really mattered to him was the freedom of losing himself in the moment. And that manifested in a form of partying that was in fundamental opposition to one of my own core values. There was no way around it – he didn’t value health and I couldn’t help but judge him for his disinterest in the value of personal growth, as he refused to look deeper underneath the surface to see what drove his unhealthy behaviours. We didn’t share the same values, so we were fundamentally incompatible. 

So, my recommendation to you is that if you haven’t already done so, take some time to really get to know what your most important values (your ‘core values’) are. Have a think about the values of those around you and whether their values are in alignment with yours. Understanding your own values and those of others will give you very helpful insights into how you relate to them. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about relationship skills, boundaries, good communication and tips for improving partnerships or dating skills, you might be interested in taking a look at my YouTube channel – there you’ll find lots of great videos on these subjects in my channel. 

Wishing you clarity and love

Shelley J Whitehead
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