Greetings and Happy Monday, peeps. In continuing on with our Get Your Personal Shit Together September, today I’m going to talk about values. What they are, why they matter, and how they’re important to having awesome dating and relationships.
What are values? One dictionary definition is that they’re “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.” Pretty basic, but these simple definitions are important. Our principles and the things that are important to us define us. They define how we choose to live, and with whom we choose to share our lives. And our “core” values are the ones that define us most, that represent the core of who we are. We all have them. When we live by them, our lives have purpose and meaning. When we don’t, life gets shitty.
So, know your core values and live by them. Simple, right? Yeah… not always.
Many of us are unaware of our deepest values. Others confuse values with preferences or hobbies or goals and wind up seeking happiness in the wrong things. Or, we focus too much on certain values to the detriment of others. Or, we’re well aware of our values but we ignore them because some internal conflict tells us other things are more important.
Examples of values include things like adventure (wanting to see and experience new things), family (putting spouse, children, and extended family first in your life), creativity (needing some kind of creative outlet), good health (doing what you can to encourage health, even if it means sacrificing your secret love for Twinkies), career success (achieving your career goals), community involvement (volunteering or making sure you know all your neighbors by name). These are just a tiny handful of many examples.
Moreover, values are individual. Your version of adventure may be about traveling to third world countries, whereas someone else’s is about doing extreme sports.
Values are far deeper than hobbies, interests, or things you believe. Hobbies and interests and beliefs change, whereas core values tend to remain consistent for long periods or even throughout your entire life. (Although major life transitions and crises can cause values to become far stronger or weaker, or even change altogether).
I love the outdoors. I’ve camped all my life and have done almost every outdoor (non-water) sport you can rattle off. I was a runner for 15 years. Now I walk and hike. Are camping, running, and hiking values? No. They’re hobbies. But they reflect multiple deeper values of mine: good health, adventure, and beauty. Likewise, a man who loves to do woodworking and carpentry in his spare time may do so because it reflects his values of creativity (making things), of originality (handcrafted things rather than mass-produced ones), frugality (not paying for things he can make himself), service (making things his family or friends need), hard work (doing things that are useful), etc.
So what do values have to do with dating and relationships? SO glad you asked.
In dating, knowing and living our values makes us attractive to others, and will attract the right people. And this is important because values will MAKE OR BREAK your relationships.
In dating, people often look for others who share their interests, hobbies, career choices, lifestyle, sense of humor, or their preference for horror flicks or NFL. This often backfires because these things aren’t values and won’t sustain a relationship. Shared values are what keep a couple together over the long haul because their values reflect their deepest beliefs and worldviews.
Now, common interests or careers can be a good starting point because interests and careers often reflect our values. It’s just that if you aren’t aware of your values, basing a relationship on shared interests is a crap shoot.
But here’s the thing. You know what a good method is to clarify your values? Dating and relationships. Yes, dating, rejection, breakups, divorces — you know, the fun stuff in life — teach us a SHIT TON about our values IF we let them. I once dumped a guy because he drank too much and didn’t take care of himself. Health is a fundamental value of mine, so we were doomed. I know married couples who fight like dogs but have stayed together for decades because they value fidelity or because they value their religious faith (both of which mean staying together matters more than other values).
It’s better if we know our values up front and prevent all this pain and suffering, right? Yeah, like that’s going to happen. I’ve met a few rare couples who managed to marry someone perfect from them in their early twenties, but the rest of us have to learn the hard way. One of the big reasons we date is to get clear on our values (and our needs too, which is a little different). You gotta get in there and fuck it up before you can find that right person and make it work.
Take a good look at your dating history. What went wrong, and why? How did the connection not fulfill your deeper values? Use that information to learn and clarify your values.
Next time, I’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of identifying your values.