Developing Shared Values

Couples who share common values have more satisfying relationships and deeper intimacy.

There are many couples who have enjoyed thriving marriages even though they share few common interests. What bind them together are the values they share.

If you share plenty of common interests, you might enjoy your time together. However, when the time comes to make life decisions together or when confronted in sticky situations, great conflicts may arise because of your different value system.

How do you foster and promote this kind of dialogue and interaction in a marriage? Here are some ideas to keep in mind.

1. Values dictate actions
You start forming your values system from the time you are born through the influence and teaching of your parents, school, place of worship (church, mosque, temple, etc.), the media and so on.

These values that you pick up become an inherent part of you that will dictate, whether consciously or unconsciously, your actions and decisions in life – career, lifestyle, how you spend your time and money, parenting, etc. They are your “inner voice” that speaks from your heart, and if you go against this voice, you will feel conflicted.

Now, imagine having to compromise on your values for the sake of your mate. Over time, resentment will build up, leading to bitterness and an unhappy relationship.

2. Uh oh… trouble brewing
For example, one spouse may want children while the other does not want to be saddled with parenting responsibilities. One spouse may be content with a simple lifestyle while the other won’t settle for anything less than a semi-detached house in an upmarket neighbourhood and a fat bank account.

And what if one spouse values religious faith while the other is apathetic towards religion? Worse, what will happen if one mate decides to adopt a faith that the other opposes?

Closer to earth, one spouse may consider championing environmental health of topmost importance while the other doesn’t care if the forests are losing their trees.

For couples who don’t share the same values, communication is a great starting point to talk through the issues. One marriage expert puts it this way: Good communication can only clarify this difference, not solve it. Another says that “if the values are significantly different, it’s unlikely that even the best communication will be enough.”

3. Values check
What are your values? Do you even know? We have listed down some common values. Do a quick check to clarify the ones that are essential to you and discuss where you both stand.

  1. Honesty (e.g. telling “white lies” or lying will hurt people)
  2. Keeping promises (e.g. promises made at the spur of the moment should also be kept)
  3. Religious conviction (e.g. this is the most important thing in my life)
  4. Loyalty to friends and loved ones (e.g. I will stick with them in good times and bad)
  5. Filial piety (e.g. no doubt my parents are important, but my spouse is top priority)
  6. Lifestyle (e.g. simple living is okay, but I will not compromise my comfort)
  7. Kindness (e.g. don’t be so kind that people will take advantage of you)
  8. Career (e.g. I don’t mind staying late to get up the corporate ladder)
  9. Children (e.g. I don’t mind adopting)
  10. Fidelity to my spouse (e.g. I intend to stay true to my spouse)

It is crucial to run through with each other your values so that you are on the same page and have the right understanding and expectations before the wedding bell rings.

But what about married couples who never got around to discussing their values before signing on the dotted lines? Is it too late to change? More importantly, can they change their values and beliefs?

True, it’s better to look before you leap but when you have already leapt and landed on the other side, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel if you do not give up and keep working at it.

4. Getting to the core
Couples who are committed to their marriage will be willing to make adjustments but without violating their own conscience. Because of their commitment to and love for their spouse, they will look for areas that they can compromise on. They will also look for common grounds they can work on together to strengthen their values bond.

If you don’t even know or aren’t sure about the values that are important to you, do the values evaluation first. Finally, always remember that you are two different people who love each other and are committed to not only making your marriage work, but flourishing it.

From the Focus on the Family website at focusonthefamily.com. © 2016 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Who are the people who have the values you admire and have inspired you?
  2. What are the values that are important to you?
  3. What are some of your non-negotiable values? Which are “negotiable”?