How to Talk About Your Values in a Relationship

Black man and woman looking out onto a pier
In love.

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In this day and age, finding a person you love and are attracted to can feel amazing. This is especially so when they feel the same way about you, and are all too pleased to show the world just that.

But while the beginnings of such romantic stories can often leave your heads in the clouds, there are times where it becomes necessary to return to solid ground to plan for long-term goals in your relationship. In particular, discussing the values you and your partner share can be an important process in deciding the progression of your relationship.

For the best results, however, it isn’t enough to simply have the discussion. Going about the talk in a manner that makes room for disappointments, compromise, and of course, agreements is usually most ideal. We’ll be looking into relationship values, when to discuss them in a relationship still in its early stages, as well as coping methods when discussions do not go as planned.

Core Values to Be Discussed in a Relationship 

As a guide for the important value discussions you and your significant other ought to have, the following topics represent some major issues that should be spoken about, agreed to, or compromised on at some point early in the relationship. This is to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to building a life together.

Commitment Styles

This discussion may seem odd to two people who have just gotten together, or even those that have exchanged ‘I love yous’ and are in what appears to be a happy relationship. However, people have different ideas of commitment in their relationships.

While some partners are just fine dating perpetually with their life partner, other individuals may be unhappy with that status until legal documents are drafted and ‘I dos’ exchanged. It’s important to determine where you and your significant other fall, as well as appropriate next steps if you are operating on different wavelengths.

Religion

For many, religion is a core component of their life. In such cases, being with a person of different faith can sometimes be a deal-breaker. In many situations, however, religious differences may simply be just that—a thing that distinguishes one partner from the other.

But even in such cases as the latter, it’s important to examine what expectations are when it comes to issues like raising your children, or the expectations of devout extended family members regarding your union and children.

Family

Starting a family may seem like a logical next step when you are in a committed relationship. However, for many, having kids is simply not part of the future they envision.

It’s important to decide early what your plans are with respect to family, and not just pertaining to children. You might also want to discuss potential living situations with family members like aged parents, as well as possible visitation frequency with family members that live apart from you. Your partner may be uncomfortable spending lots of time with your family, for example.

Lifestyle Habits

If you and your partner have lives that do not permit a lot of time together physically, this could cause a strain in the relationship. Likewise, if one partner engages in habits like smoking or gambling that may not sit too well with the other, it’s important to discuss this early and honestly with your partner to avoid resentment creeping into the relationship.

Likewise, when partners engage in different activities such as an outdoor-prone individual combined with an introvert, it’s important to speak about the right compromise to prevent one partner from feeling left out in the relationship.

It's also important not to assume that someone's habits will change, or that you can "fix" them. Not all of your partner's priorities need to align with your own, but healthy relationships are built on mutual love and respect, which is why it's so crucial to discuss these issues openly.

Finances

Even though mapping out finances can make for an uncomfortable discussion, it’s important to discuss money with a partner you plan on spending considerable time and the bulk of your life with. Learn about their money management skills, discuss what possible financial obligations you’ll share when it comes to household expenses, plan for a future together.

A little further down in the relationship, discussions should be had about individual debt profiles, as well as the annual earnings of each partner. You'll also want to know if your partner has an expectation of being the sole provider, with you as a stay-at-home parent.

Even if it's uncomfortable, it's better to have those conversations sooner rather than later. If you get married and have children, only to discover that your plans don't align with your partner's ideals, it could make for a very difficult situation.

Another value in this area that you might want to discuss is personal goals. Learning about this from your partner can help to paint a clear picture of the kind of person they are, as well as the drive that pushes them. This discussion will also give partners the opportunity to recognize just how to offer support to ensure these goals are met.

Sexual Relations

Sex can be an incredibly complex part of a relationship. This is why speaking about expectations, challenges, and other important parts of sexual life with your partner is important.

Discussing this openly will help to ensure that you are connecting on an intimate level with your partner in a manner you appreciate. If you establish this connection and comfort early on, it will be much easier to bring up sensitive subjects later on. If you're dealing with sexual dysfunction, or would like to try to spice things up in the bedroom, you'll appreciate having opened the door on similar topics already.

When Is it Too Soon?

While speaking openly and honestly about your values is important in a relationship, this talk doesn’t have to happen right off the bat when mention of feelings is first made.

Despite how sincere and all-consuming your feelings may be, it’s important to give the value discussion some time before bringing it up.

For instance, discussing family and the possibility of children may be very premature in a relationship that is only a few weeks old. Likewise, inquiring about your partner’s finances or how they feel about putting their elderly parents in a home when you both live together might seem very intrusive when done too early in the relationship.

Taking the early weeks and months of your relationship to observe and learn things about your partner, as well as to gauge your fit with them may be a better use of your time.

Ultimately, however, you’re in the best position to know how serious things are in your relationship, as well as what conversations may appear hasty to others, but are just ripe for you and your partner.

How to Do It?

Speaking about heavy topics like money, sexual compatibility, or life goals can be tricky to navigate. A guiding principle to assist you is open and honest communication—this means that whatever tactics you adopt to get the ball rolling with these conversations, clear and kind communication should be your ultimate goal.

To begin talks, you may expressly agree with your partner on a time to have the discussion. Alternately, you may wait for an opportunity to discuss a value topic that coincides with a similar conversation already occurring around you and your partner.

For example, watching a movie centered around a nuclear family’s life may leave room to ask about their thoughts on children and how many they want—if they are open to the idea. This may permit a more laid-back approach.

Unless the situation absolutely allows for it, you may prefer to avoid lumping all the serious discussions together. Rather than ticking all the value discussions in one afternoon, it may be more fitting to spread them across different times to allow some breathing room for the both of you. This will also allow some time to pass so you can have enough time to go over and have even more discussions about each topic over a period of time.

As for where to have discussions, the last thing you want is a combative environment. These discussions can be started anywhere you and your partner feel most comfortable: the bedroom, living room, or even on a long walk together.

When to Compromise

Despite the level of love and understanding you and your partner may share, the fact remains that you are two different people who are certain to have different ideas on particular topics.

This means that no matter how much you would love to be aligned in values, you have to leave room for a chance that they may not share your vision entirely.

In such cases, it’s important to meet in the middle with your partner to ensure the continuity of the relationship. If they are unwilling to lump finances in a joint account, deciding on an equitable system of sharing living expenses such as going 50-50 or 70-30 when incomes are uneven, may help with settling financial disputes, for example.

The same may go for their plans for a family. If three children appear too much for them, agreeing to two and a pet may seem like a fair compromise.

The important thing to consider is that you are reaching a consensus that works for both of you without any partner feeling hard done by. Compromises should ensure that both partners have an element of their wishes fulfilled, without letting go of too much of their hopes for the relationship.

What If the Conversation Doesn't Go Well?

In some cases, however, despite how much you hope for an agreement or compromise with your partner, you are both unable to come to an agreement that aligns with your values and hopes in life.

In such cases, where it is abundantly clear that neither of you is willing to move from your position regarding finances, sexual intimacy, religion, children, or other topics, it may be time to call an end to the relationship.

If you remain with your partner hoping for a change of heart on their part, or in an attempt to convince yourself that said value isn’t as important to you—you may find that resentment may build when they remain adamant about their stance. Subjecting yourself to unhappiness may eventually seem like an unfair trade if you realize your partner doesn't share your values.

In such cases, it may be necessary to cut yourself from your partner. At the end of the day, you and your happiness should come first, especially as there is sure to be someone out there whose values align with yours. Starting over may be painful, but it always ultimately worth it when the possibilities of a happy ending are considered.

A Word From Verywell

Values are an important part of what makes up our life. This is why is understandable to want to pair with a partner whose ideals align with, or at least closely resemble those that we hold dear.

Bringing up the value conversation may not be the easiest thing to do in a relationship, but it certainly doesn’t have to be difficult. Prioritizing open and honest communication, while agreeing to compromise in situations that call for it are easy ways to scale through this hurdle early in the relationship.

In the event that a compromise cannot be reached, you may decide to end the relationship. While it may be understandably difficult at the beginning, it’s always a plus to take this chance at long-term happiness.

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