Behind every behaviour or decision that you make, is a value; something that you hold in high esteem and is advanced in some way by the action.
For example, making the choice to work back late, may reflect any one of a number of values, such as:
- having pride in doing a job well,
- reducing financial debt,
- avoiding anticipated conflict at home, or
- being appreciated by colleagues
All of these values deliver a good of some kind. Your values are influenced by your upbringing, gender, personality, experiences, conscious choices and your emotional needs, fears, desires and dreams. While there are some ‘universal’ values, like being loved for example, your value set will be unique to you.
When you disagree about something or can’t understand why your spouse behaves a certain way, it is a sign of conflicting values, or a ‘value divergence’. Before you can address the conflict, you will need to clarify your own values. A simple process of self-interrogation can help you:
- What do you want? This question forces you to take ownership for what you desire.
E.g. I want to be admired by my colleagues and to be successful in the eyes of my father.
- Why is it important to you? Where does this value come from? In other words, what are the underlying values? Every choice will have some benefit. Identify what good will come from doing it this way. It also helps to know the source of your value, for example: your family of origin, past experiences, religious beliefs, fears, hopes.
E.g. I feel better about myself when others admire me. I feel accepted by my father. My father worked long hours.
- How strongly do you feel about this value? Use the scale of 0-10, or descriptive words to indicate the importance of each value identified.
E.g. Admiration = 6, Approval of father = 9
Once you ‘decode your behaviour’ and identify the values, you will have a better understanding of yourself and what is motivating you. You can then look at trying to understand each other and what values are most important to you.
Embracing your Spouse’s Values
Once you have identified and shared your values with each other, the next step is to embrace your spouse’s most important values, honouring them as your own. Usually, it is not so difficult to see the good in the others values as they always have a positive good as their goal. Then you are in a position to evaluate the best way to act on those values.
To return to our example… Working long hours is one way to win the admiration and the approval of your father. However, it has some negative consequences such as neglecting the your spouse and children, your physical and emotional health; values that your spouse has. Are there other ways to honour these values as well as the values of your spouse ? Perhaps you can put some boundaries around how many work nights you have, or perhaps going into work early rather than staying late accomplishes the admiration and father approval you seek, without the family feeling neglected or your health suffering.
Brainstorm together to identify a number of different ways that honours the values of both parties and choose the one that best advances your unity.
Unity – the Most important Value
We call this the ‘trump card’. Among the hundreds of different values you may have, the one that is most important is your unity. If you are serious about your marriage, a value for unity trumps all other values. And so unity is like the litmus test for any decision; will this choice advance our unity? If the answer is ‘Yes’, its a choice that will serve and your marriage well, drawing you closer together.
The call to unity is a call to be predisposed to see things from a couple perspective, taking the other into account and embracing that which affects one as affecting both.
When you make what is important to your spouse important to you, they will feel important to you.
It is a powerfully loving act and the first step on the journey to developing couple values. Deliberately choosing to make what is important to one, important to both, is the way you can intentionally develop your coupleness. It is a conscious choice to accept and embrace the other and to honour their values as we would our own.