PQ 24.2 — Does this person have relationship values similar to mine?
This far along in this series, there are likely to be a lot of questions that are basically repeats of earlier ones. This is understandable since Veaux and Rickert never intended that the chapter end questions in their book be tackled this way, with each one answered in public with a separate essay. And repetition of important themes and ideas is often helpful in learning.
Here are some other posts that I’ve written so far on these issues:
- 5.6 — What values are the most important to me in myself and in others?
- 5.7 — Are the choices I make in alignment with these values?
- 15.4 — What do I need from my relationships? How often do I reevaluate my needs?
- What People Get Wrong When They Talk about Partner Selection (not PQ series but still relevant)
At this point in my dating life, I’ve realized that there’s basically nothing more important to me when it comes to finding suitable romantic partners than having very similar values. The right people are ones who value the same things I do and conversely they often don’t find a lot of value in the things I don’t.
I’ve found that to people who share my values, I am an absolute delight, a joy to be with. But people who don’t? Will typically find me and my actions deeply confusing (and vice versa).
But rather than rehashing that same territory in today’s post, I’d like to talk about something else. Kind of a dirty secret, really.
It’s often difficult to figure out if the person you’re interested in has similar relationship values to yours — this is particularly the case when that person doesn’t know what their values are.
That might sound a little weird. But many people take a lot for granted when it comes to how we learn to understand love and relationships. We often carry unspoken internalized beliefs about how relationships are “supposed” to work (not just for ourselves but for others as well). Typically this happens as we grow up by watching the people around us and consuming media. We come up with our own personal definition of what love is. How we should treat people we love. And the way that relationships ideally should function.
But we’re not always conscious of those beliefs — until we come face to face with someone who believes differently.
I used to be rather clueless about it myself, but over the last decade or so, I’ve developed a fairly good understanding of my own personal values system, in general and also when it comes to love and relationships. This took a lot of soul-searching and trial and error, but I think I’ve got a good sense of it and can articulate it pretty well to new people.
Sounds good, right? Well, kinda.
Here’s the trouble: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve initiated those kind of personal values discussions when I’m just starting to date someone, and they vigorously nod their head and cry out “same!” basically every other sentence as I talk about what’s important to me, what matters… only to later find… nope. That is not their values system. And they either:
- Lack the self-awareness to know what their values actually are and are just agreeing to what I’m saying because it sounds good
- Want me to like them so badly that they just pretend they are what I’m looking for, even when they’re really not (such impression management reminds me of the sex mirage, honestly)
So that’s the dirty secret. Even if you know what your own personal values are and you can actually competently communicate those to the other person and check in with them about theirs, there’s no way to guarantee that what they’re telling you is the truth. (You can’t communicate well enough for two, or more, people.)
Sometimes you only discover the truth about their values after being in the relationship for a little while and seeing if their actions match up with their words. That’s when you know if their values are actually what they said they were.
Honestly, these days that’s where I find that new relationships fail — not because I didn’t communicate enough or about the right things. Not because I didn’t check in about their values and what’s important to them. But because the person’s communication to me about themselves and my lived experience of them diverge so sharply from one another that it’s just impossible for us to be in the same relationship.
Situations where we can’t inhabit a shared truth about what’s going on between us.
And honestly, I think having similar values is a big part in that and ultimately in understanding one another.
But sometimes you don’t know until you’ve dated for a little while.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.