When Values Collide: Understanding Core Beliefs in Relationships

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In this installment from my ‘Ask Me Anything’ series, which you can find on my social media channels, I delve into the topic of core beliefs in relationships.

“What are some core beliefs that are non-negotiable in a relationship if those beliefs differ between one another?”

This is such a profound question that I don’t think many people consider in their relationships, and it’s ultimately a fundamental driver of relationship failure because core beliefs and values are what determine how we perceive and interact with the world.

I think the following list of core beliefs are some of the hardest to compromise on if there are differences between partners. There’s definitely an individual component here, as everyone has different bandwidths for being flexible with their beliefs, changing their beliefs in response to new information or partnership dynamics, and things of that nature.

But ultimately, the following can be hard sticking points that lead to long-term dissatisfaction if differences with your partner aren’t addressed.

MONOGAMY: Most people think of monogamous relationships when they think of relationships, and this involves exclusive commitment to one other person. If the other person is into polyamorous relationships, or is even okay with cheating, then the relationship is probably not going to work out. It doesn’t matter what you think you should do. It’s important to be honest with yourself and then with your partner about your relationship desires. I’ve written extensively about the evolution of my ideas on this topic elsewhere for those interested.

FINANCES: Money is always a contentious topic. We all have beliefs about work, budgeting, spending, saving, investing, financial risk, etc. All of these things play into how we deal with our money in the long-term, and whether your partner is on the same page as you can make or break a relationship. If you have someone that’s a saver always in fear of the sky falling then they probably aren’t best suited with someone who looks at money as a method to enjoy life, rather than as safety.

POLITICS: Political beliefs often reflect deeper values and worldviews, serving as a revealing litmus test. Partners with drastically different political views may find it challenging to maintain respect and understanding if their convictions are deeply held. We’ve seen numerous marriages and relationships falter during significant societal events like the big C meltdown, but those underlying values were always present — it just took a major event to bring them to the forefront.

FAMILY ROLES: Aligning expectations about roles within a relationship and family, including the distribution of household chores, career prioritization, and parenting, is essential. Conflicts often arise when partners hold different visions of their roles or how a household should be managed. I firmly believe in the mother being the primary caregiver during the first three years of a child’s life to support optimal mental health outcomes for the child. Alex holds the same belief and that he is responsible for supporting the family — he takes pride in it.

Understanding and agreement on these core beliefs are often essential for the longevity of a relationship and the mutual satisfaction of both partners. If you didn’t align on core values at the beginning, it’s unlikely that alignment will magically appear later on. So, when that seven-year itch hits, if you find yourself with someone whose value system radically differs from yours, you can’t be mad when things start to crumble, right?

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