During our second marriage, Joseph and I hit a “wall” – not unusual in the 5-7 year time. we couldn’t solve it ourselves and I didn’t want to continue it the way it was. However, because of our Five Year Marriage, I was committed to working it out, at least to the end of out current marriage.
When I suggested seeing a therapist, Joseph wasn’t interested. But the problem wasn’t getting resolved and what was going on between us wasn’t getting any prettier. Eventually we did see a marriage counselor, a Christian minister who was local and was highly recommended. One of the issues that surfaced was that we weren’t on the same page about what mattered.
In my corporate training work with managers and teams, I knew the importance of shared values. So I told Joseph I wanted to do a values exercise together and see what happened; he agreed that it made sense. So Joseph and I sat down together, once a week, for about two months. The purpose was to explore values in general, then personal values and finally relationship values. The goal was to see if we could come up with a “standard” for our relationship.
I’ll share our results in another article, but if you want to do the same with your sweetie, I found something interesting at the Take Care of Relationships Online website. The people there asked young people and adults what they look for in their relationships. Here’s how the results looked:
- Self-esteem: people who believe in themselves and their own worth are better able to believe in the worth of their intimate partner.
- Mutual Respect: people in healthy relationships respect each other’s opinions, feelings, goals and decisions even if they don’t always agree with each other.
- Trust: people in healthy relationships are not jealous or possessive of each other.
- Nonviolence: people in healthy relationships do not hit, threaten, or otherwise scare each other.
- Open communication: people in healthy relationships communicate with each other in an open and honest way. They do not use words to hurt each other.
- Personal responsibility: people in healthy relationships take responsibility for their own actions and feelings. They do not blame each other if they lose their temper or make a bad decision.
- Continue own friendships and interests: people in healthy relationships continue their own interests and friendships outside of their romantic relationship; they don’t feel isolated from friends and family.
- Shared decision-making: people in healthy relationships use communication and negotiation to make decisions about their activities.
- Non-abuse of alcohol and other drugs: people in healthy relationships do not pressure each other to use alcohol and other drugs.
These are just a few suggestions for shared values. They are, at the least, good conversation starters that will help you figure out the values you’ll live by during the Five Year Marriage.
Over a five year period, isn’t likely that core values will change. However, each time you revisit your couples’ values, you are likely to notice some shift in importance. That you’ll acknowledge that change will be crucial as your design each marriage. For example, health may be a lower value when you are new together because you take it for granted. But as you get older, or one of you experiences a health challenge, you might place health at a higher level. Also, you may want to include a commitment for how you will handle a health crisis in your relationship.
When you both know what you want when you start out, and then you consciously focus on how your values and goals change with each new marriage, you have a greater opportunity to develop maximum intimacy.
Can you and your sweetie come up with a list of common values that you can both agree to live by during your relationship?