Being peaceful parents under the same household can be challenging if you both see and expect different things of your children and of each other. One way to avoid this is discovering what is going on inside of your partner, what’s important to them, what do they need from your relationship and how do they want to experience “family life”? The purpose of the True Values exercise is to help you to identify what your true values really are and to re-orient your life around expressing these values. This can be applied to your work, on an individual basis or as a couple (relationship) and even as a group (family, team). It can change the way you see each other and how relate because it clears up any misconceptions and unspoken expectations. The most effective way to set your life up is to have goals and to achieve the goals is to make sure they are value-based instead of want-based.
True Values Exercise for Loving Relationships
Step 1: Identify Your Relationship Values
In this exercise each partner takes turns in answering the following questions to identify what’s important to them (either in a loving relationship or in the context of a loving family). When one partner has answered and identified the their relationship values then they swap and the other partner gets to do the same process. It’s important that if you are the asker (and listener) that you do not censor, change or invalidate anything that your partner says – this is what’s important to them and you’ll get your turn. At the end you can both come up with a combined list based on understanding and evaluation and agreement.
Start by asking your partner “What’s important to you in the context of a happy, loving relationship (or family)?”
List each value as they are said to you – do not change the wording just write it down as a single word or short phrase.
When your partner hits a blank spot (can’t think of one), ask them “What else is important to you?” Give them a moment to think, don’t guess for them, (allow the silence), no pressure!
When they have exhausted their list, then ask the following:
“Now I want you to just stop, and remember a specific incident when you felt happy within a loving relationship .. And as you go back to that time now, step into your body, see what you saw at the time, hear what you heard and feel the feelings of being totally motivated…. CLOSE YOUR EYES and see that now. Now rewind the movie just a bit and tell me, what was the name of the feeling or emotion that was present just prior to the feeling of being totally motivated?”
and respond with… “So is that feeling or emotion important to you in the context of your life?”
Now swap to the other partner and repeat the above process until you both have a set of values. If you’re doing a list of family values, get the children involved too, so they can contribute and also understand what everyone wants in their family life.
Step 2: Combining and narrowing down your values list
The next stage is agreeing on what your combined list of values is. You can do this by looking at common themes across your separate values list. For example, for relationships, if one list contains trust and the other contains security and when they were explained as very similar meanings (not cheating, not keeping things from the other etc) then these could be combined into one value word with that meaning being the same for both of you.
This time begin with what’s most important and end with the least important and keep it to around 10 at the most (it can be less, even 5 powerful values can be enough). Make sure that the whole family gets a say in joint family values because without their input they are not able to live committed to these values.
Step 3: Commit to your joint values
Now that you both understand each other, know what’s important to each other are all parties able to commit to these values for the next 2-4years? (After that time, things change, relationships and children grow and you can re-evaluate your values and determine if a new set of values is required). List the ways you could live and experience your relationship or family aligned with these values.
Step 4: Celebrate your values
With this list, you can also come up with a fun project for both of you or your whole family to encourage you to live within your values. This may include date nights, a holiday, a romantic interlude, a family event, re-affirming your vows and so forth. It can be a long term or short term project or both. Make it fun for everyone to be involved.
A project creates a joint vision for you all as you move towards your future. Remember expectations rule outcomes. The moment you bring your this project vision into your conscious awareness means that you are empowered to make it happen. But it doesn’t mean it’s locked in! A vision can be far reaching yet can be revised along the way as you find creative ways of making it happen.
If you want an extended version of this exercise, which can be adapted to just you as an individual (what would make your life happy and fulfilling?) , a group (family or team) or relationship, check out my parenting resources page.