When you imagine the list of essential traits someone needs to have in order to be your partner, there are probably a few personal values right at the top. Whether it’s honesty, faithfulness, or even the way they approach their finances, these are your deal-breakers. All of this makes perfect sense in theory, but sometimes, in real life, it gets a bit more complicated — particularly when you fall for someone who doesn’t check all those shared value boxes. In that case, the question becomes: Can your partner’s values change? Or is this something you will either need to come to accept, or end the relationship?
We’re talking about the really big questions here, so I reached out to experts for their advice on whether you can actually do anything about not having shared values with your partner. First things first, though, what exactly are values? According to relationship coach Brenda Della Casa, they are the core of your beliefs. "Values are principals and the standards by which you set your moral compass. Your standards, beliefs and ideas are born from your values. Essentially, this is the foundation of your character," she tells Elite Daily. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed. D MSS, noted psychotherapist and author of Training Your Love Intuition, adds that values encompass your beliefs about "honesty, respect for others, views of life and its meaning, religion and politics," as she explains to Elite Daily. "These positions are a product of life events and a person’s reactions to their upbringing."
With values being so essential to your identify and formed over a lifetime, are they really even something you can change? Moreover, should they be something you feel you can change? Here’s what the experts say.
It’s not easy to change someone’s value system.
A difference in core values can create serious problems in a relationship, so there may be a temptation to address your partner’s beliefs and make them align more with your own as a way to resolve your issues. However, the experts say this won’t be easy — if even possible. “A person tends to feel and believe strongly in their values. So, it is understandable that problems in relationships can arise from differences in core values about religion, raising children, politics, money management, extended family interactions, and more,” says Dr. Wish. However, Della Casa advises against attempting to alter them. “Setting out to change someone’s value system is attempting to change their character and devaluing the character they currently have. Can you change it? Maybe. But do you want to be with someone who will change the values you don’t like so easily?,” she asks. Instead, Della Casa suggests working on learning to accept and respect each others points of view.
Dr. Wish adds that, given time, these differences in values can actually evolve — naturally — to a place of compromise on their own. “Don’t set out to change your partner’s values, but, over time, partners do learn from each other and can modify some of their stance on values. If your partner’s values bother you, make sure you set an example of what you believe,” she says.
Should you be with someone who doesn’t share your values?
On the question of whether or not you should even be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your values, the experts are split. Andrea Amour, founder and dating coach at UpDate Coaching, tells Elite Daily that being in alignment around these core beliefs is essential. “[Not having a shared value system is] a recipe for disaster. If you wind up in a relationship with someone who you don’t see eye-to-eye with on most subjects, you’re either going to disagree a lot or wind up hiding information from each other a lot. Lose-lose,” says Amour. “Imagine how that plays out: You spend money differently, raise kids differently, want to spend your weekends differently, you don’t like their friends, you disagree on where you want to live, etc. When you are in a marriage full of disagreement, it really sucks the fun out of the relationship… if your values are aligned, your marriage can survive all of these shifts because your foundation is solid,” she explains.
While Dr. Wish agrees that this type of dynamic can make the relationship more challenging, she does offer some hope. “It’s not surprising that arguments and feelings of estrangement can negatively affect the relationship. But some couples are better at handling these differences. For example, if they disagree politically, they ‘agree to disagree’ and don’t try to change their partner,” says Dr. Wish. “Happy and emotionally mature couples usually manage, over time, to develop fair-enough decisions.”
Focus on understanding one another instead of trying to change them.
If you want to make things work, Dr. Wish says it’s possible. After all, in any relationship, there are going to be some differences in they way each of you perceive the world, and part of being together is finding a way to bridge those divides. The best way to achieve this isn’t by trying to re-create someone in your idealized image, but rather by focusing on respect and understanding, says Dr. Wish. “Instead of getting upset or arguing with your partner about his or her values, go out for coffee — with the goal of learning about your partner’s values,” she suggests. “Tell your partner that you want to grow and learn more from him or her. Being together has made you expand your world, and you would like to understand and learn more about why and how he or she came to think a certain way about things — especially about areas where you differ. When your goal is to listen, learn, and understand, the results can include feeling closer, calmer, less polarized — and more respectful.”
The ultimate takeaway here is that while it is possible in some cases to change your partner’s values, you are better off finding someone whose values already align with your own, or putting in the work to find a middle ground and compromise that suits you both. Over time, your values may naturally draw closer together — it’s just up to you whether or not you’re willing to wait for that to happen.
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