We speak of “relationship values”. But something like a value is hard to explain, and yet a couple knows if their values match or not. It’s a personal idea applied to real-world decisions like marriage, cohabitation, relocation, work-life-relationship balance, etc. To make it easy, I’ve outlined categories and a few question prompts per category to create your value system.
Let’s first look at values
Values are preferences, approaches to life/time/resources/people, decisions, and expectations that you care about, which paint a certain type of life you find desirable.
Now, a value system is your entire set of values that work together with you at the center. It’s a general system that guides your ideas and behavior. And in many cases, when you can’t make the right relationship decisions, you can rely on your value system to make them.
Knowing your value system allows you to know if you are compatible with a partner in the long run. It tells you what you want out of a partner and what you are willing to give in exchange. As much as this exercise is for you, it is for your partner too.
You’ll notice some obvious things are missing – comfort in talking, trust, respect, and a clear idea of what to compromise and what not to. I consider these as the minimum requirements. A value system adds details on top of that.
Warning: Answering the prompt questions is a lot of introspection and mental work. There is no right or wrong answer; it’s food for your thought so you arrive at yours.
Categories of your value system
|Personal needs answer – “What do you want from yourself, life, society, and your choices?” They are your body’s needs, your mind’s need to engage with the world, your need to connect with specific people, etc.
|Everything to do with how you earn, save, and share money.
|Current and Future Family
|The family you are born into and the family you create will change over time. And your behavior like conversations, routines, habits, etc. with them will change. What do you expect in those changes?
|Your thoughts and immediate surrounding, including parts of your past, are in your personal space. Do you wish to share that personal space? If not, how much do you want to compartmentalize?
|Of all the romantic relationships you can have in the form of dating, relationships, marriage, live-in, and open relationships, what are your top priorities in how they play out?
|The collection of all your friendships, mentors, mentees, teachers, students, acquaintances, chosen family, network, employers, school/college/work peers, etc., form your social capital. This capital lets you adjust in life and the entire capital tries to benefit each other in some way.
|How would you describe the time you have on earth and how would you want it to flow? How do you want to spend it?
|Work involves professional work (career), domestic work, hobbies, everyday life projects, administrative work, and bookkeeping. What is the sort of work you want to do?
|During difficulty, how do you prefer to cope? What behavior do you want in a partner that fits your way of coping?
|Culture, in a value system sense, is everything related to your upbringing, religion, nationality, geographic culture, micro-cultures like family and daily routines, etc. How much do you want that culture and how much are you willing to bring that into your relationships?
|Identity begins with the body and ends with your role on earth, including relationship titles like “loving husband” or “philanthropist”. What goes into your identity and what do you want to maintain or develop across your relationship?
|Body values are the importance you give to health, appearance, touch, and sex, and include morals about physical contact.
|It is your overall approach to life and includes formal philosophical ideas like free will and determinism and your own set of conclusions about how you see the world.
Now, let’s look at a few prompts per category
1. Personal needs
Personal needs are your exact social, professional, skill, quality of life, and lifestyle preferences.
- What decisions do you want to make?
- Do you want to stop making any decisions?
- What life lesson did you learn from a particular decision that went badly for you?
- Do you prefer to live by yourself, with family, with a partner?
- Do you want a marriage?
- Do you want to be a parent? If yes, under what conditions?
- Do you have realistic things to buy to improve your quality of life?
- Which skills do you need to acquire to improve your life immediately?
- What top problem do you face that is hampering everyday life?
- What sort of companionship do you need (friend, life-partner, spouse, mentor)?
List your need for money, how much money, how you spend, how you save, how you protect your assets and grow them.
- How much money do you want to earn? Write down a range and timeline.
- How much do you want to work for money?
- How much do you want money to work for you?
- Do you want a minimalistic life to live within your means or do you want to give it all you have to earn a luxurious life?
- What areas of life can you compromise on that need money (travel, housing, relocation, etc.)
- How do you protect or use inherited money?
- How do you prefer to save money together as a couple?
- Do you wish to be 50-50 bill-splitting partners, anything goes, or reasonably share money based on individual earnings?
- How much monetary security do you need?
- Do you borrow or lend? If yes, how do you want to deal with it?
3. Current and Future family
People start with a family and often make new families through relationships. Describe how you want those relationships to turn out.
- How do you want your relationship with your parents and blood relatives after you are married?
- What aspects of your parent’s life do you want in your adult life?
- After marriage, how many children and pets do you want?
- Do you prefer to adopt or birthing? If yes, when?
- How involved do you want to be as a parent?
- How committed are you to parent a child with sincere effort?
- Would you be a bad parent, a parent who has to do the work, or not be a parent if given a choice?
- How do you wish to compartmentalize your couple-time with your parenting time?
- How much do you value your family’s opinion? Your partner’s opinion? And your partner’s family’s opinion about your future?
4. Personal space
Core motivations, your perception of the world, your thoughts, the few feet around you, your room, and your history is a part of your personal space. In a relationship, there are different levels of entering the personal space, and those define boundaries.
- Are you willing to wake up next to someone regularly?
- Are you open to being observed by someone while you do mundane things?
- What kind of thoughts are you willing to share vs. keep private?
- Do you have a need to know why your partner does something?
- What opinions do you have about sharing your deepest thoughts as they appear?
- Do you wish to know your partner’s deepest thoughts and discuss them?
Relationships range from friendships to family, including fleeting romantic partners and mentors. To make a relationship work, any kind, it needs effort. Know what kind of effort you can afford and wish to afford.
- How important are friends, mentors, and partners?
- How much do you value a legal marriage vs. live-in vs. dating a life partner?
- How much do you value marriage or committing to a relationship?
- Are you willing to get married if you are on a different page as your partner, like you do it for convenience but your partner treasures it?
- What price in lifestyle, goals and wishes, etc., are you willing to pay for getting married to someone you love (what is the practical compromise)?
- What are the minimum requirements for you to get married?
- Do you idolize marriage or are you ok with being life partners without a legal contract?
- Are you willing to change your life to accommodate marriage, and potential parenthood, and commit to potential children?
- Do you prefer living in the moment and exploring a relationship or do you want to plan ahead?
- What life do you want when you see yourself and your partner grow old together?
6. Social capital
Social capital is your entire network of people who add value to your life or have to potential to exchange benefits with. In easy terms, it’s an entire network of people with whom you can have a mutually beneficial relationship.
- What sort of effort (in time, money, and routines) do you wish to put into building your social capital?
- What sort of help do you seek from your social capital (is it work, potential dates, an audience)?
- What activities will you do for social capital that involve your partner (will you meet others together, do formal introductions, or meet separately)?
Using adjectives like “secure”, “free”, “productive”, “exciting”, “easy”, describe how you wait your daily life’s time spent.
- How do you want your typical day to go?
- What activities will you make time for?
- What activities do you not want to make time for?
- How much time can you make for your partner when at least 1 of you is stressed?
- How much productive time, fun time, relaxation time, excitement and thrilling time, or busy time do you want over a day, week, and month?
- How much time of the day are you willing to spend with your partner meaningfully?
Describe what kind of work you value and assess your skills to do the work you value. Define what you can compromise on.
- How many work avenues do you want (number of jobs and income sources)?
- What professional designation do you want?
- How much work do you want to do?
- Are you motivated to work in a stable career or explore while dealing with the uncertainty of exploration?
- What sort of changes in work are you willing to accept?
- What work activities do you value or don’t value?
- How much do you want your partner to work and take career risks?
9. Coping mechanisms
We cope in unique ways when we are stressed and that coping mechanism almost always affects a relationship.
- During difficulty, how do you prefer to cope?
- Do you need people? If yes, would you look for coping with your partner or someone outside your relationship, like friends and family?
- Do you have a problem-solving mindset, in which you compartmentalize the stress and first try to solve the problems?
- Do you prefer to feel your emotions and discuss them first?
- What healthy or unhealthy coping mechanisms do you have, and how does your partner participate in those? What is your ideal way to cope with a partner?
- What role should your partner play in how you cope?
- What role do you want to play in how your partner copes?
List all your national, cultural, religious, and habitual preferences and describe what’s important to you or not.
- What role does your religion and ethnicity play in your relationship?
- What rituals are important to you?
- What rituals do you want to bring to your partner and future children?
- What role does god and worship play in your daily life?
- Are you ok with a partner who does their religion and culture separately without you?
- How much do you want to participate in your partner’s culture, religion, and social contexts like race, ethnicity, caste, etc.?
- How stubborn is your point of view on religion, god, cultural ideologies, cultural rituals, etc? What does it mean for your partner?
- Do you wish to express your culture/religion privately, publically, or on a mutually agreed-upon level?
Your identity includes your sense of self, but it is not limited to just that. How others see you, and how you see yourself in relation to a partner is a part of your identity.
- Who are you as a person?
- Who are you according to others? Is the difference between how you see yourself and how others see you ok?
- Does your partner see you for who you are?
- How much do you want to be defined in relation to your partner (are you ok with “I am XYZ’s husband” or “I am a proud mother” a strong part of your identity)?
- Describe what you value in your looks
- Describe your role your role in society.
- Use 3 words to describe yourself.
12. Body values
What do you prefer in terms of physical activity, human touch, sex, and health?
- How do you value your body and what changes will you make to it?
- What sort of physical contact do you need?
- What sort of physical contact are you willing to give?
- How do you prioritize: health, appearance, subjective feeling of fitness?
What is your approach to life? Do you believe in destiny, soul mates, determinism, free will, etc.? Do you have control or needs? Do you need deep thinking?
- What balance between certainty and uncertainty do you want?
- Do you follow a particular philosophy given by someone else (books, philosophers, gurus, religion, parents, etc.)?
- What is your personal approach to life? Describe a few mottos you live by.
- Does your partner’s philosophy match yours? If not, is it at least compatible with yours?
- What value do you want to add to the world?
- Who gains respect in your eyes?
- What do you do that is deserving of respect and admiration?
Congratulations, you’ve completed the journey. Now pen down the most important thoughts you’ve had while reading this. That’s your value system.
Doing this activity will get overwhelming. So I am here to help. You can book a session with me and we can create this system together, and you can validate it! (it’s 80% cheaper than a counseling session in the US :))
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Hey! Thank you for reading; hope you enjoyed the article. I run Cognition Today to paint a holistic picture of psychology. My content here is referenced and featured in NY Times, Forbes, CNET, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, 10-15 books, academic courses, and research papers.
I’m a full-time psychology blogger, part-time Edtech and cyberpsychology consultant, guitar trainer, and also overtime impostor. I’ve studied at NIMHANS Bangalore (positive psychology), Savitribai Phule Pune University (clinical psychology), and IIM Ahmedabad (marketing psychology).
I’m based in Pune, India. Love sci-fi, horror media; Love rock, metal, synthwave, and pop music; can’t whistle; can play 2 guitars at a time.