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Can A Relationship With Different Values Ever Work Out?

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We all have values that guide us through life and influence the way we behave, the choices we make, and the opinions we hold.

But if you’re reading this, chances are you’re dating someone who has quite different values to you.

And you’re wondering whether those differences can be overcome.

Well, it depends.

Okay, so that’s a bit of a cop-out answer, but it’s true. Whether you and this person can make a go of a healthy long term relationship depends on a number of things.

Let’s look at some of them to help you decide whether this person is a potential partner or someone you should take a pass on.

Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you deal with different values in a relationship. You may want to try speaking to someone via for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.

It depends on how many differing values you have.

It’s going to be a lot easier to gloss over one or two things where your stances differ than if you diverge on almost everything that matters.

But that needs to be qualified a little more because even just one or two differences might still be enough to derail a relationship if they are in areas where the values are held very strongly by one or both people.

In general, the more differing values you have, the more often those differences will show themselves in the form of disagreements and conflict. And a relationship that is dominated by conflict is probably not one that will last in the long run.

It’s also worth considering why you’d actually want to date someone who is so different to you in what they place importance on. Might there not be a better match out there for you? Are you settling for this person?

Or do they have lots of other qualities that you are attracted to? After all, there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ match – we’re all bound to have some things we have different perspectives on.

It can come down to weighing your similarities against your differences to see whether the balance is one you can both work with.

It depends whether those values are internal or projected into the world.

What does this mean?

Well, it’s quite possible to have a value, live your life according to that value, and yet accept that other people might hold a different view on it.

Something like vegetarianism or veganism could be used as an example. Some, though not all, non-meat eaters are happy to partner up with someone who does eat meat because this value is something they only impose on themselves, not others.

On the other hand, polar opposite political differences might prove tricky to overcome because people often project their political views into the world and form an “us versus them” mindset where their side of the debate is right and the other is wrong, regardless what the issue is.

So ask yourself whether or not the values that you and this other person differ on are things that you care about in others, or whether they are just things that you live by personally.

It depends on whether a value actually impacts your life.

There are some values that affect the way you live your life on a daily basis – your environmental stance, for instance.

In these cases, your value determines your actions and choices. If your partner or potential partner feels differently and acts differently, you are quite likely to rub up against each other on a regular basis.

Then there are other values that, although something you may feel deeply about, don’t really impact how you live your life.

Take the death penalty – you may be utterly opposed to it without question, whereas the person you’re dating might consider it okay in certain circumstances.

Whilst there is a clear difference in this particular value, it doesn’t influence your life in any great way. Sure, you might argue about it if there is a case that hits the news, but it won’t change how you actually go about things in general day-to-day living.

Because it’s something that doesn’t alter how either of you behaves, it’s easier to brush it aside and move on.

It depends whether there is a viable compromise.

Every healthy relationship will involve both partners making compromises from time to time.

And some values can be compromised on. Now that doesn’t mean the value is disregarded entirely; it just means that you find a little wiggle room to allow the other person’s value space to coexist.

Perhaps you value charity and giving highly whereas this other person values prudence and careful financial planning. You might donate $100 a month to various good causes, and there’s nothing stopping you from continuing this during the dating phase and even well into the relationship.

But what happens when things get really serious and you pool resources? At this point, your partner might want some say over that $100 a month because you are working together to earn that money and might both want to decide where it goes.

In a situation like this, it’s possible to find a compromise. Perhaps you reduce that figure to $50 a month, or maybe you both agree to cut back elsewhere to maintain this level of giving.

Some other values can’t really be compromised on. Take abortion – it’s a pretty black or white issue where you are either for or against it. What if you or they were to fall pregnant accidentally and you or they didn’t think it was the right time to be having a child.

If one of you is dead set against abortion, it’s not viable to compromise and say that, “Oh, we’ll have an abortion this time and try for a baby in 3 years or so.” It just doesn’t work like that.

Instead, you’d find yourself fighting over an issue that’s so huge and life-changing that it would likely tear the relationship apart, or leave one of you holding huge amounts of resentment which would eat away at the relationship and cause it to end at a later time.

With something so vital and where there isn’t any movement in how you can act or choose, it’s probably best that you’re on the same page from the outset.

It depends on the open-mindedness of the two people involved.

Some people just don’t want to hear views or opinions that go against their own. Or perhaps they actually enjoy a debate over the issue at hand but won’t listen to the other person’s point of view or budge an inch from their position.

If one or both of you are like this, you’d better hope that your values are aligned for the sake of a harmonious relationship.

Open-mindedness is a trait that allows a person to genuinely listen to, try to understand, and even appreciate the opinions of someone else.

It doesn’t mean they have to agree with the other person – though it does allow for their views to be challenged and changed by reasonable argument or evidence. It does mean that the exchange of views is mostly friendly rather than combative.

A relationship where one person is open-minded stands a better chance of overcoming different values than one where each person is resolute in their stance.

And where both partners are open-minded, it can lead to interesting and even enjoyable exchanges of ideas and perspectives on the world.

It depends how you each approach conflict.

Arguments and fights happen in the best of relationships. That’s no bad thing because it is during times of conflict that we learn more about each other and can adjust and grow to better work together as a couple.

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, some people approach conflict in such a way that it is almost always destructive and rarely constructive.

If you are one of these people, or the person you’re dating is, it can be hard to find peace when your opposing values rub up against each other.

Arguments about values will be some of the most intense you experience because of the strength of each of your positions. So it’s important that you can both fight fair and treat each other with respect during these moments of tension.

If you can do that, it may just be possible to overcome your differences and find a way to live together that yields more happy times than not.

Still not sure what to do about the differing values you and this person have? Whether you are already in a relationship with them or are just dating, it can really help to discuss this issue with a trained professional. So why not chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out.

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About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.