Logan and I recently discussed our values, aka the things that are important to us. I wanted to share our experience because we both found value (haha) in it. It was another exercise, in addition to the ones we did in pre-marital counseling (I wrote recaps: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV), to strengthen our relationship by increasing the level of intimacy between us.
As a therapist, I often talk about values with my clients because values inform how we live day to day. At least they should, if we are living in line with our values. If we are unhappy, many times it’s at least partially because we aren’t living in line with our values.
My clients typically love this exercise, and I’d been wanting to do it myself and mentioned this in pre-marital counseling. At that time, Logan said he was interested in doing it too. Pastor Jim (who led our pre-marital counseling) suggested we designate a day and time to do this. We chose poolside at my parents’ house a couple weekends ago which provided the space for a more free-flowing conversation.
What are values?
Values are the things that are most important to us. Values are not goals; they are behaviors, actions, qualities, and ideals that we deem important to us.
Values differ by person, and there’s no right and wrong. What one person prioritizes another person might not care that much about. It’s all based on our own preference.
Our top values.
Logan and I separately reviewed the following list of values and identified which ones are very important, quite important, and not-so-important to us.
It was a little challenging because most of the items on the list are things that we all would say should be important to us. And while you might respect some of these qualities or believe in their importance, they might not actually take priority in your life. (It’s important to note that there is no right or wrong answers here.)
Once we had a pretty good-sized list (we had between 20-25 each), we narrowed it down to our top six. I gave us 10 seconds to choose our top six, which is what I do with my clients so they don’t overthink it. Go with your gut, I always say!
Logan’s top values are Curiosity, Encouragement, Industry, Intimacy, Self-Awareness, and Self-Development.
Mine are Adventure, Creativity, Intimacy, Responsibility, Self-Development, Spirituality.
We found that these made sense for us and put words to explaining choices we make, conversations we have, and how we spend our free time.
For example, we have this blog, so it’s make sense that we would both highly value self-development. I also highly value creativity, which I find in this space as well.
We both value intimacy which is reflected not only in the closeness in our relationship, but also in the types of friendships we have. Neither one of us is very good at maintaining surface-level friendships. We like to really know our friends and go deep with them. We struggle with people who keep others at a distance and aren’t real.
Adventure was an interesting value for me to identify. This made sense as I really love to travel. I like to see new places, try new foods, and have new experiences.
I noticed that I chose adventure, not fun which was another value on the list. I found that to be an interesting distinction that I’d never really thought much about before. It makes sense though because I tend to prioritize saving for travel over spending on random fun things on the weekends.
While those made sense for me, self-awareness was not a value I would have chosen as one of Logan’s top six – not because I don’t see him as self-aware but because with 60 values, it’s hard to narrow them down to your top 10%. But once we chatted more about our values through this exercise, it really highlighted how much this value actually makes sense for him.
Over four years ago, he came to the conclusion that he and alcohol weren’t a good fit for each other, and he stopped drinking. This has certainly been a transformative decision in his life, and self-awareness continues to play a huge role in his sobriety.
Living in line with our values.
One thing I’ve realized in my work as a therapist is that as humans we experience distress when we aren’t living in line with our values.
A great example is how I’ve learned that when I am not regularly engaging in some kind of creative project, I feel agitated, restless, and like something is missing. Frankly, I just realized this about a year ago which prompted Logan and me to start this blog.
In doing this exercise, I also realized that adventure and responsibility sometimes clash for me. At times, especially on the weekend, I struggle to balance adventure (i.e, trying something new) with my sense of responsibility (i.e., doing something work-related or something that makes me feel productive).
Knowing that both adventure and responsibility are important to me explains why at times I feel conflicted about how to spend my time.
I’ve found that knowing my own values often explains my behavior and helps me to make decisions when I’m stuck.
Knowing Logan’s values can help me better meet his needs by promoting activities or choices in line with his values. And, at times, it might explain why he’s experiencing a conflict when two of his values are clashing.
This exercise has brought these values to the surface and I think we are better for it. I’d like to think we will use this exercise to help us make sure our decisions are in line with what we care about and help us to better be able to support each other in living in line with our values.
Logan suggested that we do this exercise again in the future and see if/how our values have changed. I think it’ll be fun to check back and see if and how our values shift as we age.
What are your thoughts on values? Have you considered what your top values are?