How to Save Your Relationship
Hierarchy of Personal Values and Rules of Expression
The following information could save your relationship! At the very least it will give you an awareness and understanding of some of the primary unconscious reasons people think, believe and act the way they do. Following we are going to examine 2 key components, that not only have a major influence on couple compatibility, but when they are brought into your conscious awareness and skill set, allow you to understand, cope, compromise and deal with issues and behaviors that can contribute to the end a relationship. We are going to look at
1) Hierarchy of Personal Values:
An order arrangement listed in terms of importance.
2) Individual Rules to Express Personal Values:
The beliefs of a person or social group in which they have an emotional investment
1) The Hierarchy of Personal Values (Definition)
Most people go about their daily lives, never really having a conscious understanding of which personal Values have the greatest impact on them and how they live their lives. Many people have that unspoken understanding that when you live in a society or a culture, that you share the same Values. You may have heard from the political right and religious influenced.. “We need to bring back Family Values”; however seldom does anyone explain further exactly what this means.
The following list, names some common values, and I am sure that you will agree that the majority of these concepts are important to you and some will not be.
Common Personal Values
Having knowledge of the values that a person deems important is a very good indicator and predictor of the types of behavior, attitudes, and beliefs they will have in life. If fact we rarely have close friends who differ too far from the same core values we hold important. They may have one or two that are different, but in general they think and value similar things to ourselves. In fact often times finding a significance difference in some of your core values, can be enough that a friendship slips away.
When it comes to a spouse or significant other however, similar values with a similar ranking of importance are one of the best long term tests of compatibility. Knowing your own and your partner’s hierarchy will give you insight and understanding why you both think and do certain things. Without this conscious understanding, often we simply feel disconnected, detached, hurt and sense or feel something is not quite right.
Finding your Hierarchy of Values
To find your Values Hierarchy you, select from the list above 10-15 values to start and ask yourself the following questions. “Would I rather have Value A or Value B”, finding an answer and then comparing to Value C and so on, ordering your answers. While some find it difficult to limit themselves to just one choice at any one time, it is important to make a choice in order to create a ranking list. In reality there maybe a couple of values, you feel are equally important. It is OK to rank a few choices together. For example let’s walk though the thinking of the two people with the first question.
Would you rather have Love or Respect?:
Partner one “Love is it, the ultimate, I can accept less respect if I know I am loved. I need love, I need to love”.
Partner two “It is impossible to have love without respect. Anyone can love; you can love cake – but Respect, now that’s worth having”
Once you have a general idea of about 5 Values in order, you can then slot each new value into the rankings. You are always able to alter the rankings as each new value can make you re-think what you thought you already knew. (Helpful Hint: Try comparing two Values that are opposite each other e.g. Security vs. Adventure when first compiling your ranking list)
The following Image shows you the first stages of the process for a couple. Click the image for full size
Most couples will find themselves sharing a similar list, but every now and again having almost opposite Personal Values located in the same ranking on the list. Partner A who highly values ‘Security & Tradition’, where the Partner B has for example ‘Adventure & Pleasure’ is going to have a pretty accurate correlation with behavior. E.g. Partner A is more likely to go to church on Sunday and Partner B who would be happier spending their Sundays trying a new sport or activity
N.B. Values are not right or wrong, good or bad. No one’s Values are more or less important that another’s, they are whatever we personally have an emotional investment or sense of closeness too. And Values will change over time. Our Values are influenced by our life experience. If a person is robbed or injured, the values of safety, security may for example increase in ranking.
1) We all have a Hierarchy of Values, which change over time, and provide strong indications of our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.
2) When we share similar values with others, we feel a sense of closeness and belonging (compatibility). We feel like we are OK and right. When our Values conflict with another, we feel a distance and separation from that person. When they act in a way that violates our Values, we feel negative emotions and feelings
3) Awareness of our hierarchy of values, allows us to think rationally and logically, understanding why we might sense a negative or positive vibe towards someone or something someone close to us does.
2) Individual Rules to Express Your Personal Values
Every Value has a rule (or rules) attached to it, that lets an individual know if the Value is being meet, expressed, given, and experienced. The rules can be highly personal, to an individual and again more often than not, we have no idea what our specific rules are exactly. The only way we have to judge this without conscious awareness is the feelings and emotions that come about based on the interaction with other people. The method to finding your rules, to bringing into your conscious awareness is to ask
“How do I know”?
How do I know I am trusted?
How do I know I can trust them?
How do I know I am loved?
How do I know I am safe?
Example illustrating how the ‘Rules’ contribute to Compatibility
Imagine a couple. They are in love and for the most part are extremely compatible with each other. But they hate to argue. Somehow when they do, the emotions get much more intense than they really should be based on the disagreement itself. When they have a disagreement, in no time voices are raised. One tries desperately, to bring the volume down, which only seems to make things worse. One attempts to leave the room, take time out to calm down, but the other attempts to block the exit, or follows. Yelling starts, both are feeling angry, at how the other is behaving. The point of any argument is to ‘stop arguing’, which is totally lost on them. One seems to want to avoid the whole situation, the other just can’t drop the matter…
When this couple came to see me at their wit’s end, considering ending the relationship, we examined the hierarchy of Values and discovered they were extremely compatible. The Value that related to the arguing was ‘Respect’. They were both raised in households that put a large amount of emotional investment into being respected. And so I asked. “How do you both know when you are being respected and how do you know when your being disrespected?” And we found while they both valued respect, their rules for respect where totally different.
The man was raised in a household , where out of respect, if you had a problem or an issue you sorted it out then and there. It did not matter if you yelled, or came to blows, out of respect for the person you got it sorted out, without wasting each other’s time, right away .. no matter how. The woman was raised in a household where you never raised your voice out of respect to another. If the situation required, you backed off, walked away, calmed down and came back and addressed the issue in a clam and civilized manner, even if it was the next day or next week.
So when they argued, and he raised his voice, to make sure the point was being heard (out of respect), she would sense disrespect and attempt to calm him down (out of respect). He would see her avoiding the situation and sense disrespect, and out of respect would push the issue further, adding volume and intensity to show how much he respected her and wanted to sort things out. She in turn would sense disrespect, and attempt to leave the heated situation (out of respect). He would then sense disrespect, and follow her, or pull her back (out of respect) and she would sense disrespect.
Neither wanted to make the other feel disrespected, but they both sensed an absence of respect, and attempted to follow their rules for showing respect in an attempt to demonstrate this. Once this situation was no longer a sense, feeling or automatic emotional reaction, and an understanding of the rules were explained, a compromise could be reached. Neither was prepared to adopt the others rules in this situation (although many times you can), but new rules were added to the act of arguing. He agreed to not raised his voice. If he did, rather than walk away, she agreed to use a code word “bananas” which was designed to firstly sound odd and funny to calm him down, and at the same time make him aware of her rules. He could then modify his volume, knowing he was being heard and she was not avoiding the situation. After the 3rd time “bananas” was used. He accepted that she was able to leave the situation and come back at another time.
Another quick example of how our rules can cause problems in a relationship. We often assume and used ‘our’ rules which can be meaningless to another. Ask yourself “How do I know I am Loved”. What say, you knew you were loved because of the tone in the voice of your partner as they told you in words how much they love you, how you are everything to them. Your partner on the other hands has rules about love, that are more physical. It can be a gentle caress of the shoulder, a kiss on the neck. To them no words can express love like the feeling of your partner’s hands roaming your body. Many rules have a gender bias, you can no doubt guess which one of the partners prefers each rule.
She tells him about her friend Joy’s new boyfriend and how he read her a love poem he wrote, partly because she identifies with the rule showing love, and partly to hint at what she wants. He thinks, I’ll show her some love and slides his hand down her top. She pulls away, and yells “stop mauling me”, why can’t you be more like Joy’s man and tell me you love me. He is confused .. “What do you mean, I show you how much I love you all the time”. She responds, “You have not told me you love me in 3 months”. He replies “Oh please, you as cold as ice, when was the last time you ever initiated anything?”.
In the previous situation the best option is for each of them to compromise their rules of the expression of Love. He can use words and tones, and express to her how he knows she feels love. She can be more physical, tapping his butt as he walks past, initiating physical contact, play fighting etc. In this case, knowing the rule of the expression of the value, means you better understand how to communicate your intention. And it is the responsibility of the person doing the communicating to express it in a way they know will be understood. Even if that way seems pointless or ineffective to them.
3) Putting it Together:
Understanding the Values, the Rules, and Compromise
1) Compatibility with other people is impacted by matching similar values in importance to ourselves
2) Each Value, has personalized Rules which let us know if our need for that value is being met
3) Knowing the Values and the Rules of expression allow you to decide logically to evaluate your own rules, change them or , compromise with your partner, or be sure your unmovable on this Value and Rule
Once you are consciously aware of both your values and your rules you are in a position to take action and control the way you react to differences. Your decisions will generally be:…
1) Your Rule is unempowering and you decide on a new rule.
Lets assume the Value is ‘Faithfulness’ and you discovered that your rule to express this is something like “I know my partner is faithful to me, if they always include me in everything they do, and they never look at someone from the opposite sex”. Obviously with a rule such as this, you would constantly get the sense that your partner is unfaithful. The rule is unempowering and has expectations of behavior that are unlikely to ever be met.
In this case, you are able to choose a more realistic and empowering rule. Such as “I know my partner is faithful because we trust, respect and communicate with each other”
2) Your Rules are empowering to you but conflict with your partners Rules – Compromise
In the case of the couple who argued (yellow box above), each partners rules were perfectly empowering and served a positive purpose. The rules were fair, but the were not compatible. We a compromise can be reached, so that both can hold on to their rules, but employ systems of controls to the behaviors based on the rules. As you recall the solution in this case was…
“He agreed to not raised his voice. If he did, rather than walk away, she agreed to use a code word “bananas” which was designed to firstly sound odd and funny to calm him down, and at the same time make him aware of her rules. He could then modify his volume, knowing he was being heard and she was not avoiding the situation. After the 3rd time “bananas” was used. He accepted that she was able to leave the situation and come back at another time.”
3) Your rule is less empowering than the Partners Rule and you adopt their rule
Because the formation of our Rules usually happen at a subconscious level as a result to life experience and our environment, often the rules, would not be the best choice if we thought about it. For example, if you have a Rule about the Value ‘Beauty’ that says “For me to feel beautiful, I need to be 5’9, have blonde hair, thin with big boobs and wear the latest designer clothes”. If your 5 foot and Asian, you will never live up to your rule, no matter how much you spend on yourself.
In this case the other partners rule about Beauty might be simpler, such as “For me to feel Beauty, they just have to look or act in a way that I know they desire my company”. With this rule, they will feel happy and contented when you wash dishes together, when you smile at each other and so on. You can change your Rules simply by deciding on it.
4) No compromise can be reached, sticking to your own rules
Sometimes you will not want to change your rules. They work for you, they set standards of behavior that anything less will not empower your life. Here a rule that generates opposing behavior can have two results. You can accept that this is the way your Partner is, and your allowed to be different it makes things interesting, or the differences can be fundamentally non compatible and you would be better off no longer being with the person.
Lets look at an example that does not require a dissolving of the relationship. The Value is “Respect for Others”. Partner A is a Humanist, they define this value by the motto “Ideas don’t have rights, People Do”. Partner A believes that everyone has the right to believe whatever they like, any political, religious, anti-science, whatever idea they wish and as crazy as they wish, but they (Partner A) have the right to tell you exactly what they think of your idea. Partner B has the rule, Everyone and every belief has merit, especially a religious or spiritual belief of another should be respected”.
Due to the particular world view influence of each partner, it is unlikely that these rules will change much. And the principals of each world view is expressed within the rules of the Value. Partner A will watch in disbelief Partner B talk to someone who thinks the world is flat, that Global warming might not be happening or that thinks Unicorns are real, with a compassion and respect for the beliefs. Partner B on the other hand will cringe when Partner A asks for evidence to justify another’s beliefs., or tells them that they are suffering from delusions and they are talking crazy. This difference in Rules is one of those situations where each will have to accept the other for this difference. And by accepting the difference, they will not be so surprised or feel so detached when their own rules are broken.
There will be times where two people can have different values and different rules, and learn to live with each other. More often than not, however as time goes by, and a person’s life experience changes, so do their values and rules. There maybe a time where it is decided that a couple is now too different from each other to benefit the most by sharing the life journey together. However, while a couple may decide to go their separate ways, by understanding the Values and Rules, the negative feelings that are generated by a lack of knowledge of the concepts mentioned in this article will be much less. They understand there is no right or wrong good or bad, just different. In this way they can respect each other for the time they shared, the ways in which they grew and remain friends.
Our Values go a great deal of the way in determining our compatibility with other people, and when known can provide realistic expectations and assumptions in behavior. The personal rules we have that express the Values that are important to us, can causes empowering feelings of closeness when compatible and negative emotions when not.
When you evolve from a position of merely reacting to how you and your partner are, to a conscious deliberate understanding of the functions of the Rules, you are in a position of empowerment to control how you respond and react. You are able to evaluate the effectiveness of your Rules and change them, meet in the middle or keep them and understand the differences.