The Value of Going Deep
Mod 3 Step 6: Core Values
This part of Module 3 was particularly enlightening for me, and I think it will be for you too. So let’s talk about core values – our deepest values.
My first core value is trust. I tend to trust one of two ways: zero to sixty or a tortoise in molasses. But since my expectations of people often run too high, inevitably anyone I trust lightning-fast won’t measure up in some way, and then it’s into the molasses we go. Once I’ve been hurt or disappointed, trust comes slowly to me, if it comes at all. But unless I trust someone, I can’t have a meaningful relationship with them. So naturally, it’s imperative that I feel secure in trusting my partner. Without trust, I throw up emotional walls and refuse to deeply connect, even if I can still act loving. Communication without trust is excruciating to me; I tend to keep far more to myself than I should. And so, without trust, the entire relationship quickly breaks down.
Hopefully you see where I’m going with this. Those core values? Make sure you communicate those to your partner. Spend time figuring out how those values play out in your emotions, your actions, your impulses. Over the past year and a half, I’ve paid very close attention to when I feel trusting toward someone and when I don’t – and especially any points of change. Study yourself. Notice any patterns in your past and present life – love life and otherwise. You can talk to a best friend, a parent, a family member you’re close to. Getting my bestie’s and my mom’s input was invaluable as I charted my patterns of trust and distrust. For this core value in particular, I think it’s invaluable to spend lots of time getting to know the internal workings of your trust, but it can be useful to balance your observations against those of people close to you.
So that’s tip #1 for discovering your core values: learn their internal workings, and don’t be afraid consult outside observers.
For me, trust is the window into my next core value: compassion. If I distrust someone, anyone, showing compassion to them is akin to climbing a snowy mountain in summer clothes – technically possible but a thousand times harder than it could be with the proper equipment. But when I’ve worked toward trusting someone, then I can open myself up to their experiences and perspectives because I’m not focused on protecting myself. Once I feel safe in that relationship, only then do I truly open up into the supportive, gentle partner I aspire to be. And in turn, compassion is one of my requirements for any potential partner.
If you too hold compassion as one of your core values, it’s also important to know how you want that compassion expressed. I tend to express compassion with a mixture of gentleness toward the person in question and fire toward any antagonist to them. However, in a partner I gravitate towards compassionate people who express it with tenderness and support, without the fire I bring. I respond well to a gentle partner, even though I can struggle with being gentle myself. It’s the same value with a different way of communicating it. Note how you like a core value to be expressed. I’ve found the best way to do this is just observing my reactions over time. You can even ask your partner to read different statements that all contain your core value but say it differently and gauge your responses.
So tip #2: Identify how you want your value to be expressed.
My third core value is justice. Any situation where there’s a lack of justice, especially when someone already struggling gets hurt further, sets off my fiery side like nothing else. Unfortunately, this can extend into a relationship. If I feel something is unfair between my partner and I, I jump right into combat mode. If I feel like I’m being treated unfairly, especially criticized unfairly, my default is snapping to defend myself. This course has helped curb that combative streak, but whenever this core value gets poked wrong, I still struggle to remember that my partner and I are on the same team, not opposite sides of a battle.
To apply this to you: try taking note of any core value that upsets you the most when violated. Core values aren’t only useful for figuring out how to positively communicate with your partner; they also help you identify the why behind any sore spots where you two can’t seem to connect. Just like my core value of justice only comes into sharp relief when I feel it’s been violated, find out if you have a core value like that. Make sure you talk these kinds of core values through with each other. Understanding what negative communication to especially avoid is every bit as important as understanding what positive communication you desire.
So last tip, #3: Discuss any core value that’s most potent when it’s violated, and figure out how to communicate through situations when you feel it is.
And then go do something you love. This section is hard work; don’t forget to reward yourself for it!