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Can A Difference In Core Values Really Make Or Break A Relationship? (Experts Say 'Yes!')

Updated on July 27, 2017
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Jennifer has worked in the human services field since 2009 and will be completing her Masters degree in Forensic Psychology in September.

Love Is A Battlefield....Of Sorts

You hear it all the time- your best friend is offended because her boyfriend of five years won't marry her, your parents are constantly bickering about money, and your little sister is devastated that her husband demonstrates no desire to start a family. The question is: can these relationships truly work over a long period of time? Or will these drastic differences in core values force these people to go their separate ways?

Relationship experts define core values as the beliefs a person lives by and both the tangible and intangible things that he or she holds dear (i.e. being married versus possibly being married.) These values are shaped by innumerable influences, including our environments and our families, and are sculpted over time by life's trials and tribulations. And, according to Simple Marriage, an online forum dedicated to the foundations of marriage these values rarely change after our early twenties. Tim Bronson, whom contributed the article "Value of Values" to Simple Marriage states that after this period in our lives "...we all have a tendency, as with beliefs, to look for information to cement the values we already possess and filter out information to the contrary."

Essentially, human beings are stubborn, and especially so when their values stand to be compromised.

The Value of Compromise

As we all know. any relationship requires compromise and negotiation. If a person refused to even tolerate the differences in her partner's views and beliefs, there would be no relationship. But how are we supposed to overcome the dilemma that a clashing of values will cause for the rest of our lives?

Dr. Phil suggests that to begin a mediation of core values, one must first accept his or her partner as a person. Despite the dramatic differences that may exist between two people in a relationship, respect and acceptance are paramount. An individual will be more likely to compromise on a value if his or her partner accepts the variation in opinion. Rather than just going for the throat (which is my key maneuver), it is important to understand why your partner may feel differently about a topic than you.

To demonstrate the "value of compromise", enjoy this little video featuring a Hugh Heffner-lookalike named "Dr. Paul."

What Does This Mean For Relationships?

Setting aside the concepts of compromise, it is possible that a relationship in which the people involved think too differently will fail. This is what is referred to as an "irreconcilable difference." Unfortunately, irreconcilable differences are responsible for more than one failed friendship, relationship, and/or marriage (please see: Charlie Sheen).

Experts in psychology and sociology have discovered that when a person establishes a value while in a relationship, he or she will rarely change his or her opinion regarding this belief. For instance, a man who does not desire to have children one day initiates a relationship with a woman who does, in fact, want a family in the future. Will this particular relationship fail? Experts say most likely, but simply because there are absolutely no possible means to compromise in this situation. Another example would be this: a woman that does not want to be married becomes involved with a man who does want to be married. Will this relationship fail? Again, most likely: a person cannot be half-married (if this were the case, imagine the decline in the nationwide divorce rates!), and therefore compromise is impossible.

The people who study these types of things do admit that there is a small chance that a person may change his or her core values in order to accommodate his or her partner. Despite this glimmer of hope, please note that this does not occur very often and hoping for such a phenomenon to occur in your relationship is unreasonable.

It is also important to note that the ability to compromise is necessary in all aspects of life- from the daily routine to interacting with your coworkers- and is not limited to romantic and/or committed relationships.


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