We all live our lives based on a set of values and rules, whether we are aware of them, or not. They guide us in our choices and ultimately in our life. However, there are some rules that we put in place for ourselves, in relation to some of our values, that may make our lives easier or harder. Especially when these rules clash with someone else’s rules, say, our partner.
Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, let‘s gain a little bit of insight into how values and rules can help or hinder our relationships. But let’s first get a few basic concepts out of the way.
What are values?
Well, values are beliefs that we have on which we base most decisions in our lives, especially important ones. They are our lighthouses, showing us the way and guiding us safely towards the shore.
Values are extremely individual and they are based on how we feel and what we believe about the world around us, about life and about ourselves. Now just because they are called values it doesn’t mean they are always positive. Otherwise, we would all be amazing people, philanthropists and ecologists and what not. But the truth is sometimes, knowingly or not, we have some values which are not exactly productive.
That is because often we inherit these values from people that surround us, often our family. Maybe because your mother told you your whole life that freedom is the most important thing in life, that you should always be free and independent, you grow up firmly believing that all your choices in life should guide you towards freedom. Or maybe your father told you that it’s important to earn money and reach financial abundance, that is what guides you. And while these are not negative values, the problem is that they might not be really and truly our own values.
Our values usually form at a young age and somehow, they “solidify” when we reach adulthood and rarely change. People only change their values following an impactful event, positive or negative, or after following a deep personal growth path. An event could be the birth of a child or the loss of a person or a tragic accident. For some other people, their values, once set, never change.
For some deeper insights into personal values, check out this article by life coach Tony Robbins, which gives some more specific examples of personal values.
And what about rules?
Rules are those things or circumstances that need to happen in order for our values to be satisfied. We also decide our own rules, often unconsciously. And we reinforce them every step of the way.
For example, if one of your values is freedom, a rule would be what would need to happen for you to feel free. For instance, you might feel free when you have no attachments to any person. Or you might feel free when you don’t depend on anyone. Or when you don’t have a fix job. These are your rules to feel free.
Sometimes two people might have the same values but completely different rules of satisfying them. That’s where conflicts might arise. And that leads me to the point of this article.
The rules of love
Maybe because we get to intimately know each other and spend a great deal of time together, but relationships tend to expose these rules and amplify them. Have you ever told, or heard somebody telling someone, “If you loved me, you would (wouldn’t) do this or that.”? That’s expressing a rule. That equals saying “I feel loved when you do this” and on the contrary “I don’t feel loved when you do that”. Or maybe you didn’t say it, you just thought it. Either way, love is a value and we do have rules for that too.
You and your partner might share the same values. For both of you love may be extremely important. However, you have completely different rules. Maybe you’re the kind of person that thinks love needs to be shown with gestures. That there’s no need to say “I love you” every minute. Your partner, on the other hand, may have the rule that if you love someone, you tell them, as often as you get the chance. So maybe your partner won’t do many gestures, but will constantly tell you that they love you. You, on the other hand, will rarely say it, but you’ll do little gestures, like small gifts, that you believe express your love more than words could.
What could happen, eventually, is that one of you (or both) will end up believing their partner doesn’t love them. You might think, my partner constantly tells me they love me, do they even mean it? On the other hand, your partner might think that because you never say “I love you” that you don’t really love them. And there are doubts and fears that arise and can compromise a perfect relationship. All because you have different rules and you don’t know it.
How can we deal with other people’s rules
To be honest, it’s pretty simple. It’s all about communication. That is given that you know your values and your rules. If you don’t yet, maybe it’s time to interrogate yourself.
If you are unsure what your values are, you can try thinking back on important decisions you took in your life and think about what drove you in making those decisions. Those would be your values. And once you know your values, ask yourself “ What needs to happen for me to feel this value is satisfied?”. And you get your rules.
Once you know your rules, tell them! In this case, to your partner. Honestly talk about what needs to happen for you to feel loved. If they don’t know, they will never be able to do the things that will make you feel loved. And pretend the same in exchange.
Does this solve every issue in a relationship? Absolutely not. But it does help set the ground for a better understanding and a deeper communication that can avoid a lot of misunderstandings.
If you’re not in a relationship right now, it means you have the chance to first clarify things with yourself and start your future relationship in the best way possible!
Knowing your values and rules can also help you better formulate your daily affirmations and focus on those areas of your life that are in line with your personal values.
Happy Valentine’s Day!