Not all differences between you and your partner are red flags for the sustainability of your relationships. Differences can add to the richness of your relationship and to your enjoyment of life. So how do you distinguish between a simple difference, a red flag and a dealbreaker?
My current guest, Sandy Weiner is now a dating coach and her coaching training covered how to identify dealbreakers. Here’s Sandy:
I think it’s important to recognize your core values. I don’t think I was totally clear on what mine were. Look at the core values and even if they match dig a little deeper. For instance, my husband was really into honesty. Well, what honesty meant to him and what honesty meant to me were completely different.
What honesty meant to him was to me freedom to violate somebody’s privacy: that you can go through their emails or their journals and you can leave doors open, nothing gets locked, everything’s an open book, but you also have the right to tell somebody who their friends should be or what men you’re allowed to talk to in synagogue.
There was a complete violation of my own privacy. He would compare notes about our sex life with his parents in front of me. I felt that was a complete violation of my privacy.
For me privacy is, or honesty is being open with your thoughts and feelings. That’s a perfect example of what I now know to be designing a relationship.
When I was in coaching school, we learned a term called, “design the alliance.” We do that with clients and we do it with friends and we do it with lovers. You bring up stuff and you say, “This is who I am and this is what you can expect of me. What about you? What do you like in these kinds of situations?” You learn a lot about somebody by what they reveal about themselves.
I think you have to dig underneath the core values. First, find out what they are and maybe your top five really important values that are absolute must-haves in your relationship and your own life and don’t give up those ever for anybody.
I think it’s a red flag when somebody makes their mother more important than you and my kids feel that. My daughter was just on a vacation with my ex visiting his mother and she felt marginalized. She got on a plane and came back home. It took a lot for her to do that. She had never flown alone and she was miserable. She said, “You know nanny bullied me and daddy didn’t really stand up for me.”
It was tough and what do I say to her?
What I did say was, “I so admire your self-esteem, that you knew yourself well enough that you didn’t want somebody to talk to you that way and that you got on the plane to come home and take care of yourself.”
The second aspect about values is the everyday practical living, like how much you respect each other’s needs in terms of the foods that you eat, the environment you want to live in. Does one person love the city and the other person love the country? Are your religious beliefs so important that it’s going to be a dealbreaker? Are you a vegetarian and he’s a meat eater and you’re going to get grossed out by watching him eat meat everyday?
These may seem like small things, I like warm climates, he likes cold climates but if you have enough of those that don’t work, you’re going to be miserable. You have to have a majority of those be in alignment or you won’t be able to overlook the ones that are not.
He’s neat, you’re messy. Those are the things that people deal with all the time. You can hire a maid, you can work things out around that, but if there’s twenty differences like this, it’s going to be a problem.
And then there’s a third part to values: chemistry, the physical compatibility, the sexual compatibility. It’s not just whether you’re attracted to each other, because I do believe attraction can deepen with the right other elements of compatibility. It’s also about who you are as a sexual being. There are people who want sex once a month and both of them feel the same way and that works, but if you’re a person who likes sex three times a day and your husband wants it once a month, it’s not going to work.
Those are really important things. It’s multi-layered. Each one of these is not just a simple black and white issue. Even if you both have a great libido and you’re both physically attracted to each other, that won’t sustain you over time without all the other elements working.
And communication obviously is a huge part of all this.
I hadn’t done any values work before I did the Fit4love dating coaching program and the values inventory. As part of that exercise I had to narrow down a list of over seventy values to just ten. It was pretty easy to get down to around twenty but narrowing it down further meant defining what each value meant to me. This was an important step for me. I didn’t turn to a dictionary for help but instead wrote down examples of behaviors that to me demonstrate that value. Having this clarity will I hope help me avoid major differences in values such as Sandy’s example about honesty and I’ve found that clearly knowing my values has helped me in my business and social friendships.
This values exercise could also be insightful if you’re weighing the decision to end your marriage. Try identifying your top ten values and what they mean to you. Then identify what your values mean to your spouse. What would you say your spouse’s values are? The results of this will help you assess the longer term viability of your relationship.
Do you know your core values?
Sandy Weiner is a dating coach at Last First Date where she blogs about dating and offers coaching services for completing your online dating profile. You can also sign up for her free report: Top 3 Mistakes Midlife Daters Make.
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