We are often unaware of our deeply held values and goals. But when your partner-to-be says or does something that runs afoul of one of them, you might hear yourself saying, “You believe what?!” The similarity between your values and goals and those of your potential life-partner are critically important in creating a healthy relationship, especially with respect to issues such as these:
- How each of you wants to be loved and how each of you expresses love (your “love languages”)
- How each of you handles conflict
- How comfortable you are with you partner’s relationship with his/her family
- What money means to each of you — making it, spending it, saving it, giving it away
When these weighty issues come to the surface in a premarital relationship, some people panic, some start looking for the exit, and others become resigned, depressed or shut down. I’d like to suggest a more hopeful choice: turning toward your partner and talking about how you would like to build a life together.
Turning Toward Your Partner
The “values and goals” conversation can be scary for some couples. Here are some attitudes and skills you can bring to the conversation to make it feel safer:
“This is a scary conversation for me, but these issues are very important to me, and I’m guessing they’re important to you, too.”
“I don’t fully understand what this issue means to you, but I really want to get it.”
“Can I give you some examples of what I want here? Will you give me some examples of what you want?”
“I’m not sure what that would be like for me,” or “I’m not sure where to go from here.”
Talking About Building a Life Together
Once you have entered into this sensitive “values and goals” conversation, I encourage you to keep the conversation going by addressing the question, “What will our life together be like?” This conversation might have these two parts:
- “How will we protect our relationship?”
It’s easy for the new couple to become too busy or over-committed. The kind of closeness couples need involves time, intentionality and focus. You make the commitment real by putting it on both your calendars, and perhaps by asking a trusted friend to hold you accountable to the time commitment you’ve made to your partner. Also, “please turn off all electronic devices”!
- “How will we become a family-for-others?”
This conversation is about how you will give yourselves to a higher purpose than just your own acquisitions and entertainment, and open your hearts and your home to include children, parents, siblings, friends and neighbors.
Can we make sense of dating and mating in this distracted, disconnected age? I believe we can, and it would be my privilege to help you find your way on this most important journey.