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Values in Relationships (Are We Compatible?)

Whether you’ve considered it or not, everything we do (or don’t do) is guided by our personal and communal values. Values in relationships direct why we do what we do in community and partnership with other people. They are the principles that guide our thoughts, actions and vision for our lives. Some examples of values in relationships include integrity, honesty, kindness and so on.

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to share every belief to have a great relationship, but you do need to share values. When it comes to connecting with other people, values determine who you have a good shot at building a life, friendship or business with.

What Are Relationship Values?

As I said above, values are the principles and standards you build your life on—the bedrock. Values determine how you’re going to act or move through the world. Your values in a relationship create anchor points that keep you aligned with each other and set the tone for how you live life in community with other people. Values determine how you approach tricky situations, the way you and your spouse or friends or business partners interact with each other, and your overall approach to life. Values make up your sense of what’s right and wrong.

15 Values in a Relationship

Sharing values also creates safety and connection in your relationships. This is what helps marriages, friendships, companies and sports teams operate well and present a united front.

Even if your beliefs are a little different, part of sharing values means respecting and honoring each other’s points of view with curiosity, not judgment. Here are 15 examples of values in a relationship.

1. Kindness

Kindness is the posture of being friendly and considerate of your partner. Sometimes it means doing the hard thing that’s right for the greater good of the relationship. Sometimes it looks like an act of appreciation or service, like filling up your wife’s car with gas or listening when your friend needs someone to talk to. Kindness doesn’t necessarily mean being the hero and saving the day—it means showing up when the person you love needs you most. It also often means telling the truth in an honest, loving way . . . especially when it’s hard to say or hear.

2. Accountability

Accountability means someone takes responsibility for their behavior and follows through on their commitments. They do their work, keep their word, and own up to mistakes. In a relationship, accountability means not casting blame, but taking radical ownership of your role in a conflict, missed goal, or relational misstep. Accountability is also about holding up a mirror and choosing reality about a current circumstance or situation.

3. Honesty

Honesty means telling the truth, period. It’s about not cutting corners, lying, omitting or cheating. Honesty is about shining light in the darkness, even when it’s painful or difficult. It’s about submission, vulnerability, and putting the relationship above your ego or reputation. And make no mistake, you can weaponize truth like a grenade (“You look awful in that dress!”).

4. Financial Fidelity

Financial fidelity is commitment to a person or belief about money. It’s about never hiding purchases, being truthful about debts and spending habits, and sharing spending and savings accounts together. For example, if you and your spouse agree to never borrow money and then one of you opens a secret line of credit, that’s financial infidelity. If you agree to work together to save $200 a month for your kid’s braces, and you do it, that’s financial fidelity. (If you’re working on money goals, I recommend downloading the free EveryDollar app to track your spending and saving.)

5. Faith and Spirituality

Faith is about leaning on and trusting in things even when you can’t see them. It’s about trusting in the power of something bigger than yourself—even when it doesn’t make sense. Faith can be put in God, as understood through organized religion or other spiritual doctrine. Or if church on Sunday isn’t your scene, faith can be the pursuit of goodness and truth. But sharing a value of leaning on God or a higher power—or not—is important for relational strength. If you and your partner aren’t on the same page with your faith perspective, that could make raising kids difficult or cause rifts in your relationship because you experience and understand the world so differently.

6. Health and Wellness

For some folks, wellness comes from tai chi and green juice. For others, being healthy means lifting weights and eating a daily rib eye. Valuing health and wellness means you treat your mind, body and spirit with dignity, respect and wisdom. When two people in relationship don’t value health in the same way, one person might resent the other because they’re heading toward different futures.

7. Hospitality

Hospitality is a core value in the Delony household. Everyone is welcome at the Delony table. Everyone.  We welcome people into our life and care for them while they’re here. We give what we can when we can to serve others and help them feel at home. If hospitality isn’t a shared value for you and your partner, how will you agree on how to host and care for in-laws, friends and others?

8. Generosity

Some people believe generosity is giving a man a fish. Others believe generosity means teaching a man to fish. No matter how you believe generosity is best expressed, the value of generosity means that giving to others is a core part of your life. A generous person is always looking out for others. A person who isn’t generous is always looking out for themselves. In relationships, your views on generosity can affect your decisions to donate or tithe, spend money on gifts, pay for college, or even spend time on important causes.

9. Respect

Respect means honoring each other’s boundaries in a relationship. Ultimately, respect is honoring someone else’s desire for how they wish to be loved. Respect may look like giving someone space during a difficult time. Or respect might look like showing up for them even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s about loving others for who they are and not for what they can do for you.

10. Patience

Patience is about being mindful at all times. It’s about experiencing something and pausing before reacting. Patience in a relationship means dealing with troubles or inconveniences without throwing a tantrum. You don’t let your temper get the best of you if you don’t get your way. You walk through difficult situations with grace, even when the pressure or the wait feels excruciating. Patience is about considering the bigger picture of the relationship before your individual wants or timeline.

11. Intimacy

When you value intimacy in relationships, closeness and understanding of each other are core pillars of your connection. Intimacy doesn’t just mean physical affection (although that’s important too), but knowledge of each other that no one else knows. Intimacy means caring deeply and creating safety in the relationship. Intimacy is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and feel loved and knowing your partner well enough to love them.

12. Communication

Communication is more than exchanging data and stupid memes between our shiny metal boxes. I can send my wife text messages all day long telling her I love her. But when I sit at the kitchen table, hold her hand, and ask about her day, she feels that I love her. Communication is about connecting. It’s listening. It’s showing empathy, being curious, and learning more. Simply put, valuing communication means you and your partner connect with each other in an intentional way.

13. Flexibility

If there’s one thing that’ll throw you a curve ball, it’s life. You want to surround yourself with people who have rock-solid character but can roll with the punches when faced with new information or challenges. Flexibility is saying four of my favorite words: “I changed my mind.” When you and your partner value flexibility, you can work with unexpected circumstances. You show up when you’re needed, even when it’s not convenient.

14. Work Ethic

If you and your spouse or business partner aren’t on the same page around work ethic, eventually you’re going to face two staggeringly different realities that put your future at risk. I hear about situations like this all the time when I talk to callers on The Dr. John Delony Show.


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In a marriage, for example, spouses need to be on the same page about who will work and who will stay home with the kids, or how they’ll both work and share childcare duties. Having two different visions and unsaid expectations is a train wreck just waiting to happen. It’s the same in business. You don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t share the same value of intentionality.

15. Loyalty

Loyalty—said another way, fidelity—means you uphold a commitment to another person or a shared vision or agreement. You’re loyal to your spouse when you don’t start a secret OnlyFans account. You’re loyal to your family’s financial future when you don’t secretly move funds out of the kids’ college accounts to fuel a gambling addiction. You’re loyal to your partner when you choose to listen to their wishes and desires about the holiday season (rather than doing what your parents or your old college friends want or expect).


Here's A Tip

Make a list of your nonnegotiable values before getting into a new relationship or job. That way you’ll have a better understanding of which situations are a good fit for you.

Values vs. Beliefs: What’s the Difference?

This is important: Beliefs are different than values. Beliefs are what we think about certain things. Values weigh those beliefs and ultimately define what we actually do. Beliefs and values have different functions, but they work together. Beliefs can change with new information or experiences, but values mostly stay the same over a lifetime. (By the way, I want my beliefs to be challenged, sharpened and changed regularly, which is why I read books, listen to podcasts, and talk to scientists, poets and other important thinkers. But my values are cast in concrete.)

When it comes to relationships, shared values unite people. They’re the bedrock and starting line for lasting and strong relationships. Our beliefs, on the other hand, make us unique and interesting. As you’re getting to know people, ask yourself what you have in common. If you disagree on a values level, you’ll struggle to stay connected over time.

Here’s an example: My wife and I value being good stewards of our health. Physical, mental and emotional health are foundational, core values for us as spouses, parents, professionals and more. But over the years, our individual beliefs about the best ways to be healthy stewards have changed. In fact, our approaches on nutrition plans, workout routines, supplements, hacks, gadgets, ice plunges and breathing techniques rarely align. We continually seek new information and wisdom so we can find what works best for us as individuals and as a couple. Because, at the end of the day, this value is one of many key pillars that keeps us connected.

What Happens If Values Change?

The way you express values will naturally evolve over a lifetime. Joy can change from getting into after-school shenanigans with your friends, to spending movie nights with your kids, to drinking iced tea in rocking chairs on the front porch with your spouse when you’re old and spunky and covered with wrinkles.

In rare circumstances, your values might have to adjust for a curveball. Maybe the curveball is that one of your family members struggles with addiction, and they’re no longer safe to have over for dinner. For a season, this would change your value of hospitality.

But if someone comes out of left field with a drastic new value (like suddenly borrowing money for a fancy new car or opting for nonmonogamy in marriage), that’s a problem. Suddenly, the relationship as you know it is over. At this point, you turn on the lights, turn off the music, and confront reality. Your values aren’t aligned, and you must negotiate a new future. Not calling out this change in the program is only going to create a bigger problem and heartbreak down the line. An undiscussed and unnegotiated change in relational values by one partner or another is a recipe for deep pain and resentment.

Here’s the hard truth: You might have to leave jobs, opportunities, money, relationships and friendships if there’s a great divide between your values and your partner’s values. If a situation requires you to compromise your values, you’ll have to make the tough and gut-wrenching decision to suffocate who you are or walk away. Living a life in conflict with what you know in your bones to be right or wrong is a recipe for disappointment and inauthenticity.

How to Learn More About Your Values (and Others’)

As you’re getting to know folks and building relationships with them, there are fun and lighthearted ways to learn about each other’s values (that won’t come across as an FBI interrogation—creaky spotlight and all). My Questions for Humans Conversation Cards are the perfect tool to use to learn what people are all about. And you might be surprised to learn new things about yourself too. Check them out!

Questions For Humans Couples Second Edition

Created by mental health and relationship expert Dr. John Delony, Questions for Humans: Couples 2nd Edition will help you put your phones down and actually connect.


What’s the different between values and beliefs?

Beliefs are what we think about certain things. Values weigh those beliefs and ultimately define what we actually do. Beliefs can change with new information or experiences, but values mostly stay the same over a lifetime.

Can I be in a relationship with someone who has different values?

Compatibility can be tough when you and someone you’re in a relationship with have very different values. But it’s healthy for you to have different beliefs—that allows you to have conversations and share life experience that can help each of you grow. Think of it this way: Values should be etched in concrete, while beliefs can be written on a sidewalk in chalk. Relational values should be shared as much as possible. Beliefs should change with new experiences and new information.

How do I figure out what my values and beliefs are?

Reflect on what’s important to you. Not your parents or friends—you. Ask yourself, “Over the course of my life, what has mattered most?” Consider what’s important to you through a lens of relationships, activities, behaviors, habits, interests and qualities you want to develop in yourself. Make a list of everything you consider important and impactful in your life. From there, you can narrow down the list into the most consistent qualities or interests that have shaped your life.

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Dr. John Delony

About the author

Dr. John Delony

Dr. John Delony is a mental health expert with two PhDs from Texas Tech University—one in counselor education and supervision and the other in higher education administration. Before joining Ramsey Solutions in 2020, John spent two decades in crisis response, walking with people through severe trauma. Now at Ramsey Solutions, John writes, speaks and teaches on relationships, mental health, anxiety and wellness. He hosts The Dr. John Delony Show and also serves as co-host of The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk show in the nation. In 2022, John’s book Own Your Past, Change Your Future instantly became a #1 national bestseller. You can also find John featured on DailyMailTV, Fox Business and The Minimalists Podcast. Learn More.

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