In a previous blog, “10 (+1) Principles for a Healthy Relationship“, principle #8 spoke to the importance of knowing your relationship purpose and values, and holding each other accountable to them.
If you think of your relationship like an organization, perhaps even the place that you work, most successful businesses have a mission or purpose statement and values that guide them. If you have been involved in the behind-the-scenes of business operation, you will know that effective leaders and managers plan for the future and operate their businesses, leading with their mission and values. That means that everything they do (present actions and future planning) comes back to their reasons for being in business (their mission or purpose) and the values that they hold themselves accountable to.
For organizations, having a purpose or mission statement and shared values is essential to their daily operation and future success. The same is true in a love relationship. However, many couples don’t take the time to clarify why they are in relationship or what their shared values are. Skipping this essential part of being in an intimate relationship can lead to conflict, misunderstanding, and disconnection.
Whether you and your partner have been together for 50 years, 25, 10, 1 year, or even if you’ve just met, the exercise below will help you get clear on your shared purpose and values. If you are single, you can do the relevant parts of this exercise to help you in your search for the right partner.
This step-by-step exercise walks you through a series of questions and activities to help you clarify your purpose for coming and staying together, as well as the values that hold meaning for both of you and help keep your relationship going in the direction you want it to.
Set aside at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to complete this with your partner, and get out a paper and pen! You might want to have access to a printer to print off the downloadable chart at the bottom, but you can easily copy it to a piece of blank paper.
To begin, complete this section separately from your partner. Write your answers down so you can share them with each other when you are finished.
- What is the first happy memory you have of your partner?
- What is the best memory you have of you and your partner?
- What is the best part about being in your current relationship?
- What is the hardest part about being in your current relationship?
- Where do you feel your relationship needs the most work?
- What do you no longer want to have or experience in your relationship?
- What makes a successful relationship in your opinion?
- What are 5 things you love most about your partner?
- What’s something about your partner that challenges you?
- What would you like to experience more regularly in your relationship? What is important to you to have in your relationship? What do you need from your relationship?
- How do you want to feel in your relationship?
- Where would you like to see your relationship in a year from now?
Share your answers with each other. When your partner is sharing, listening intently, acknowledge what they have shared, and thank them. Ask questions or for clarification on anything you are unsure of.
With your partner, write down your answers to the following questions together:
- What can you have or experience from your relationship that you could not have or experience alone?
- Based on your answers to the above, what is the primary purpose of your relationship?
- Based on the answers you’ve both written to the questions in the first part as well as your newly defined purpose, discuss with your partner what your most important values are and decide on the top 5 you want to focus on meeting in your relationship.
- Once you have clarified your top 5 values, think of “vehicles” as ways that you meet your values. For example, if one of your values is “trust”, a vehicle might be: “we don’t keep secrets from each other”. With your partner, define 3 vehicles, or ways that you both agree to meet your values, for each of your 5 values.
- Transfer your work to this downloadable chart.
- Post your purpose, top 5 values, and 3 vehicles for each value in a place where you will both see them, like on your fridge or beside your bed.
- Sit down with your partner on a regular basis (perhaps weekly, monthly, or once every few months) to go over your purpose, values and ways that you meet your values together. Each of you will discuss how you feel you are doing, as well as how you feel your partner is doing. Focus on things you are doing well, as well as what you can both continue to improve on. Make this a time to express appreciation, admiration, and respect for your partner and allow yourselves to be influenced by one another by staying open and listening deeply.