Tips For Navigating Different Core Values In A Relationship

When the "Barbie" movie hit theaters, it didn't only break box office records — it broke up relationships too. Some fans decided to use "Barbie" as a litmus test for dating, and, well, not all partners passed the test. Social media posts and viral stories started popping up of women who broke up with their Barbie-bashing boyfriends, and at the heart of the trend seemed to be clashing core values.

Core values are the beliefs and principles that determine how you act and what choices you make. They're different from personality traits or interests — values play a major role in who you are as a person. Unsurprisingly, it can be difficult to be in a relationship with someone who lives their life based on an entirely different set of values.

The "Barbie" movie wasn't the first time a social or cultural event illuminated couples' incompatible values. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic led some lovers to consider splitting after they discovered they had different ethical beliefs regarding the vaccine, according to USA Today. However, diverging values can show up at any time, and thankfully, breaking up isn't the only option. Even if you and your partner have different priorities and principles, a few easy strategies, including directly talking about them and getting to the root of the issue, may help you get back on the same page.

Have realistic expectations

Dealing with different core values in a relationship can be hard. But before you start fantasizing about a new significant other or comparing your partner to a fictional alternative you made up in your head, make sure your expectations are realistic. In other words, don't expect your other half — or anyone else, for that matter — to share all your values. "You're not dating yourself," Rosara Torrisi, a certified sex therapist and relationship expert, told Vice. "You're going to have different opinions and thoughts and beliefs and values." That means you might not always see eye to eye, even on core values — and that's okay. You and your partner shouldn't feel pressured to change your values, nor do you have to break up just because you have different perspectives.

The key, according to couples therapist Dr. Gary Brown, is to approach the relationship expecting some differences but still valuing your love for and commitment to each other. "During even the best of relationships, there are going to be some differences in how each of you may view a certain situation," he explained to Elite Daily. "So, if you both believe that people get to have different viewpoints but that your love for one another is more important than, say, your political views, then your shared value of loving each other is going to help you navigate the differences you will have."

Focus on your commonalities

If you ended up in a romantic relationship with someone, chances are you have some things in common with them. In a Psychology Today article, clinical psychologist Dr. Samantha Stein suggests focusing on these points, despite your different core values. As Dr. Stein says, you'll likely realize that your values still intersect in some ways. Erika Ettin, dating coach and founder of A Little Nudge, echoes this, telling Elite Daily, "Shared values and communication are probably the most important aspects of a relationship. But, people's hierarchy of values can differ." In other words, you may share certain values, but they can be placed in a different order of importance.

If you're struggling to find any similar values or viewpoints, think back to what drew you together in the first place. Was it your shared religious beliefs? Your dreams of starting a family? The way you both appreciate self-care and downtime? While these commonalities may or may not be enough to sustain a healthy, long-lasting relationship (more on that later), they can at least serve as a reminder that you're not on opposing teams.

Talk about your different values

If you've noticed that you and your other half seem to have different core values, don't just sweep your observations under the rug. It's important to communicate your values and get to know your partners' — ASAP. Carolyn Cole, a licensed marriage and family therapist, explained to The Zoe Report that values involving significant factors such as religion and family can seriously influence your future together and should be discussed long before you share a home or exchange vows. "These things are necessary to identify early on, as things can get tough if your relationship becomes more serious and you find you truly want different things," Cole stressed. If you're already past the early stages of your relationship, don't fret. It's never too late to start the conversation about values, and since priorities can change over time, it's also not a bad idea to check in periodically about values as your relationship progresses.

If you or your partner have never discussed values before, make sure you first agree on what's actually considered a value. For instance, Netflix binges aren't a value, but fun and relaxation are. For inspiration, researcher and vulnerability expert Brené Brown offers a long list of some common values on her website.

Get to the root of your values

Once you and your partner are clear on where your values are mismatched (like one of you is all about responsibility, while the other craves risk-taking), treat your differences as a jumping-off point for deeper conversations. "[I]t can be the beginning of a discussion and exploration of each other's values and a way to build curiosity about the other," Katie Krimer, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, told Bustle. "Being willing to explore and validate the importance of each others' values can help two people come closer to being on the same page."

Make an effort to uncover where your respective values originated. Did your values get passed down from your family? Did you learn them at school? Did your S.O.'s values come from an experience in the past? Did they pick them up from their religious community? As Dr. Samantha Stein writes in Psychology Today, understanding the root of your values can help you be more empathetic towards your partner rather than casting judgment or taking your differences personally.

Once you get to know the reasoning behind your values, you might also realize that your motivations overlap. For example, if you value a stable corporate career while your S.O. prefers a more adventurous, entrepreneurial approach, you might realize that, behind these values, you both care about building wealth and having enough money to travel or start a family.

Know when having different values is a deal breaker

While you and your partner won't agree on every core value, there comes a point where your differences could be too much to handle. In particular, your relationship will likely suffer if you disagree on relationship-specific values. "Core values as they pertain to a romantic relationship refer to those same fundamental beliefs that might make one feel safe, comfortable, inspired, passionate, and connected to their partner and within the relationship," Katie Krimer shared with Bustle. Values like honesty, respect, and commitment — things that can make or break a relationship — should be mutual for your relationship to work. If you're not in agreement, your different values will likely become a deal breaker.

If your relationship is getting serious, it's also important to consider what kind of future you each desire. Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at, told CNBC Make It that couples should agree on three key values for their relationship to last: finances, family, and lifestyle choices. If you're constantly butting heads on how to use money, what kind of family you want to create, and how you choose to spend your time, you might find yourself fighting more than thriving as a couple.

Finally, know that even if you learn to accept and understand your S.O.'s values, they might not return the favor. If they criticize or try to change your views, you may want to consider ending the relationship and honoring your values elsewhere.