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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

When Values Clash

Monica and Anna were close friends until they started living together. But once they rented an apartment together, they were barely speaking to each other. They argued about almost everything: the cleanliness of the apartment, how they spent money together, and even how much time they spent together or alone. But the problem wasn’t so much that Monica was right and Anna was wrong (or vise versa), but that their values collided.

Many problems between people come down to a values clash. And if people clarify their values prior to living or working together, most issues could be avoided.

For Monica, socializing was a high value. She expected that Anna and she would have friends over almost every day of the week. Anna, in contrast, wanted some peace and quiet after working all day.

For Anna, having a neat and tidy place was a high value. Monica would much prefer to chat with her friends online rather than clean the bathroom. Monica also expected that the two of them would hang out in the living room and talk and watch TV. Anna was preparing for the LSATs, and she wanted time in her room to study.

While Monica and Anna may have been compatible as friends, they were not well-matched as roommates. The problems could have been avoided — and their friendship saved — if they talked prior to moving in about their priorities and values. Once they realized they were mismatched, they could have negotiated some middle ground or decided to live with others.

There are many other relationships that can run into problems because of value differences. For instance, prior to engaging in a business endeavor, it’s wise to talk together about your priorities and values.

Perhaps most importantly of all, if you are considering marriage, clarifying your priorities is of utmost importance. Too many divorces happen because people were propelled by chemistry and not by shared visions of the future.

Pre-marital counseling can be helpful in order to compare your priorities in a variety of areas. For instance, if your partner wants to live near his/her family in suburban Orange County, and you love San Francisco, this is a big difference that should be negotiated prior to marriage. Of course, if you want children, and he/she don’t doesn’t, don’t wait until you’ve exchanged rings and wedding vows to discuss. Even if there are clashes in priorities and values, that doesn’t mean the relationship must end. It’s impossible to find someone exactly like you — and you may not want this! Some issues can be worked out through negotiation and compromise. Others, however, may signal a need to slow down and think twice before proceeding. And, although it can be very disappointing to realize that you and your future mate (or roommate, or business partner) have too many differences to merge lives, it is better than finding this out once you’ve made the big commitment.

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