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What does it mean for you and your guy to be a perfect match? It isn’t your astrological sign, your Myers-Briggs Type (though that can help), your preference for cheesy horror films, or your love of indie folk music. One of the best indications of compatibility between you and your significant other is how well your values align.

Having similar values paves the way for a strong and healthy relationship. Dr. John Gottman, relationship expert and researcher, found that the quality of the friendship between partners is one of the most important characteristics in a successful relationship. When your values are similar, your friendship with your significant other can form and build more organically.

Shared values can form a solid foundation for you to build your relationship on and make it easier for you to make big decisions and grow together as a couple, but compatibility is more complicated than simply sharing values. To really get a good handle on what makes a couple compatible, it’s important to understand how values guide our lives and how they might then align with our partner.

Know How Your Values Guide Your Life

Our values give us purpose and direction in life. Without them, we feel like a leaf blowing in the wind, going in whatever direction the wind pushes us. When our values are clearly defined, it is so much easier to make good decisions. For example, when I’m working with a client who is trying to decide whether they want to continue a romantic relationship and finds themselves going back and forth over the pros and cons, I guide them through the process of identifying their values. Once they discover, for example, that family is important to them, but it isn’t to the guy they are dating, it can make the decision to stay together or break up a little easier. Again, having different values doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship is doomed from the start, but you need to decide which ones are deal breakers for you and which aren’t.

In order to know whether your values are compatible with your significant other’s, you have to first know what they are. Our values extend beyond the beliefs of our faith tradition and the things we learned when we were young (although the way we were raised has a big influence on our values). Our values are the things that dictate how we live our life. What is important to you? Is it stability? Is it being part of a strong community? Could it be maintaining a balance between your career and family? Or maybe it is putting family first?

Dig deeper into the things you know you should value, and ask yourself what is really important in your life. Think about the times you were faced with a big decision, and reflect on what you used to guide you through making that decision. Write down any themes that come to mind, and you’ll see a set of values emerge. These are your guiding principles in life.

Know How Your Values Align with His

There are some people who believe they could never marry someone who doesn’t share their faith or their political persuasion. The reason for this is because things like our faith and our politics often represent a larger set of values that influence how we live our life. Setting deal breakers like shared faith or political parties might be the best way we know to hit the compatibility mark, but it is also possible for someone who doesn’t share your faith, for example, to be influenced by the same values that influence you. With that in mind, it’s important to look beyond labels and pay attention to how you and your partner align on key areas in day-to-day life.

When I facilitate marriage preparation sessions with engaged couples, they complete an assessment that covers a variety of areas important to a successful relationship, including lifestyle expectations, problem solving, financial views, parenting views, and communication styles. Of these topics, the most important factors of compatibility are their values around what a committed relationship looks like, their expectations for their roles in the relationship, and what it means to be a good person. We’d look at the areas where the couple were most similar and the areas where they tended to differ.

It’s typical to expect areas of disagreement. But for many of the couples I worked with, they would disagree about finances, have different expectations for the type of lifestyle they’ll lead, or have different ideas about parenting. These are the areas in which differing values, the things that dictate our choices and behavior, can cause the most trouble.

Remember, compatibility is never as simple as you might think. But the best way to know who you might mesh with best is to have a really clear idea of what is important to you and how those values play out in your day-to-day life. Your love of cheesy horror films and indie folk artists is likely just icing on the cake!

Photo Credit: Bom Photography