Mark: Last Fall, Jill and I were challenged by our friends Greg and Julie Gorman to begin thinking about the core values of our marriage. These are shared values that help us to clarify our shared purpose.  As individuals we may have personal core values that our spouse doesn’t necessarily share. Sometimes those are fueled by our temperaments and personalities. But identifying the passions we do share, gives us a vision of why we exist as a couple.

Jill: In nearly 35 years of marriage, we had never identified our core values as a couple. We’re guessing we’re not the only ones. We began with compiling a list of possible values. We curated this list from a little bit of research we did on core values in general. As we talked through the list, some words particularly resonated with us so we highlighted those.

Mark: We made a list of the highlighted words and then let that list simmer for several months. We’d occasionally return to it when we were driving somewhere or out on a date to see if there were any values we needed to add or cross off the list.

Mark: We also talked about each one and tried to finish these sentences: We value __________________. This is why we ______________________.  Doing so helped us to eliminate a few we thought were values but we weren’t able to actually come up with a supportive statement that illustrated how we lived them out.

Jill: We’re still “marinating” these core values—trying to see if these really define us as a couple and if there are any we are missing, but we feel confident we’re on the right track! Here’s what we have so far:

We value authenticity. This is why we share our stories openly.

We value freedom. This is why we choose entrepreneurship and pursue debt free living. This is also why we occasionally pursue counseling, so we are free from our struggles and our past.

We value serving. This is why we live generously.

We value hospitality. This is why we open our home to friends and family, Airbnb guests, couples who seek out marriage coaching, speakers and writers, and those who just need a haven of rest.

We value growth. This is why we both read, listen to podcasts, and pursue personal growth to be better spouses, parents, leaders, and Christians.

We value learning together. This is why we’ve taken parenting classes, attended marriage conferences and leadership seminars together. This is why we listen to podcasts together when we drive. It’s also why we occasionally read books aloud together (it usually takes us 6-9 months to finish a book when we learn together this way!)

We value faith. This is why we are committed to Jesus Christ, have a church home, read God’s Word, and pray together.

We value family. This is why we host cousin’s weekend once a month for our grandkids. It’s why we spend time with our parents, extended family, and travel to see our kids who live out of town.

We value health. This is why we are committed to clean eating and regular exercise.

Mark: This has been a fascinating exercise for us to do together. It’s brought about great conversation and has strengthened our vision of why God has us together.

Jill: If you decide to identify your core values, here are some tips we found helpful:

  • Make the conversations about values safe conversations. In other words, don’t criticize each other’s thoughts as you brainstorm.
  • Resist the urge to get frustrated when your spouse doesn’t value something you value. Jot that down on your own personal core value list. What you’re looking for now are the values you share as a couple.
  • Don’t get caught up in numbers. It’s possible you might only be able to identify one shared core value. Or two or three. Focus on the quality of what you share, not the quantity.
  • If you need some ideas to get you started. Here’s a general core values list that can get you thinking: Sample Core Values
  • Core values can change as you change. For instance, health wasn’t one of our core values until my breast cancer journey. That experience was a gamechanger for us and put physical health on our radar screen.
  • If you have kids at home, sharing your core values with the kids can be a valuable exercise for building family identity.

Mark: So go ahead. Begin thinking about the core values you share as a couple. Talk about them, process them, and post your first draft where you can see it. When you get some initial ideas on your list, we’d love for you to come back and share them as a comment on this post so we can learn and grow together!


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