Values-based decision-making means understanding what is most important to you and then incorporating this into your life on a daily basis. It's one clear way to make sure you're acting with integrity (walking your talk) and a great tool for getting clear when you feel confused or out-of-alignment.
Knowing exactly what you believe also helps you make the decisions that naturally lead to a more fulfilling relationship.
As you can imagine considering opening your relationship often leads to confusion and surprising reactions. Having clarity of values helps us re-center when we feel uncertain, and can help us individually (and as a couple) make choices form a solid place.
Here are a few keys to practicing values-based non-monogamy.
1. Don't confuse societal values with personal values
It can be a true challenge to sort our aspirational values from our actual values. Sometimes, we give lip service to socially desirable values but struggle to manifest them in daily activities, leading to confusion and/or distrust in partnerships.
We might really want to promise something to a partner because we think they want it, or because our family of origin expected it. But when we over-promise we create easy space to let our partners down.
Making values-based decisions begins with taking the time to truly look inward to identify your actual values, so as to bridge the gap between your words and actions. Making promises only when you are aligned in your values means you know you can follow through.
2. Write them down
Make no mistake, a clear list of your top 5-7 one-word values is like a personal North Star. Ask yourself: When do I feel frustrated? When do I feel let-down? What makes me angry? Who do I most respect and admire? And why? Why? Why?
Keep asking why until you get clear about the whys behind these preferences. They'll likely point you in the direction of your personal core values. Write out a list of them to carry with you and check in daily to notice how you're living these actions.
3. Notice when you feel "off"
This is a great indicator we're out of alignment with our personal values. Something just isn't sitting right. Culturally we try to push through these feelings or ignore them.
Training yourself to listen to that intuitive voice will help you get upstream of problematic integrity-lacking behaviors because you'll be able to course-correct in alignment with your values.
Trust your inner voice.
4. Keep Focused
Find practices that will regularly tie you back to your values even when you're not feeling off. You can deepen intimacy with yourself and your partners by identifying specific behaviors of yours and theirs that align with your values.
On your own that might look like checking in with the values you wrote down at the end of the day and reviewing the actions you took to align with them.
In your relationship that might sound like:
"I'm trying to focus on passion as a value right now, so I'm making more time for things that help me feel sexy like dancing and working out."
"I know I want more learning in my relationships. Would you be interested in taking a class/going to a lecture/watching this documentary with me?"
Often it's reassuring to all parties in a relationship to share and review values semi-regularly.
I wrote a pair of workbooks on this topic a while back, you might be interested in downloading them if the idea of a values-based relationship is of interest to you. Get a copy here.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
- reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
- change communication & codependent patterns
I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).
Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.