You swipe right. A match! As you scroll through their profile, you notice they love nature and hiking just like you, and oh, they also binge-watch the same Netflix series! You strike up a conversation, and everything seems to flow naturally. You even find out you both are early risers and love spending weekends going to the farmers market and cooking. A perfect match, you think?
Not so fast.
While shared interests and compatible personalities might seem like the key to compatibility, research suggests otherwise. Although these attributes can make for a nice kindling for a relationship, they’re not the firewood that keeps the blaze alive and thriving in the long run.
A growing body of research suggests that core values — those fundamental beliefs and principles that guide our behavior and decision-making — are far more critical to long-term relationship satisfaction than personality traits or shared interests could ever hope to be.
Personality & Interests: A Shaky Foundation
Personality traits and common interests are not bad starting points; they often serve as the initial catalyst for attraction. However, over the past seven years, numerous studies have been published disproving the efficacy of interest and personality based compatibility. Via a long-term study of more than 2,500 couples married around 20 years, researchers found their results indicated that shared interests and similar personalities had little to no effect on relationship satisfaction.
While enjoying the same hobbies or having complementary personality traits can be a bonus, they are not predictive of relationship longevity or overall happiness. In fact, relying solely on these criteria can even be misleading, as they might mask deeper, more significant differences.
What Are Core Values?
Core values are the compass by which we navigate our lives. Sometimes referred to as "sacred" values, they are the unshakeable beliefs that define us. They dictate how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world at large. Whether it's a commitment to family, a passion for social justice, a strong work ethic, or a deeply held religious belief—these values guide our actions, decisions, and reactions. They are the lens through which we see the world and ultimately the glue that holds a lasting relationship together. Core values go beyond the transient whims of what we enjoy doing on the weekend or whether we're introverted or extroverted.
Core Values: The Real Indicators for Long-Term Compatibility
Leading experts in the dating and relationship space agree, aligned core values are essential for long-term relationship success. If you've ever wondered why couples who seem like polar opposites manage to build lasting relationships, look no further than their core values. When two people share similar core values, they have a robust foundation upon which to build a life.
This mutual understanding and respect often translates into a higher level of trust, better communication, and more willingness to work through problems. These are the relationships that not only stand the test of time but also provide a deeper sense of fulfillment and meaning to the individuals involved.
Reliability Over Time
Core values rarely change significantly over a lifetime. Your taste in music, your career, or your social habits might evolve, but values like integrity, honesty, and compassion usually remain constant. In this sense, aligning with someone whose core values match yours can result in a relationship that not only survives but thrives over time.
Flexibility in the Face of Challenges
When both partners share the same core values, navigating life's challenges becomes more manageable. If both partners value open communication, it will be less likely that misunderstandings will escalate into significant issues. If both value family, decisions about where to live or how to raise children are often less contentious.
How to Identify Your Core Values
Kara Shade, PhD, CFLE, relationship educator, and trained mediator, asserts that dating should be an exercise in vetting, based on core values. The first step is to be clear and honest about your own core values. What are the guiding principles that matter most to you? This could range from religious beliefs to how you feel about family, money, and social issues.
Before diving into value-based dating, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your own core values. Take time to self-reflect or engage in deep conversations with trusted friends or family. Here are some questions to consider:
What principles are non-negotiable in your life?
What are you most passionate about?
What would you stand for, even if it were unpopular?
What matters more to you than money?
Then ask yourself the “why” behind all the answers you come up with to dig even deeper into the heart of your values.
Once you’ve identified your core values, you'll find it easier to be intentional with your dating life and seek out potential partners who share these same guiding principles. Of course, determining whether you share core values with someone can sometimes take time and meaningful conversation, but when you go into conversations with your own values in mind, you’ll find it easier to ask the right questions and pin point areas where you find misalignments with more ease.
Conclusion: A Shift in Perspective
The idea of focusing on core values in dating is neither radical nor new, but it is sorely underutilized. By making values the epicenter of your dating criteria, you’re investing in a relationship that's more likely to withstand the ups and downs that life inevitably brings.
So, the next time you scroll through a dating app, remember that the key to lasting love goes much deeper than shared hobbies or complementary Myers-Briggs types. Instead, look for that person who shares your core values, your non-negotiables, your vision for what a fulfilling life looks like.
By letting your core values guide you, you're not just looking for someone to share your interests—you're looking for someone to share your life. And that makes all the difference.