Over a short period of time couples can discover whether they share similar values, experiences, and overall hopes for the future. Issues such as religion, fiscal and political leanings, and social preferences become known factors to both partners through dating and spending time with each other. Couples will have a sense of general compatibility and an awareness of many of the larger issues and differences they will need to navigate through in their relationship early on.
But even when couples agree on the major issues, conflicts and disagreements will still arise about smaller details. These smaller details are not always obvious until a couple is confronted with joint decisions and life circumstances. Both partners may identify as liberal activists yet have significant arguments over the best methods for enacting change. A gregarious couple may hold resentments over which set of friends gets the most face time. Which mosque to attend, what diet to choose, how to prioritize money, and what consequences and discipline to set for children - all of these decisions depend on detailed beliefs and require discussing individual priorities within larger categories.
Using a Value Card Sort, such as the one created by W.R. Miller, J. C’de Baca, and D.B. Matthews, P.L., (https://casaa.unm.edu/inst/Personal%20Values%20Card%20Sort.pdf) can help clarify individual preferences and priorities of these types of issues. Here’s how it works: each partner sorts and ranks a number of values - some already printed and others can be added - then compares the most essential points. Partners may have very similar essential values, but in a different order of priority. Understanding these similarities and differences can help couples plan activities and provides a context for arguments that seem trivial or circular. When partners want to have a “good” vacation, for example, it can be confusing when it gets so tough to make that happen. Having a better understanding of goals and expectations for the trip, based on individual values at the time, can help illuminate differences in perspective and help with compromise.
Try this exercise out with your partner!