7 Core Values Every Couple Must Agree on Before Marriage

These guiding principles will create the right conditions for a lasting relationship.

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If you and your partner are in a loving relationship, chances are, you’re probably eager to make it last. Although every partnership is different, relationships are more likely to succeed when both parties share similar values. These core beliefs are the foundation of every relationship, the guiding principles that determine how it operates. “When couples establish their relationship on shared values, they are saying, ‘This is who we are, this is what’s important to us, and this is how we function as a couple,’” says licensed clinical social worker Chelsa Watkins-Jordan. “Shared values are the glue that holds the relationship together—in good times and bad.” 

What Are Values?

Values refer to a fundamental belief system that dictates your behavior, attitudes, actions, and perspective. They are the guiding principles that determine how your relationship functions and what’s important to you.

When you and your significant other are aligned on values, from boundaries to trust, you’ll have the strength to overcome obstacles and the ability to keep progressing as a unit. “There are only two directions for a relationship long term: growing together or growing apart,” licensed marriage and family therapist Erica Hershey Ross notes. “And without shared values, it becomes increasingly more challenging to manage the differences.” 

Meet the Expert

  • Chelsa Watkins-Jordan is a licensed clinical social worker in Georgia who has 10 years of counseling experience.
  • Erica Hershey Ross is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 24 years of experience. She’s based in New York and California.
  • Nita Cochran is a licensed professional counselor in North Carolina and South Carolina. She’s been working in the mental health field for 10 years.

If you’re on the path to tying the knot, there are certain values you need to agree on before becoming newlyweds. But, before you can establish shared values between the two of you, you must identify what you personally value. “When two people are aware of their values, they learn to trust themselves and are acutely cognizant of the alignment of their values with those of others,” Watkins-Jordan shares.

Although you don’t have to agree on every topic, if there are too many discrepancies in your values or you can’t find common ground on matters that are personally important to you, Ross says you might need to reevaluate the relationship. For a strong foundation that leads to a successful marriage, here are some of the most important values you need to share.


Trust is the first value on this list for a reason. “Without trust, there is no foundation for a marriage,” Ross says. Having faith in your partner is an essential ingredient for a healthy and happy relationship. When there’s a certain level of trust in place, both partners can live independent lives without second-guessing the other’s intentions, plans, or actions.

Having trust also means that both people feel comfortable enough to be their true selves. “Feeling safe creates a relationship where the two can be vulnerable enough to express their raw emotions without fear,” Watkins-Jordan explains. “They are willing to communicate their experiences to one another without motives being questioned.”

If you’re in a relationship where your significant other doesn’t allow you to freely live your life, you’ll start to resent your partner and distance yourself. “[Without shared values,] each person functions as an individual, which often leads them to lack consideration for the other when making decisions,” Watkins-Jordan reveals. “This causes a lack of communication and trust.”


Without a constant exchange of information, no relationship can grow. Being able to talk openly and honestly with one another about your thoughts, feelings, and worries will create a deeper and more intimate connection. “Having healthy communication in relationships helps each person feel heard, seen, understood, and valued,” Watkins-Jordan states. 

And of course, establishing these values begins with communication. Once you’ve developed an awareness of the principles that are important to you, you’ve set up the framework to build upon those values with another person. To establish what matters to you both, Ross suggests having an open conversation with your partner. “Come from a loving and curious place, and ask questions that are not leading,” she advises. “Ask for clarification if you’re not understanding and take a nice deep breath in and an even longer exhale if something is feeling challenging. Practice active listening, or listening in order to truly hear what the other person has to say, rather than listening only so that you can formulate your own response.”

Communication is especially important for resolving conflicts within your relationship. For instance, if your partner hasn’t been doing their fair share of household chores, say exactly how you feel rather than stewing over the issue or assuming your partner can read your mind. To communicate more effectively, it’s important to avoid blaming or shaming the other person and instead use “I” statements that express exactly how the behavior affects you. When your partner talks, listen attentively and empathize with the other person’s point of view.


You know what they say: honesty is the best policy. And in relationships, that’s certainly the case. By telling the truth and acting like your authentic self, you build trust. When sincerity is a shared value, you know exactly where the other person stands, so you don’t have to guess or assume anything, which avoids misunderstandings. “When one person values being honest and the other doesn’t, the relationship will constantly encounter lows,” Watkins-Jordan asserts. “There will always be a question of ‘Do I trust what my partner is saying or doing?’ And the couple would hardly ever get to enjoy their time together.”

Being honest isn’t always the easiest practice. It can especially feel difficult or uncomfortable if you need to be honest about something the other person might take offense to. If you’re worried about your partner’s reaction, remind yourself of your intentions, communicate your feelings calmly and directly, and trust that your partner will understand.


Setting boundaries is a powerful way to improve your relationship with your partner and yourself. Not only do boundaries build closeness, but they also boost your self-esteem and wellbeing. Although it might feel safe to be overly agreeable, constantly people pleasing will make you lose your sense of self. Without boundaries, you’ll become resentful, anxious, and unhappy. 

Boundaries can look like asking your spouse not to play music while you’re reading a book or not to check their phone while you’re on date night. To set these boundaries, Ross recommends asking yourself what will make you feel seen, heard, and empowered, so you can be the best version of yourself. “Acknowledging each other’s boundaries allows both people to understand what they are comfortable with without guessing or acting in a passive aggressive manner,” she says.


Since religion has its own set of values and beliefs that can influence how you live your life, it has an important place in relationships. Having different religious beliefs isn’t always a deal breaker, but it can often breed tension and disagreements. 

Even if you do have the same religious beliefs as your partner, Watkins-Jordan suggests discussing how you will incorporate those principles into your everyday lives. Will you attend religious services every week? How will you celebrate the holidays? And if you’re thinking about raising children, what will that look like? “Discuss family of origin religious beliefs, and decide prior to marriage if you wish to continue your own religious upbringing or pivot, so that it doesn’t become a point of contention—or worse—a dividing aspect of the marriage,” Ross suggests.


Healthy relationships are built on respect. When respect is a guiding principle in your relationship, you feel valued, acknowledged, and appreciated. “I feel once this is lost, everything else is hard,” Nita Cochran, a licensed professional counselor, notes. “A mutual respect for each other can allow all other values to flow smoothly.” Whether it’s cleaning up after yourself or supporting your partner’s career change, showing respect proves that you value and care about them. Belittling or ignoring your partner’s opinions, beliefs, dreams, thoughts, and emotions, on the other hand, will make your relationship suffer. Before getting married, have a discussion with your spouse about what respect means to you and identify some of the signs of respect.


Even the healthiest and most successful relationships have disagreements. What sets them apart? Forgiveness. Instead of holding grudges, which can impede your wellbeing and weaken connections, make forgiveness a practice. “Forgiving one another brings you back toward each other rather than pushing each other away,” Ross notes. 

Everyone makes mistakes, and practicing forgiveness will release resentment, help you process the hurt, and allow you to move on. “Set aside ego as often as possible in order to find vulnerability and truly want your partner to feel loved and cared for in the aftermath,” Ross urges.

Article Sources
Brides takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Verywell Mind. "How to Improve Your Communication in Relationships." February 23, 2022.

  2. Psychology Today. "5 Ways to Build Trust and Honesty in Your Relationships." June 29, 2015.

  3. Verywell Mind. "How to Forgive Your Partner in a Relationship." September 12, 2022.

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