People often ask me why I emphasise the values of love, care, trust and respect rather than, say, compassion, empathy, loyalty or even attraction. When you prioritise love, care, trust and respect in your and other people’s actions, mentality and attitudes, other core values are a natural by-product.

It’s all too easy to home in on ‘good points’ or ‘good times’ and take one or a few aspects and call it everything. I see it all the time. ‘We’re a perfect match based on their dating profile and our messages.’ How? Why? A date or few later, and we discover their incompatibility.

Sometimes we feel like someone really listened to us and assume they’re empathetic. Maybe a love interest is so charming and persistent, we mistake these for devotion. Just ask anyone who’s ever been involved with a narcissist or someone narcissistically inclined.

Focusing on our interpretation of one thing often blinds us to what might be other problematic aspects that signal disrespect and/or incompatibility.

People can be more than one thing.

We humans like the idea of thinking we’re values driven. Romantic relationships, in particular though, are one area where we’re most likely to forget ourselves. A whiff of potential, or even the prospect of rejection, can be enough to trigger uncharacteristic behaviour in people who might otherwise be some of the most together people we know when on their own, at work, or with friends and family.

Internal pressure plus peer, familial and societal pressure about romantic relationships can prompt us to cut corners in a desperate move to fit in and avoid scrutiny. We also, frankly, sometimes don’t have a clue what being or doing something in actuality looks and feels like. Classic example: so many people mistake sympathy for empathy. Our confusion is understandable: we didn’t learn about these in childhood or adulthood!

The big four values of love, care, trust and respect are quality assurance for doing everything else in the relationship.

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