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Values Clarification (Again!)

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Maintaining all your varying relationships is certainly a full time job and can be very difficult to accomplish. You can easily start to feel like you are playing a zero sum game at times. There are many relationships, actual and only desired, all requiring your attention. The time you spend on one relationship is time taken away from another. Alternatively, time invested on an existing relationship is time you don't have to spend on developing a new one that might prove more satisfying. For these reasons, it is very important that you take time to prioritize your relationships so as to make sure that the most valuable among them (e.g., your most intimate and supportive relationships) receive adequate attention and are not starved or neglected to any great degree.

If you are struggling to balance work and home relationships, ask yourself if you are happy with the manner in which you have prioritized these two important domains of your life. You may have no strategy for addressing this balance, and instead just reacting to whatever pressing needs come up in the moment. Alternatively, you may have a strategy in place that isn't working for you. There is no easy formula for deciding how to keep this balance, but we do advise basing a flexible formula for determining how to apportion your time and attention on your values. For example, if your involvement in work exists to put food on the table so that you can enjoy your family, then you should prioritize family needs first, being flexible enough to accommodate work needs on an emergency basis. If on the other hand you live to work, then you need to design your home life so that it can accommodate your work life. There is no right answer (so long as you don't actually neglect your dependents), but you do have to become clear on what is important to you and be okay with your choices.

Similarly, if you would like to have a relationship that you don't currently have, but are not making time to seek out and cultivate one, ask yourself why that is. What are your fears? What are you avoiding by not making this time available? Might any beliefs you might have about yourself be holding you back from seeking out the relationships you want to have? You may be carrying around and acting upon some thoughts about yourself that just don’t have a solid basis in reality. For instance, people sometimes feel they are unlovable, or suspect themselves of being incapable of forming good relationships with others. Alternatively, people sometimes develop a deep mistrust for entire groups of potential partners based on a relative few bad experiences. These sorts of beliefs end up functioning like self-fulfilling prophecies, holding you back from taking the chances that are required to develop good relationships. Thought modification techniques such as cognitive restructuring are the best way to handle such concerns, and should be used if your values tell you that you need to get past these road blocks in order to develop a satisfying life.