Before I met my husband I had an, er, interesting array of ex-boyfriends. From raging Tories to soap-phobic hippies, and all the others arseholes in between, it’s fair to say I had searched very, very far and wide to find someone I thought might be compatible with my views, interests and morals. Then it just happened to turn out that I ended up with a guy I used to go to Oasis gigs with as a teenager. Ten (or so) years later we were older, but not necessarily wiser, and we bonded over a love of beer and musical nostalgia. It was only when kids came along that we became more aware of the different views we held when it comes to the morals and ethics involved in raising a child. All of a sudden the glaring chasm between my tough love approach and his laissez faire attitude have come to the fore. I’ve lost count of the times we’ve argued over whether chocolate buttons or organic sulatanas are the best choice of reward for a two-year-old. We’ve managed to resolve (most) of these issues amicably and with compromise, but it’s not always easy. Although luckily we’re both pretty similar when it comes to politics – that red card in relationships that has ruined many friendships, and even marriages, especially over the past few Brexit-centric years.
Knowing what is an absolute no for you allows you to create a healthy framework of your own emotional boundaries with other people, an essential aspect when it comes to forming a relationship. Without them, you may feel like your standards are being violated or you are putting up with thing that you shouldn’t have to. Once you are clear on your own moral code it’s much easier to find people who are on the same level as you, especially with dating.
I chatted to behavioural psychologist and dating expert Jo Hemmings, about the importance of respecting moral differences when it comes to relationships. She told me: “Your morals matter more than people might think when it comes to finding a well-suited love match, certainly over and above shared interests in life, like enjoying the same movies, food or music. If your fundamental values don’t match, then you may well be in for an uncomfortable relationship journey. It is important to know from a potential partner that your moral compass is aligned when looking to find a soul mate.”
It may sound silly, but why are morals so important in a relationship? Well Jo says: “Morals are the building blocks of a lasting relationship – they are essentially your core values. So compared to your ‘likes’ – same taste in movies, books, sport etc or your ‘wants’ – tall, adventurous, good job and so on, they matter more than most.”
How can someone make sure that a potential partner is on the same page as them in terms of morals?It’s not always easy – or desirable – to ask questions about approaches to saving/spending or how they would bring up children on the first few dates, obviously, so you have to be a little smart in the early stages. You can tell a lot about someone’s attitude to paying the bill, splitting it or looking pained when it arrives or ask them about their siblings/cousins/nieces/ nephews. If their eyes light up with affection or they refer to them as ‘rug rats’ or similar, you’ll know where you are! Also, while politics isn’t the best topic when you first meet someone, given our current political climate it’s no so awful to slip in a question about Trump or Brexit for example…
And what advice would you give to people who might not be clear on what their own moral direction is?We tend to get our moral compass from a mixture of family values (nurture) and our own instinct (nature). While some might be deeply embedded, others are moveable feasts depending on what happens in our lives. So they often evolve over time. Being open minded is better than being too judgemental, just make sure you’re making a compromise if necessary and not throwing out your personal set of moral standards under a bus.
Can people with a different set of moral direction have a happy relationship?They can, but it can be a tough journey. It depends on how deeply set their moral standards are, how at odds the directions actually are and whether you’re willing to communicate your concerns and reach some sort of compromise while still retaining your own moral individuality. It’s definitely easier if you’re on the same page.
What can people do if they are already with their partner and aren’t sure that they share the same moral compass?Talk to them. Ask them a few probing questions about politics, faith, approaches to money, family values and so on. Generally speaking, you know pretty quickly whether you’re compatible in terms of morals. And if you’re not – and it concerns either one of you – then you’ll need to plan to compromise, beg to differ or think about moving on…
* Moral dilemmas are a main theme in a new dating show on Universal channel on every Tuesday at 9pm, for which Jo is an ambassador