Couples Who Say ‘We’ Instead of ‘I’ May Be Obnoxious — But They’re Also More Solid
“We just love that restaurant.” “We think that show is overrated.” Yes, it’s obnoxious when a person refers to themselves as ‘we’ and ‘us,’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘me,’ as if they and their partner are one, beating heart of love and unicorns. But it’s also a sign they have a strong relationship, suggests a new review of 30 related studies.
More specifically, couples who refer to themselves as ‘we’ and ‘us’ have comparatively more successful and healthier relationships than couples who use ‘I’ and ‘me’ more in their speech.
The findings result from a large-scale analysis of related studies, including one that has found excessive use of the first-person, singular pronoun — “I” — is evidence of negative emotions.
“By examining all these studies together, they let us see the bigger picture. We-talk is an indicator of interdependence and general positivity in romantic relationships,” says graduate student Alexander Karan, lead author of the review.
So, does using ‘we’ lead to happier relationships, or do happy relationships lead to using ‘we’?
“It is likely both,” says the review’s co-author, Megan Robbins, a psychologist at the University of California-Riverside, US. “Hearing yourself or a partner say these words could shift individuals’ ways of thinking to be more interdependent, which could lead to a healthier relationship.”
However, “It could also be the case that, because the relationship is healthy and interdependent, the partners are being supportive and use we-talk,” she adds.
The review, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, examined studies that involved more than 5,000 participants, about half of whom were married. The authors found use of the pronoun “we” corresponded to greater relationship satisfaction, longer relationships, more positive interactions, better mental and physical health, and greater self-care.
This seemed to be true for both men and women, young and old; it’s unclear if any of the studies in the review included gay and lesbian relationships in addition to heterosexual relationships. The benefits even accrue when partners are apart, and may mitigate against stress and conflict.
In other words, “… ‘we-talk’ isn’t just positively related in one context, but that it indicates positive functioning overall,” says Karan.