‘We’ versus ‘You’ Relationships: there really is no ‘I’ in team
We are innately wired for relationship and unless our mind tells us otherwise we naturally seek connection with others. While it is reassuring knowing this and understanding our true nature, our human conditioning can sometimes trick us into believing we are unloved or disconnected in some way. When we are caught up in that mindset we often look for reassurance externally. We usually turn towards our partner in the hope that they can calm our inner storms. And sometimes that little bit of extra reassurance can balance us out again so we reconnect with our innate wellbeing. In that frame of mind we know that we are safe and loved and connected. We are not looking outwards because we know we already have everything we need on the inside.
There are however helpful relationship habits that can help us stay grounded and connected to our peace of mind. From that place no relationship drama can ensue or is necessary to create closeness. One of these habits is using ‘we’ language. This might come naturally to many when in loving states of mind but to many others it can be a new concept that can be adopted to create a soothing and safe relationship environment.
The Levenson Studies
Robert Levenson, senior researcher at the University of California, found that couples who used ‘we’ language behaved more positively towards each other, resolved conflicts better, showed less physiological stress, had more relaxed heart rates and lower blood pressure, and reported higher levels of satisfaction and higher levels of emotional calmness within their marriage.
Other studies also found a strong correlation between the inclusive pronouns of ‘we’, ‘ours’ and ‘us’ and marital satisfaction in younger couples. Couples with lower rates of marital satisfaction emphasised their separateness and individuality by using personal pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘you’.
Levinson states that whilst we cannot know for sure whether happiness within our relationship increases the use of ‘we’ or whether ‘we’ increases happiness within our relationship, using ‘we’ in daily communication might point to an unconscious mindset that favours closeness and connection and values relationships as a source of happiness and comfort.
“The use of ‘we’ language is a natural outgrowth of a sense of partnership, of being on the same team, and confidence in being able to face problems together.” Benjamin Seider
An End To Individuality?
We live in a society in which individuality and autonomy are celebrated and often favoured over connection and belonging. Critics might complain that a ‘we’ mindset could lead to enmeshed or codependent relationships, which are generally seen as unhealthy and usually lead to relationship distress and breakdown.
Maintaining one’s individuality within relationships is in fact a sign of good self-care and a secure sense of self. We must stay true to ourselves and fully be ourselves to live and thrive. Using ‘we’ language does by no means require us to self-sacrifice and lose all sense of independence or independent thinking.
Using ‘we’ language does not take away from our sense of individualism and autonomy. Rather it adds a new dimension to our way of relating and sense of security within our relationship.
The Soothing Effects of ‘We’
Whilst ‘we’ words are found to have a soothing effect on a partner, ‘I’ and ‘you’ words can activate a sense of threat and separateness.
Using ‘we’ language decreases feelings of separateness in relationships and meets relationship needs of connection, safety, trust, closeness. In that state of mind emotional distress is greatly reduced, which allows for greater clarity of mind and increased problem-solving capacity.
‘We’ language is also found useful to help loved ones dealing with PTSD as it forms a ‘we’ approach to problem solving – you and me against the problem by addressing and solving problems assertively and respectfully as a team.
We Are In This Together
When we have a sense of belonging and safety within our relationship, conflict no longer has to be avoided and so honest communication leads to improved negotiation and problem-solving.
‘We’ communicates a warmer and more accepting concern that emphasises mutuality and connectedness. ‘We’ statements also reduce power imbalance because the responsibility of solving problems is firmly placed in both partners hands and thus builds a sense of cooperation and goodwill.
When we come from a place of love with a peaceful mind connection comes naturally. It is, after all, what we truly are. However, in our more human moments, let’s remind ourselves that we are there for each other by using soothing language that will allow us to reconnect with our and our partners true nature.