Many of us have heard smug couples who only seem to be able to speak about their lives in terms of "we" — "we" were thinking, "we" really like, "we" are both so busy. The truth is, it can be annoying to person on the receiving end, but it’s easy to see why people in relationships would like using that kind of rhetoric.
"I think using the word ‘we’ is a sign that the relationship is getting more serious," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "It takes a little time to move from being an ‘I’ to a ‘we’ but it’s definitely a sign that the couple is forming a new unit together. I think it’s very reassuring to both parties that we are moving from being solitary to thinking about ourselves as a couple and starting to make decision about us as a unit together. It’s a small symbolic first step towards becoming more serious about one another."
But it may be more than just a symbol. New research shows that all of that "we" talk may actually have some serious relationship benefits. Using "we" instead of "I" is linked to relationships that are happier and function better, according to a new study from University of California, Riverside that was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
The study was a huge meta-analysis of 30 studies, which covered around 5,000 participants in total. The researchers looked at relationship outcomes, relationship behaviors, mental and physical health, and health behaviors covered within the studies and found that the use of "we talk" was positively linked with happier relationships and better relationship function. What was particularly interesting was that hearing your partner use "we talk" was more strongly linked with happy and functioning relationships than just using "we talk" yourself. But, no matter who was using it, there seemed to be definite positive link between "we talk" and relationships.
"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," Alexander Karan, a graduate student and first author this paper said in a statement. “The primary takeaway is that interdependence may bring about supportive and relationship-centered behaviors and positive perceptions of the partner — especially important in times of stress and conflict.” Sometimes something as simple as the language we use can make a big difference in how we feel about our relationships — and interact with our partner.
That being said, does "we talk" make couples happier — or are happier couples using it more because they’re happier? "It is likely both. 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,” Robbins said. "However, it could also be the case that because the relationship is healthy and interdependent, the partners are being supportive and use ‘we talk.’" More research needs to be done to understand the nuances of the link, but this study is an interesting start. And if you want to make your relationship stronger, it may be that using "we" could be a good jumping off point.
So the next time you hear a couple saying "we" this and "we" that, you may want to hold your eye roll for a second — because it may actually be making their relationship stronger.