Are you friends with a couple who are constantly referring to themselves as a collective unit? You know how it goes. They’ll talk about their relationship in terms like “our” home or how “we” do things, or how something affects “us”.
It’s almost fashionable to find this kind of behaviour excruciating, particularly in a modern culture that places a premium on independence. But new research suggests your loved up pals probably really are #relationshipgoals material, happier in love than those who avoid plural pronouns.
Crunching the numbers
Researchers from the University of California Riverside led by psychologist Megan Robbins examined 30 studies involving more than 5000 participants to look at the correlation between the use of the first-person plural pronouns and the health of romantic relationships.
Five factors were taken into account: satisfaction and how long couples had been together (half of all participants were married); their relationship behaviour in terms of negative and positive interactions; their mental health; their physical health; and how well participants look after themselves on a day-to-day basis.
The benefit of “we-talk” was evident in all five categories and pretty much equal for both men and women.
“By examining all these studies together, they let us see the bigger picture,” Alexander Karan said in a news release. Karan is a graduate student in Robbins’ laboratory. “We-talk is an indicator of interdependence and general positivity in romantic relationships.
“The benefit of analyzing many different couples in a lot of different contexts is that it establishes we-talk isn’t just positively related in one context, but that it indicates positive functioning overall.”
We-talk beats me-talk
We-talk turned out to be good for both young couples and older couples. It’s good for conflict resolution and even good when a partner isn’t physically present. Interestingly, though, it’s most important when your partner uses it, which gives an insight into how positive perceptions of your better half are important in a relationship, particularly during times of stress.
So there’s a correlation there — the next step for Robbins and her fellow researchers is to figure out the causation. Is the we-talk making couples happy? Or do happy couples just start we-talking?
“It is likely both,” Robbins said. “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.
“It could also be the case that because the relationship is healthy and interdependent, the partners are being supportive and use we-talk.”