In every relationship, there are two individuals, but it’s only a successful relationship when the two individuals learn to operate as a unit. And the first step to acting as a unit is to think of each other as one. People often transition from “I” to “we” when talking about their partners, and they may not even be conscious of doing this. But the question arises — does switching to we-talk really help in maintaining a happy relationship in the long term ? A team of researchers decided to find the answer to this.
The study was done by a group of researchers at Concordia University Quebec. For their experiment, the team chose a study group of 77 heterosexual couples. All the couples were cohabiting and were guardians of a child under the age of seven. The bilingual study had both English and French-speaking people. For the experiment, the partners were divided into an actor, the person who led the discussion, and the partner, the person who participated. The actor would lead the discussion on raising the child together with their partner. The topic was chosen due to its nature of inclusiveness for both partners.
The couples were asked to fill a marital satisfaction questionnaire before the experiment started, as well as at the six-month and 12-month mark post the start of the experiment, The experiment tried to see whether using we in a conversation brought the couples closer together, and it had results, sort of. The researchers found out that even though we-talk does bring about positive changes to the relationship, it is one’s own use of the word that has a major effect. The researchers concluded that we-talk does help increase relationship satisfaction over time and bring the partners closer, especially during a stressful time. There was a definite benefit of the usage of a plural noun when talking, as it promoted a sense of team and oneness among the partner.
This study isn’t without its own drawbacks and limitations. Firstly, it was conducted entirely with heterosexual couples, which does not give us a generalized answer for the masses. Also, since the study was bilingual, there could have been subtle linguistic differences in both the languages that weren’t examined as well. This study does open a lot of future avenues for experimentation, and the question of I vs. We in a relationship can be debated on those questions.