Words hold great power. Even the tiniest.
I. You. We. Us.
“I” and “you” imply separateness and division.
“We” and “us” connote connection and sharing.
Healthy couples make far more use of “we” and “us” than “I” or “you” as they talk about their marriage. They intentionally create connection through referring to themselves as a unit.
A dear friend drove this point home to me with one simple habit. Every time she spoke about something related to her family, she began, “Erik and I. . .” Then, she would finish the sentence.
- “Erik and I think the boys should join Scouts.”
- “We have decided that we are moving to Nevada.”
- “Erik and I believe that the highest priority right now is saving for college.”
The message was clear–she and her husband intentionally focused on being a “we.” To get there, they also did a lot of talking.
They talked about huge decisions and everyday choices. They talked about what they liked and what they didn’t. They talked about what they were going through now and what they wanted for the future.
In short, they made sure they were on the same page in nearly every area of life. Or, worked together to get on the same page. They were the healthiest couple I’ve ever met.
Not perfect. And not without facing major issues. Every one of their children had major health issues, ranging from Asberger’s syndrome to life threatening allergies to highly invasive brain surgery. They honestly spent more time in hospitals than their physicians.
Erik was down-sized, twice.
They have moved more times than I care to count.
Yet, the same stresses that sink other couples didn’t sink them. Largely because they created a “we” in their actions, in their choices, and even in their words. That unit of “we” could take on the challenges and win, because they were in every challenge together.
If you want to measure the health of your marriage, consider: “What is the ratio of the pronouns “we/ us” to “I/you” in your marital vocabulary?
To be sure, you are not symbiotes. There must be healthy separation. Each of you separate strengths and differing interests. Your healthy individuality will be expressed in your speech. But, if the separate outweighs the “we,” it might be time to create more connection.
Take time to talk about what your share:
- Favorites–movies, restaurants, adventures, nights at home. What do both of you look forward to?
- Philosophies–what matters most in life, in daily priorities, in raising kids, and in using money? How do you combine your differing perspectives into a shared philosophy for life?
- Choices–where you live, jobs you seek, priorities for your future. How do you work together to make the best choices for the marital unit?
If you’ve never had these conversations, it might be time. You planned to spend your life with this person. Spend it pursuing what you share. Of course there will still be differences of opinion, of perspective, of values. But, look for ways to come together. To be a team. Even, to share a respect for the differences.
Developing a clear sense of what you share creates a foundation for communicating from a “we” rather than an “I” perspective. That daily pattern sends a message to others, and back to yourself, of the deep connection you have with your spouse. It creates a boundary around your marriage that others respect and you subconsciously reinforce every time you speak.
If you would like other tips on strengthening your marriage, The Resolution Center offers both coaching and marital mediation. Email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com or call 317-344-9740 for more information.