You, me, WE. Yours, mine, OURS…c’est WE! Who knew those bitterly plotting pronouns would follow us long after we bid adieu to our rigid English instructors’ bloody war zone of red corrections slaughtering our diligently written papers. Stalking us like ninjas in the night…ready to obliterate us with their nunchuck skills the minute we utter our marriage vows binding “me” to “we.” Singular pronouns D.O.A. Your plans. My savings. Your house. My car. Your money. My kids. Married adults declaring “Mine, Mine, Mine, Me, Me, Me?” Much like a couple of preschoolers brawling over the only light up Buzz Lightyear toy. One difference…preschoolers are way easier to deal with. 🙂 We adults sometimes get so caught up in remaining individuals, we forget that we married for a reason…to join TOGETHER. But, understandably, with a 50% divorce rate, we may find ourselves in self-protection mode, keeping assets, experiences, and problems separate…just in case. The problem is “me” can’t manage a marriage. The mindset of “we” is what keeps us bonded together. Without it, “me” usually ends up becoming a divorce statistic. Me, you, us, we, mine, yours, ours. The language of marriage quickly devolves into one down and dirty pronoun throwdown!
It seems obvious enough. For a marital union to remain happy, it must be…well, united. A union is formed when two become one. Two individuals merging together to form a singularity. If two individuals don’t wish to become one ~ financially or emotionally ~ they should also avoid a marital merge and should, instead, travel as a parallel pair on a perpetual dating road. But for those who do choose a marital merge and wish to prevent fatal accidents, the traffic lingo must be WE.
A study published in the journal Psychology and Aging followed 154 middle aged couples and had a front row seat to their pronoun throwdown. Blood and gore galore! Last one standing: “WE!” Those couples who stuck to plural pronouns… “our,” “us,” or “we” …were happier with one another and showed less physiological stress. When conflict did arise, these couples showed more relaxed heart rates, had lower blood pressure, and were better able to resolve their conflict. Opposite the plural pronoun victors were those who emphasized their separateness…using singular lingo such as “I,” “mine,” or “me.” These couples weren’t as content in their marriages, had more difficulty resolving conflict, and displayed more negative facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language. Hmmm…they were sore losers even before they lost. 🙁
In today’s modern matrimony, some couples predict their own failure. Before the marriage license is even signed, they anticipate divorce and make it a point to keep anything and everything separate…mine, yours, no confusion. Some see it as savvy business sense or self-protection. Some see it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our expectations sometimes predict, or cause, our outcomes. Things like prenups, while my logical brain can justify them, scream “red light” to my emotional brain. Entering into a union that is based on trust without trust seems a moot point. Why open the door if you’re expecting an armed stranger? And if you do open the door and arm both yourself and the “stranger” with ammo, fear and self-preservation will eliminate one…or both.
But that’s just finances. Some couples choose the more treacherous road…emotional singularity. Rather than focusing on financial assets, they focus on more intimate day-to-day experiences and problems. Day after day, reiterating their separateness.
~ to the sick spouse ~ “You’re sick? Ok, you stay home. I’m going out. See ya.”
~ to the wife who pleads for help with birth control ~ “Your body. Your problem. I’m not getting a vasectomy!”
~ to the husband who worries about money and struggles to support the family ~ “I AM buying this for myself. I deserve it.”
~ to the wife who’s crying over a lost connection ~ “What’s your problem? I’m here. What more do you want?”
“Sticks and stones may break my bones…” but words can break our bond.
Turns out words are much deadlier than sticks and stones, acting as poison darts firing upon an already choking emotional connection. When we disconnect emotionally, we tend to quit thinking in terms of “we” and focus on “me.” We’re no longer a team. Gone are the days of “us against the world.” We divvy up our metaphorical weapons and prepare to stand alone. We stop making together plans, stop considering the other’s feelings, and begin carrying out our days alone only crossing paths when absolutely necessary. Result…LISTEN UP! The fat lady is singing. D.i.v.o.r.c.e…it’s D-Day. He finally has those double D’s he’s been dreaming of since his pubescent afternoons spent in the john. Unfortunately, the only thing he’ll be “jerking” on is his wallet as the divorce lawyer charges him for giving her half of everything. Uh-oh…the fantasy has gone horribly awry, no?
So, how do we take back our marriage? And control our looming pronoun throwdown?
Experts say it’s simple…equality. Neither husband, nor wife, dominating the relationship. No “his.” No “hers.” Just “ours.” Whether it’s financial assets, debt, problems, or plans…the concept of “us” suggests a team…working toward a common goal and providing support and confidence for one another. Without the team mentality to help us through life’s storms, we’ll be drenched in the pouring rain hoping our tiny umbrella for one won’t attract the crackling lightning from above.
Scientists say our pronoun lingo is as telling about what goes on inside our marriage as an x-ray is of what goes on inside our body. It can show a healthy body…or it can reveal a nasty cancer festering, growing, and destroying its host. They say to master our marriage, we must master the art of togetherness while maintaining our own identities. That we must share interests, feelings, ideas, experiences, and memories. When shared, this common ground serves as our marriage fingerprint…gives it a uniqueness all its own. No two alike. This fingerprint is bonding as a couple and helps to create a sense of “we.” Together, we’ve survived terrible twos, teenage rage, job loss, and dysfunctional families that make us want to bitch slap the Cosbys. On the other hand…together, we’ve enjoyed births, anniversaries, school plays, vacations, and holidays that would put a tear in Clark Griswold’s nostalgic eye. “We” persevered…together. And together, “we” stand united to face whatever more this fickle life has to throw our way. As long as WE control our pronoun throwdown.
Ditch the “‘me.”
Say “OUI” to “We!”
Chick Hughes 🙂
“The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.” ~ Robert C. Dodds