There are many common indicators of a happy marriage; things like trust, mutual respect, and enjoying shared interests are what many loving, long-term couples might say if asked how they keep their marriages strong. In a new report, experts are driving home one more important relationship habit that tightens a couple's bond and makes both people happier: Using "we" language when talking about each other.
Prior research by UC Riverside psychologist Megan Robbins had greatly emphasized the power of first-person personal pronouns — such as "we" and "us" — in relationships. In a new report, which was recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, she and her team reviewed and analyzed 30 studies of nearly 5,300 participants and found that couples who often say "we" and "us" have more successful relationships. Not only that, both partners in the relationship reported being a whole lot happier — and healthier.
"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," said Alexander Karan, a lead author of the report.
For the study participants — about half of whom were married — the team looked at five measures: relationship outcomes (satisfaction, length of union); relationship behaviors (positive vs. negative interactions observed); mental health; physical health; and health behaviors (how well participants take care of themselves). The benefit was evident in all five categories, and virtually equal for both men and women.
"The benefit of analyzing many different couples in a lot of different contexts is that it establishes that we-talk isn't just positively related in one context, but that it indicates positive functioning overall," Karan said.
How You Can Become a 'We' Couple
If you and your spouse don't use "we" language as frequently as you'd like to, there are ways you can get better at it, according to M Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist and New York Times best-selling author, who created the Neuman Method Programs. Here are three simple tips he shared with HuffPost.com that can help get you started.
1. Focus on what you have in common. Make a concerted effort to think about the things that brought you together as a couple and that have kept you together. "Is it being parents, charitable work, common hobbies, a love for sports?" says Neuman. "These things may be simple or profound."
2. Be kinder to each other. Think of your significant other as a partner, and place a value on their thoughts and feelings. "Ask for their opinion and their input so that decisions begin to be made together," says Neuman. "Build an atmosphere of cooperation by understanding each other and inviting your partner's thoughts."
3. When problems come up, resist the urge to blame. Instead, view negative incidents as happening to both of you at the same time instead of just one of you. Then, take a deep breath and try to move immediately to a problem-solving conversation — and try to solve the problem as a team.