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Couples with Shared Identity Better at Conflict Resolution

New research finds couples who referred to themselves as “we” are more skilled in resolving conflicts that those who don’t.

UC Berkeley researchers analyzed conversations between 154 middle-aged and older couples about points of disagreement in their marriages and found that those who used pronouns such as “we,” “our” and “us” behaved more positively toward one another and showed less physiological stress.

In contrast, couples who emphasized their “separateness” by using pronouns such as “I,” “me” and “you” were found to be less satisfied in their marriages. This was especially true for older couples.

Their use of separateness pronouns was most strongly linked to unhappy marriages, according to the study.

Moreover, the study found that older couples identified more as “we” than did their middle-aged counterparts, suggesting that facing obstacles and overcoming challenges together over the long haul, including raising families, may give couples a greater sense of shared identity.

“Individuality is a deeply ingrained value in American society, but, at least in the realm of marriage, being part of a ‘we’ is well worth giving up a bit of ‘me,'” said UC Berkeley psychology professor Robert Levenson, a co-author of the study.

The research is published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

Previous studies have established that the use of “we-ness” or “separateness” language is a strong indicator of marital satisfaction in younger couples. These latest findings, however, take this several steps further by showing how powerful this correlation is in more established couples, linking it to the emotions and physiological responses that occur when spouses either team up or become polarized in the face of disagreements, researchers said.

“The use of ‘we’ language is a natural outgrowth of a sense of partnership, of being on the same team, and confidence in being able to face problems together,” said study co-author Benjamin Seider, a graduate student in psychology at UC Berkeley.

Source: University of California, Berkeley

Couples with Shared Identity Better at Conflict Resolution

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Couples with Shared Identity Better at Conflict Resolution. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/01/29/couples-with-shared-identity-better-at-conflict-resolution/11056.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.