The Power of ‘We’ – A Fresh Perspective on an Old Tradition
Over the last few months, I’ve been searching for a way to explain why I feel my views on dating are a little different than what most “relationship experts” are preaching on the Internet. I think that’s it’s perfectly fine to have several list posts or “what you need to do” articles circulating the Internet, but the practical application of those messages rarely work in real life. Be honest with yourself, when’s the last time you read a self-improvement post on the topic of relationships that actually worked in real life? They just don’t. I have also known for a long time that I don’t really like discourse when it comes to relationships because it enforces the platform that it’s about men and women figuring out a way to be well supported or reach compromise in relationships. I don’t think about things that way – I view things much different and think it’s time I shared that.
Most unsuccessful or unhealthy relationships all seem to go the same way. It’s pretty much what we’ve been conditioned to do since traditional dating and courting have gone away and been replaced with this new approach. It’s also because of the breakdown of gender dynamics in society that have forced us to have a new approach to dating. We’ve rid ourselves of some traditional values that were very effective and either replaced them with new ones or disregarded them altogether. Currently, relationships are two people who meet at a point in time and come together to figure out if they are attracted to each other, have mutual goals and interests, and are cared for flaws and all. While that seems to be way to go, it’s actually not working well.
The reason it’s not working is because we’re approaching relationships from this negotiating table point of view instead of knowing that relationships shouldn’t exist that way. There are not two sides of the table in a relationship, there’s only one side of the table. It’s not about “what he wants” and “what she wants”; it’s about “what do we want.” That’s the biggest disconnect I see almost every day; that somehow it’s two individuals in a relationship, rather than one voice, one goal, one entity.
I’ll give you an example. The other day a friend of mine was telling me a story about a couple that got into an argument at a house party because the wife was dangerously flirting with another woman at the party and the husband felt offended. In this conversation, I was trying to explain to my friend that a lot of times couples don’t define rules for their relationship but rather they bring their own personal morals and values into relationships and rationalize their actions against them. While the wife was thinking, “it’s not that serious,” the husband was completely infuriated because he thought she had violated the terms of their relationship. Based on the situation, I knew that they never had a conversation about the terms of their relationship.
In this example, the wife has her own personal moral compass; her husband’s compass is different. In order for relationships to work, they both should have had a conversation about the terms of their relationship. Not the wife’s terms, not the husband’s terms, but the relationship’s terms. That doesn’t mean that things need to be more conservative or careful, it means a conversation has to happen that says, “regardless of the way I feel or the way you feel, these are the terms we’ve set for our relationship.”
There has to be a point when couples realize that relationships should have only one voice. That relationships have to get to that point where “we” is the focal point, instead of “you and me.” When you think about your friends who are in relationships, you’ll notice that the really awesome couples always use the word “we.” If your network has any of the “we” couples in it, I’m sure you’ve had this interaction at one point in time:
Me: Hey, what you doing on Saturday?
Him: Well, we have to be up early because we want to get to the store. Then we’re going to this wine festival for a few hours. I think we’ll be free around 8 or 9.
Me: You’re freaking me out… it sounds like there’s more than one of you there. I asked what YOU were doing.
While that’s funny, that’s a sign of an awesome couple. Unsuccessful couples use phrases like, “I want to” … “I got to” or “he/she has to” and that doesn’t work.
Many people worry that this will lead to someone being marginalized in a relationship. That’s not going to happen if you approach this concept the right way. If you approach the power of “we,” by being selfless and in the spirit of helping the relationship to prosper then no one is marginalized. In fact, what happens is that you are motivated and inspired by wanting the relationship to succeed.
The interesting epiphany that I had while writing this post was that I realized this wasn’t a new concept at all. In fact, people have been utilizing the power of “we” for years. As I mentioned previously, when gender dynamics and roles in relationships started to shift this was one of those things that fell by the way side. I think women feared that the traditional family from 30-40 years ago put them in a position where they were completely dependent on men. Instead of going back to the concept of one voice working towards the success of a relationship, people steered clear because they thought it meant that someone would have to sacrifice themselves in order to make it work. What that neglects is the fact that in the last 30-40 years, we’ve grown as a society. I think we’re ready to revisit the conversation. I think we understand all the weaknesses that can arise and are ready to address and overcome those weaknesses. If we’re able to reach a consensus on the way relationships should operate and how they should exist then we see the problems associated with the current status of relationships/marriage decrease and overall happiness increase. We would be embarking on quintessentially the most important shift and movement of thought in relationships between men and women.