Home Dating & Relationships Dating The Power of ‘We’ – A Fresh Perspective on an Old Tradition

The Power of ‘We’ – A Fresh Perspective on an Old Tradition

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Black-Couple

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Comment(15)

  1. I really enjoyed this article. I'm very attracted to the We concept(probably because I am so selfish at times).
    It would be interesting to see how people will move toward unified relationships. My parents are there now, but it did take them awhile to get there.

    I will say that i'm not so sure of how well traditional roles worked in the past. It seems as though those roles were challenged because they weren't created on, nor did they operate on the basis of a We concept. Even as divorce rates in the past were lower than they are today when gender roles were stringently enforced, I tend to not view that truth positively simply because the narrative of discontent and abuse suffered by women is one that I have been exposed to at length.

    I'm not sure if relationships ever had the kind of equality that you speak of in the past but as you say we have grown a lot as a society….maybe parts of the old framework could be revisited with success…hmmm

    It seems to me that roles in any context engenders the kind of individualism that you are saying is harmful to relationships. Gender roles are tricky because they don't give men or women much breathing room to decide for themselves what works for them as a couple. Instead, they may find themselves trying to fit a one-size fits all kind of relationship mold. There is no We. Just me trying to be society's definition of a woman and him trying to be society's definition of a man.

  2. Great post.

    I do think many (failed) relationships are defined as “me vs you” instead of “us versus everyone else.” I have my theories on why there are such ever growing power struggles in modern day relationships but they are only that, theories. I have been in and subsequently left relationships where it felt like one or both of us were constantly vying for “control.” I’ve been happiest, as you note, when the controls are negotiated and each partner knows there role; whereby, one partners strength does not indicate another partners weakness. We’re either in this together or there’s no point in being in it at all.

  3. Great post. I agree, must people today look at couples as an ongoing "negotiation" between two parties. I'm along the same lines as you, I think a couple is two people coming together AS ONE, and then operating AS ONE. This needs to happen before marriage. I find that the "usual" couple today gets "shell-shocked" once the relationship becomes a marriage because the people in it are surprised that they are now a unit, linked financially, spiritually and domestically. 2 people rowing a boat at different speeds does nothing but make the boat go in endless circles, not forward.

  4. Good post man. I believe that when”she” and “i” think in terms of”we”, then that’s when I’ll know it’s real.

  5. In theory this is all good, but I think its hard (impossible?) to get around the fact that a couple consists of two individuals.

    For example, you give the example of the woman flirting with another woman and the man getting mad about it. Sure they can have that discussion, but does a relationship require EVERY conditional be written out there in plain text? "well, you'll see that on line 47 we agreed that under the terms of this relationship that ramen noodles do not suffice as a dinner date".

    The problem inevitably will come from what one side assumes is common sense and the other side assumes is not. From your example, I can understand the guy's thinking that his girlfriend shouldn't be flirting with anybody if they're serious. To some, that's common sense. Maybe no to the GF, but that's where the arguments and discussions come in.
    My recent post Knapsack Problems

    1. I think it's okay for a couple to have a conversation about flirting and what they think is appropriate and what is in appropriate. I think that even if he thinks it's okay if she doesn't reject each compliment and she thinks it's okay to be touchy feely, but then as a couple they agree for the health of their relationship… No Flirting. That's fine. You can't list out every situation but you can address the issue.

      So then I think the outcome wouldn't be that you have written rules, it's that when the terms are violated you can point to the conversation and what you guys agreed upon. That way you're not going back and forth trying to rationalize or get the other to understand. It's as easy as, "I'm sorry, I know we discuss this and I was wrong for violating that. I'll have to do better in the future for us."

  6. Good post. As mentioned, those successful relationship always identify themselves as "we". This is so very true. So many people are selfish these days and can only think about themselves even while in a relationship. Crazy, but true.

  7. I really hate this era of dating. So many people are thinking only of themselves. I hate to even entertain dating because of what has transpired in dating. You cant even get to know anyone because they are so busy doing other crap and who wants to feel penciled in?

    I am opened to change but this is very discouraging. I wonder if we will ever get back to the traditional side of dating.. I just hope we arent to far gone.
    My recent post Friends don’t let friends act Ratchet!

    1. I know this is all late, but I know EXACTLY what you are talking about with "penciled in". In a relationship (or even dating), I want to feel like my partner enjoys my company and he WANTS to spend time with me, that I am AT LEAST some kind of priority. I hate when it feels like I have to be squeezed in because the other person has so much else that he would RATHER be doing or he is so focused on maintaining his pre-relationship lifestyle that he can't make the effort to see that working on a mutually beneficial lifestyle that includes US as a unit can also be equally as fun and fulfilling. It's like you said, the other person is only concerned with themselves and keeping their own lifestyle and doing for them, and like Wis said, "we're either in this together or there's no point in being in it at all".

      1. @B_rockPetty, I can definitely relate. Being a priority is a must especially if investing time and energy into a person. I just cant anymore. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but if we just met and it takes you weeks to schedule a date with me– there is no use in keeping you already. Im already in a spot I dont want to be. I dont have to be #1 out of the gate but yeah some reassurance and time would be great.
        My recent post Real Housewives of Atlanta.. Reunion

  8. Personally, I feel that when you put your partner first, you are exercising the "we" ideology in a partnership. The problem today is we do more "keeping score" than ever before. I did the things for my partner in previous relationships, because its what I wanted to do, with no thought of whethere my thoughts or actions would be reciprocated, because i was truly IN LOVE. If I ever felt there wasnt any reciprocation, I would have that discussion but not to make my partner defensive.

  9. The most common source of problems in relationships is that the couple misinterpreted their mutual feelings of attraction as love. This normally results in the couple trying to keep up appearances after the attraction fades, and wondering where the love went.

    It is important to know that attraction is an emotional feeling that fades over time, while love is a promise that has nothing to do with attraction. Love is a promise to do 4 things. For the man:

    1. To accept everything that he knows and does not know about her now.
    2. To accept her regardless of what happens in the unknown future as they both age – for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health for as long as they shall live. Even if she is later disfigured by an accident or crippled by illness, he promises now to accept her.
    3. To forgive her later. Since neither of them is perfect, they depend on each others' forgiveness.
    4. To encourage her to improve. This 4th one gives purpose to their relationship – otherwise it will get boring.

    If they are both ready to make and keep these promises to each-other, then they are ready to love. When they keep them, they demonstrate their love for each-other. After they formally make their promises at their wedding, they complete or consummate their promises with sexual intercourse. Every time that they subsequently have sexual intercourse, they reinforce their promises – it is truly a wonderful and mutually satisfying experience.
    The problem is that if they have sexual intercourse before making their promises, then he shows her that he is capable of justifying forsaking her for a younger and shapelier rival when she get older. If he is able to restrain himself when his attraction for her is at its highest, then he shows her that he is capable of resisting the rival that will inevitably come.

    Source: Attraction is a feeling. Love is a Promise. by Grenville Phillips, president of Walbrent College. (Loveisapromise.wordpress.com)

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