Theoretical and Methodological Underpinnings of Resilience in Couples: Locating the ‘We’

  • Karen FergusEmail author


In this chapter, I discuss facets of the couple’s collective sense of self and experience of ‘we-ness’ that contribute to resilience in intimate relationships. The pervasive challenge throughout this discussion is to make more intelligible the abstract concept of the ‘we,’ which is as elusive as it is profound and powerful. Based on the assumption that language and communication are fundamental to the couple’s co-constructed identity and life world, two different bodies of literature are reviewed: One linguistic, emphasizing couple pronoun usage, and the other storied, emphasizing partners’ co-construction of shared meaning and narrative. Whereas the former is referential of the ‘we,’ the latter is expressive of it. Both frameworks, I argue, have substantive implications for resilient adaptation in couples. Intersubjectivity theory and dialogic dialectics form the basis for this discussion. Other relevant concepts reviewed include the roles of collective identity, self-other identity formation and maintenance, mutual attunement and responsiveness, and empathy in fostering couple resilience. Although verbal expression is noted as a very fruitful entry point for ‘locating the we,’ its limitations and specifically the omission of both the embodied and intangible aspects of couple experience (and their relationship to couple adaptation) are acknowledged.


Couples Relationships Intersubjectivity Resilience Coping Adaptation We-ness 



I wish to thank dear colleagues Brain Doan, Karen Skerrett, and Kim Watson for their helpful review and feedback on an earlier draft of this chapter.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Odette Cancer CentreSunnybrook Health Sciences CentreTorontoCanada

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