Advertisement

“We-ness” in Relationship-Defining Memories and Marital Satisfaction

  • Nicole AleaEmail author
  • Jefferson A. Singer
  • Beata Labunko
Chapter

Abstract

Relationship-defining memories represent enduring themes in a marriage and can provide insight in to marital satisfaction (Alea & Vick, 2010). The purpose of the study presented in this chapter was to examine whether “we-ness,” compared to “I-ness,” expressed in positive and negative relationship-defining memories, were linked to martial satisfaction. Men (n = 99) and women (n = 168) in long-term marital relationships wrote about their most defining positive and negative relationship events. First-person plural (“we-ness”) and singular (“I-ness”) pronouns expressed in the narratives were counted. “We-ness” was less likely to be expressed in negative compared to positive memories. “We-ness” in negative relationship-defining memories was associated with higher martial satisfaction. The effect was particularly for women, who also had a positive association between “we-ness” in positive memories and marital satisfaction. The discussion highlights the role of relationship-defining memories, and “we-ness,” in exploring resiliency in marriage and clinical work with couples.

Keywords

Relationship-defining memories “We-ness” Pronouns Marital satisfaction Gender 

Notes

Acknowledgment

The research was partially funded by a Summer Research Program for Graduate Students from the Graduate School Professional Development Program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Funding was awarded to Stephanie Vick, whom we would like to thank for assistance with data collection.

References

  1. Agnew, C. R., Van Lange, P. A. M., Rusbult, C. E., & Langston, C. A. (1998). Cognitive interdependence: Commitment and the mental representation of close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 939–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alea, N., & Bluck, S. (2003). Why are you telling me that? A conceptual model of the social function of autobiographical memory. Memory, 11, 165–178.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Alea, N., & Bluck, S. (2007). I’ll keep you in mind: The intimacy function of autobiographical memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21, 1091–1111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alea, N., McLean, K., C., & Vick, S. C. (2010). The story of us: Examining marital quality via positive and negative relationship narratives. In K. S. Pearlman (Ed.), Marriage: Roles, stability and conflicts (pp. 1–29). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  5. Alea, N., & Vick, S. V. C. (2010). The first sight of love: Relationship-defining memories and marital satisfaction across adulthood. Memory, 18, 730–742.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Aron, A., & Aron, E. N. (1997). Self-expansion motivation and including other in the self. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research, and interventions (2nd ed., pp. 251–270). Chichester, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of other in the self scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 596–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Belove, L. (1980). First encounters of the close kind (FECK): The use of the story of the first interaction as an early recollection of a marriage. Individual Psychologist, 36, 191–208.Google Scholar
  9. Blagov, P. S., & Singer, J. A. (2004). Four dimensions of self-defining memories (specificity, meaning, content, and affect) and their relationships to self-restraint, distress, and repressive defensiveness. Journal of Personality, 73, 481–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buehlman, K. T., Gottman, J. M., & Katz, L. F. (1992). How a couple views their past predicts their future: Predicting divorce from an oral history interview. Journal of Family Psychology, 5, 295–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Conway, M. A., Singer, J. A., & Tagini, A. (2004). The self and autobiographical memory: Correspondence and coherence. Social Cognition, 22, 491–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis, P. J. (1999). Gender differences in autobiographical memory for childhood emotional experiences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 498–510.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Feeney, B. C. (2007). The dependency paradox in close relationships: Accepting dependence promotes independence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 268–285.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Frye, N. E., & Karney, B. R. (2004). Revision in memories of relationship development: Do biases persist over time? Personal Relationships, 11, 79–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gottman, J. M., & DeClaire, J. (2001). The relationship cure. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  16. Honeycutt, J. M. (1999). Typological differences in predicting marital happiness from oral history behaviors and imagined interactions. Communication Monographs, 66, 276–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ireland, M. E., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2010). Language style matching in writing: Synchrony in essays, correspondence, and poetry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 549–571.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Karney, B. R., & Coombs, R. H. (2000). Memory bias in long-term close relationships: Consistency or improvement? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(8), 959–970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Karremans, J. C., & van Lange, P. A. M. (2008). The role of forgiveness in shifting from “me” to “we”. Self and Identity, 7, 75–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Maddox, G. L. (1962). Some correlates of differences in self-assessment of health status among the elderly. Journal of Gerontology, 17, 180–185.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. McAdams, D. P. (2006). The redemptive self: Stories Americans live by. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McLean, K. C., & Thorne, A. (2003). Late adolescents’self-defining memories about relationships. Developmental Psychology, 39, 635–645.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. McNulty, J. K., & Karney, B. R. (2001). Attributions in marriage: Integrating specific and global evaluations of a relationship. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 943–955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moffitt, K. H., & Singer, J. A. (1994). Continuity in the life story: Self-defining memories, affect, and approach/avoidance personal strivings. Journal of Personality, 62, 21–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Neff, L. A., & Broady, E. F. (2011). Stress resilience in early marriage: Can practice make perfect? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 1050–1067.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Pennebaker, J. W. (2011). The secret life of pronouns: What our words say about us. New York: Bloomsbury Press.Google Scholar
  27. Pennebaker, J. W., Francis, M. E., & Booth, R. J. (2001). Linguistic inquiry and word count (LIWC): LIWC2001. Mahawah, NJ: Erlbaum Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. Pennebaker, J. W., Mehl, M. R., & Niederhoffer, K. G. (2003). Psychological aspects of natural language use: Our words, our selves. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 547–577.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Reid, D. W., Dalton, E. J., Laderoute, K., Doell, F. K., & Nguyen, T. (2006). Therapeutically induced changes in couple identity: The role of we-ness and interpersonal processing in relationship satisfaction. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 132, 241–284.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Ross, M., & Holmberg, D. (1992). Are wives’ memories for events in relationships more vivid than their husband’s memories? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 9, 585–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schumm, W. R., Paff-Bergen, L. A., Hatch, R. C., Obiorah, F. C., Copeland, J. M., Meens, L. D., et al. (1986). Concurrent and discriminant validity of the Kansas Marital Satisfaction Scale. Journal of Marriage and Family, 48, 381–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Seider, B. H., Hirschberger, G., Nelson, K. L., & Levenson, R. W. (2009). We can work it out: Age differences in relational pronouns, physiology, and behavior in marital conflict. Psychology and Aging, 24, 604–613.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Simmons, R. A., Gordon, P. C., & Chambless, D. L. (2005). Pronouns in marital interaction. Psychological Science, 16, 932–936.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Singer, J. A. (2004a). Narrative identity and meaning making across the adult lifespan: An introduction. Journal of Personality, 72, 437–459.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Singer, J. A. (2004b). A love story: Using self-defining memories in couples therapy. In R. Josselson, D. P. McAdams, R. Josselson, & A. Lieblich (Eds.), Healing plots: Narrative and psychotherapy (pp. 189–208). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Singer, J. A., Labunko, B., Baddeley, J. L., & Alea, N. (2015). Mutuality and the Marital Engagement –Type of Union Scale [ME (ToUS)]: Empirical support for a clinical instrument in couples therapy. In K. Skerret & K. Fergus (Eds.), Couple resilience across the lifespan – Emerging perspectives. Springer.Google Scholar
  37. Singer, J. A., & Salovey, P. (1993). The remembered self: Emotion and memory in personality. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  38. Singer, J. A., & Skerrett, K. (2014). Positive couple therapy: Using we-stories to enhance resilience. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Skerrett, K. (2003). Couple dialogues with illness: Expanding the “We”. Families, Systems, & Health, 21, 69–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Slatcher, R. B., Vazire, S., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2008). Am “I” more important than “we”? Couples’ word use in instant messages. Personal Relationships, 15, 407–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. SurveyMonkey. (1999). SurveyMonkey software (professional subscription) for data collection. Retrieved from http://www.surveymonkey.com
  42. Tausczik, Y. R., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2010). The psychological meaning of words: LIWC and computerized text analysis methods. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29, 24–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Williams-Baucom, K. J., Atkins, D. C., Sevier, M., Eldridge, K. A., & Christensen, A. (2010). “You” and “I” need to talk about “us”: Linguistic patterns in marital interactions. Personal Relationships, 17, 41–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Alea
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jefferson A. Singer
    • 2
  • Beata Labunko
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of the West IndiesSt. AugustineTrinidad & Tobago
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyConnecticut CollegeNew LondonUSA
  3. 3.Clifford Beers Guidance ClinicNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations