So one time, I was sitting with my friend Lisa at dinner – as we are often apt to do, working in the same building – and she brought up a point that it irks her when one person in a couple goes “Well, we don’t [insert here]”. Because last time we both checked, two people in a couple are likely to have different tastes altogether.
I’ve not given it much thought until she brought it up, but you know something? Yeah. It is something I notice. And frankly, whenever a couple does that, I get a slight ring of a Red Alert if the barrage of “we” is regarding something that is not, in fact, a mutual interest of the two people comprising the couple.
Disclaimer here: common interests are one thing, and okay, I’ll exclude that. If you are a couple and share an interest, okay, fine. You get a pass. But when one side of the couple begins to monopolize nearly every aspect of their lives under the umbrella of “we”, I start asking certain things.
Look, folks. I’m a student of human nature. No two people are alike, and no two people have the same tells, but the general nature of human behavior is, unfortunately, predictable. It rarely, if ever, goes over well with me, as well a lot of people, when a couple is so wrapped up in their couple-ness that it suddenly becomes a barrage of “we” this and “we” that. Bonus points if the friends of the people comprising this couple are pushed by the wayside, or are the ones subjected to the constant “we” to the point where they start to wonder, “What is this?!”
1. Since when is it that the identity of a couple, or being coupled, is more important than the identity of the individual people?
This is a huge, massive pet peeve of mine, and it ties into the “we” factor quite a bit. At no point do the two people in a couple stop being themselves just because they’re together. It’s the same thing as a woman thinking that she’s in a couple just because she had sex with a man, and the man may not necessarily be on the same page. But nope, it’s the couple identity that’s more important. The same happens if a man believes he’s heading somewhere long-term with a woman who has no such intentions. Same-sex couples too have some guilty parties in it too; this is not limited to hetero. The couple-mentality comes out, and for the person pulling it, it’s like there’s no identity other than the couple-brain.
Seriously. I have no idea how many times it needs to be made clear: no one stops being who they are just because they’re having sex with someone. Just because you are in a relationship with someone, the other person is NOT going to give up their identity and personality, which is what makes it all the more important to choose very fucking carefully whom you’re with.
And this brings me to the second question I ask:
2. What does the other part of the couple think?
This is something that, to the “we”-ing individual, honestly doesn’t occur. Very often in watching and talking to the couples who pull the “we” on too regular a basis, the other person is nowhere near as thrilled to be doing this. In a restaurant, when someone says, “Oh, we don’t eat that” – look very carefully at the other person. Look for the telltale signs of discomfort: shifting, lack of eye contact, furrowed brows, sometimes the lips are set a little tightly. Chances are, you’ll see some or all of the above, and this should be a definite sign to you that maybe not everything’s as rosy as the “we” implies.
And when I notice that, I inevitably get pretty cheesed off at the person pulling the couple-identity. What that person is doing is devaluing the very individual they’re in a relationship with, as well as themselves, in favor of the identity of that person as one-half of the couple. It’s the same reason why I immediately get irked when someone is introducing themselves as “so-and-so’s other half” – turtledove, the person you’re with is a whole person on their own. They’re not half of anything. Stop pulling that shit.
What does any person look for when they want to couple up? They look for someone they can be themselves with. And how does it make them feel when the person they chose is basically putting the couple as the forefront, rather than acknowledge and encourage the individuals therein?
Yes. Exactly. It completely defeats the purpose of the relationship, and devalues the identities of the people therein.
3. Why such a concentrated effort to prove you’re in a relationship?
It’s okay. We all get it. You’re in a relationship. We understand. We’re happy for you. But really, think about this major aspect of human nature: if a person is genuinely happy, there’s no need whatsoever to put forward that much. It doesn’t require an effort to show you’re happy, and you won’t need to lose your identity in it.
While Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were a disaster in the making, if for no account other than the scientology thing, I will never deny for a moment that Tom was, genuinely, in love. I’ve seen Tom act often enough to know when he’s acting, and that was nowhere near it. He loved her to the point of irrationality, and in that interview, he talked her up as herself, as her own person. The fact that scientology made him a stark-raving-nutcase aside, the way he talked about her and the way he behaved made the point clearer than Venetian glass. What happened after – you already know, but that’s beside the point. The point is, he did not need to act or put on airs of any kind to show how he felt. It was obvious and apparent.
The one thing that always makes me pause when someone starts the “we” routine is to watch how far it goes. If it’s innocuous, and once in a while, I let it slide, but if it seems like every other statement is a “we”, I ask myself what’s really behind the scenes. Because again: why put so much effort into proving you’re together? If a couple is happy, they don’t need to put on the airs. There’s no need to wrap up in the couple identity if both individuals are happy with one another.
People, really: don’t try so hard. And please, for fuck’s sake, don’t use the words “we’re pregnant!” when you’re making the announcement. Simple reason: only one of you is actually pregnant. Until males give birth, let’s not do that.
When you use the “we” thing too much, it makes me wonder just how happy the couple really is. The person using the “we” is demonstrating that they’re together – but why? There’s no need for it – unless of course, they’re trying to convince themselves that this is a relationship that’s going to work.
I’ve been a long proponent of the Gut Feeling. It never lies. In every relationship, there comes a telling point as to whether or not it will actually work out, and that telling point comes to some relationships sooner rather than later. Some people, when they meet a person that they later get involved with, know right when they meet the person.
Listen to that feeling. Because when it hits you, the worst thing you can do is disobey it.
Take it from someone who did disobey it, and paid for it.