Successful Relationships Reading Corner
This week, we wrote about how individuality and a sense of “we” can coexist in a relationship. Here are some interesting articles on different philosophies and therapy models on this topic.
The Meaning of “We-ness” “This formula of “we-ness” represents “two people who are balanced and individually strong”…but have in the process have created something else- the two has become three. and this third reality is the relationship between the two of them that they now share and nurture.”
What Is We-Ness Versus Enmeshment? “I first heard the term “we-ness” in graduate school. That was a while ago but well after Aristotle wrote things down. In talking with other research psychologists about relationships, the term would come up from time to time, denoting a relationship where two people had formed a depth of connection that supported a sense of shared identity. When I turned my focus to the study of commitment in 1983, I found supporting ideas consistently arising in that literature. Harold Kelley and John Thibaut described how two partners who were growing in interdependence would move from having only individual goals to developing a view of the future based on joint outcomes. [i] They called this “transformation of motivation.” Although they almost never used the word “commitment,” what they were describing was the psychological formation of it. Similarly, George Levinger noted that ‘‘as interpersonal involvement deepens, one’s partner’s satisfactions and dissatisfactions become more and more identified with one’s own.”[ii] Social exchange theorists such as Cook and Emerson discussed how the “transformation” from me to we changed a relationship from an exchange market where two individuals were competitors to a non-competitive relationship that could maximize joint outcomes.[iii] One is no longer seeking (only) individual gains from the other, but something for us as a team.”
Creating We-ness “What does me-ness look like? What does we-ness look like? What are the tools with which to move from me-ness to we-ness? In me-ness there is a sharp line separating me and you. I might say in response to a situation “What’s in it for me?” I might also decide to cooperate or be helpful. In any event what’s good for me has no relationship to what’s good for you. We are living two parallel lives. In enmeshment on the other hand there are no boundaries. I have no sense of self. I might take care of others needs at the expense of my own or I might think that what they want and need must be the same as what I want and need. We-ness is different from both me-ness and enmeshment. In we-ness the people involved feel themselves to be individuals with boundaries and they act accordingly, with behaviors that promote things like privacy and uniqueness of taste and style. However, my assumption, if I have a we-ness mentality, is that what’s good or bad for me has an impact for good or for bad on what’s good or bad for the other and vice versa.”