The Power of a We-Story

Every couple has a story to tell. There is the story of how they met, a story about the things they most like to do together, a story about their first fight. A We-story is a particular type of couple story, one that highlights the mutual investment partners have in one another.

When you look at how you narrate your separate and shared lives and how you use stories as forceful communications to each other, you can appreciate the hold that stories have over your emotions and feelings of trust. Why not try to tell as many positive stories as possible? We-stories reflect positive dimensions of a relationship: security, empathy, respect, acceptance, pleasure, humor, shared meaning, and vision. Studies tell us that the happiest couples tell positive stories about themselves and their relationship. For example, here is Marie and Brian’s We-story:

“We hadn’t been married long. For some unknown reason, Marie had decided to make a homemade chicken soup (from scratch) for dinner. When it was time to eat, we sat down at our new table, which was set with our new flatware and dishes. The soup was literally steaming in our faces. Brian had beads of sweat coming down his face and was trying his hardest to enjoy this meal. He could see the look on Marie’s face—she had tried so hard to make this delicious home-cooked meal and it was a total flop in the 90-plus degree weather. At that moment, we just looked at each other and burst out laughing. It totally wasn’t perfect, and the conditions weren’t ideal, but we enjoyed being with each other so much and felt so lucky to be in our new apartment together that it just didn’t matter at all. We will always remember that meal.”

This dinner-gone-awry We-story reflects a time of shared laughter and provides this couple with a humorous anecdote to look back on and share. In less humorous times, it can take them back to a core strength in their relationship. We-stories capture these assets in a relationship and place loving connection as fundamental to relational life.

Having a We-story helps you prioritize your relationship and remember that you have each other’s backs and can use a team effort during challenging times. It can stand for your most important values and beliefs. We-stories reflect an attitude of being “all-in,” a feeling that builds security, trust, and promotes commitment. We-stories help you visualize and develop a shared purpose that can guide your lives over time.

 Try this short exercise to connect more deeply with your partner:

Set aside a time to go exploring for a physical symbol of your relationship. It may be something from nature, from your home, or from your current or past life. After you’ve separately explored for a time, share your object with your partner and, between you, settle on the one object that you both agree is the best positive symbol of your relationship.

This symbol can become a touchstone or “North Star” that provides an affirming image or metaphor for what is valuable in your life together. Perhaps it will be a stepping stone to writing your own We-story!

Find out about upcoming programs with Karen Skerrett at Kripalu.

Get a free preview of Couple Resilience, edited by Karen Skerrett and Karen Fergus.

Karen Skerrett is a clinical psychologist and adjunct faculty at the Family Institute/Center for Applied Psychological Studies at Northwestern University.

Full Bio and Programs