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The trouble with "we"

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  December 24, 2013 08:48 AM

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Merry Christmas Eve. We'll have updates tomorrow.


Q: Hey Meredith,

I'm having an issue with the term "we" with my new girlfriend. But it's not what you may think. It's not in reference to us, but to her and her ex-husband.

This "we" really hit me hard the other night when she and I were at dinner with friends. I'm not sure if I was just being over sensitive at the time or if I should just accept this about her, suck it up, and let it go.

Here's some of the background. We are both in our 40s and have two children from previous marriages. She was married for 10 years and divorced for two. My marriage was longer and I've been divorced for longer. We have been dating for five months. The relationship to date has been wonderful and moving along quickly. She and I spend almost every day together with and without the kids and find it very difficult to be apart from each other.

The "we" term has been popping up since the beginning of our relationship and I've either accepted it or made some sarcastic remark. I've been OK with this until the other night at dinner.

She and I were out with other couples. One of the couples had just purchased a home and we were looking at the photographs. At one of the pictures she stops, leans over to me and says, "When we had our house built we choose not the have this." This is when that "we" term really hit a nerve. I just smiled and said OK, but I felt my heart hit the floor. It felt like I was at dinner with a still-married friend.

Was I overreacting? I do understand that each of us has a past, and I'm the type of person who can listen without any judgments. But at what point after you are separated or divorced and in a new relationship should the term "we" refer to us and not them?

Thanks for the help!

– We'd Out, Haverhill


A: Talk to her about the "we." She needs to know that it bothers you, and you can't keep making passive-aggressive comments to deal with the problem. Make it clear that you don't object to her telling stories about her past (because you don't, right?). This is about the royal "we" and what it means.

When you have the conversation, make sure you ask her whether there's a reason she prefers that pronoun. Maybe she feels weird saying his name. Maybe she has trouble saying "ex-husband." It's possible she believes that the alternatives to "we" will make you both feel worse.

You're not overreacting, but it's time to bring this up so that the problem doesn't become more important than it really is. The longer you wait, the more sensitive you'll get.

Readers? Is there a reason she might be using that pronoun? Is he overreacting? How do you refer to your ex in stories? Help.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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