I struggle sometimes when speaking about the past.
Not the with emotions, not any more thank goodness. Those have been processed and purged.
And not even with the facts. Those have been accepted and analyzed.
But with the pronouns.
Sometimes, I might refer to “My first house” or “The pug I used to have.” And although factually true, those feel off. Because it wasn’t just my house, it was our house. Max wasn’t my dog, she was ours. Yet the use of the collective doesn’t feel right either. Because even though we were an “our,” that team has seen been disbanded. So I often end up stumbling over a hodgepodge of pronouns when recounting some story, making it sound as though I had some boomerang of a husband.
It would be handy to have some past form of collective pronouns. But English is complicated enough already.
It caught me off guard the first time I heard Brock refer to Tiger as, “Our dog.” He adopted the big-headed while I was barely in the picture and at the time Tiger became “ours,” I still didn’t share a home with Tiger or his daddy.
But Brock saw him as ours.
That simple pronoun classifying us as a team. A partnership. A family.
Over the next few years, I was always impressed with Brock’s use of collective pronouns. The “I’s” replaced with “we’s” and “our” displacing much of “mine.” When he would misspeak, accidentally removing me with the use of a singular form, he would immediately correct his word choice with emphasis on the shared form.
As for me, it felt weird – in a good way – to transition pretty quickly from ours, to mine and back to ours, yet with a different him.
The words we choose are telling, often revealing more than we intend. As relationships move from dating into something more serious, it’s expected that the pronouns begin to shift as well.
Be mindful of those words –
If someone uses the collective too soon, it may be a sign that things are moving too quickly. If the singular stubbornly remains, it may indicate that the speaker is not all-in. If the shared forms are applied too generously, it can indicate that the individuals have lost themselves to the couple. And if somebody in a relationship starts to shift back into the singular form, listen to what they’re telling you.
As for me, I’m probably still going to call my first house, “Ourrr…My” house for a least a while longer. Because apparently it’s easier to get an ex husband out of your life than out of your choice of words.
11 thoughts on “What Are Your Pronouns Telling You About Your Love?”
My ex did such a good job of trying to exclude me from everything, as a form of power and control, abuse, that when I finally left, I don’t view much from that marriage as ours, except the business we both ran for 30 years and our boat. Those were things we did together. The house I refer to as my old house, in the past, because I can’t conceive of it being ours. The house was in his name, and he kept it, but when I refer to it, it is my old house. Our adult son, is my son, mostly because his father abdicated his role as father a long time ago. It’s not a cognitive thought, I just don’t see him as a parent any more. I am not bitter, I actually worry about him at times. He’s lost everything, and I have a nice life. But the pronouns, I guess I’m inconsistent with them.
That’s an interesting point you make about pronouns intentionally being used within a relationship in order to isolate and divide. Sad:(
Yes…and actions. It turned out to be much sadder for the one who did it, than the object of the intent. He isolated himself, not me. Funny how the universe works like that.
It sure is:)
So true, so true. I’m very fortunate to still have “my” house (the one I bleed for) but the other two are complicated. This past week I was shredding the paperwork from “those” homes. Some situations seem easier than others in referring to my past as singular. When talking about my daughter and son, it is near impossible to not include the X. I’m in a much better place.
For a few years before he left me, I had noticed in conversations with friends, my (ex) husband would refer to joint assets or activities we did as ‘mine’ and ‘I’ (that is: his and him) that I would have classed as ‘ours’ or ‘us’ or ‘we’. For example he would say ‘my house’, or ‘when I moved here’. I realized after he left me that was a subtle sign that he had begun to emotionally leave the marriage, long before he actually did.
Everything always felt like ‘mine’, because he didn’t contribute to anything. Even when he became the sole earner, the money was the only thing he contributed. I chose the house, the furniture, how to parent, when to buy a pet, when to go on a date… everything. So it all felt like mine, both then and now. If I’d been smarter, I would have understood what it meant!
It’s funny, because now things aren’t mine, they’re ‘ours’, meaning mine and my kids. I feel my kids (12, 10 and 3) contribute more to the running of our house/lives than he ever did.
What a thought provoking post. The play I am currently in, Time Stands Still, speaks of this. When does the “we” become “I”. We are currently looking for authentic voices for our blog at LegalLogs.com. The blog is all things divorce, discovery and diving the truth of our own happiness. Email me at email@example.com if you want to share your writing with our audience. We could use a voice like yours.
Sounds like a cool play!!