Co-constructing stories Stories serve as the primary means through which we create and express meaning in our lives (Bruner, 1991) Stories do not just exist, but are actively constructed Storytelling is an interactional and situated practice (Gubrium & Holstein, 2009)
Co-constructing meanings and identities We create and re-create meanings and identities through storytelling Identity is co-constructed Created and negotiated through dialogue How are meaning and identity “done” in storytelling?
Co-action or joint action “…the process of collaborative action from which all meaning is generated” (Gergen, 2009, p. xxvii) “…these brief interactive moments between people, in which speakers and listeners must continually react to each other spontaneously and practically, with an active, responsive understanding…” (Shotter, 1997, p. 9)
Narrating the “self” Representing and enacting identity (Wortham, 2001) The I and the Me (Bamberg, 2004) Making and defending identity claims ArielP
Co-constructing “we-ness” Sense of being together in relationship Shared relational identity Yours, mine, or ours? Belongs to neither partner, but is co- constructed between them
Cohabitation is becoming more common and socially acceptable among couples of all ages While once generally viewed as improper and immoral, there are now a variety of ways to understand cohabitation and its role in relationships Cohabitation
A way to save money Cohabitation is… “Living in sin” Spending more time together and building intimacy A step toward marriage An alternative to marriage Convenient… A way to prevent divorce A legal partnership A test of compatibility
How do cohabitating couples talk and tell stories about their relationship, particularly about how they have constructed a sense of mutuality or “we-ness” over their time together? Research question
Participants 7 heterosexual cohabitating couples Recruited through the University of Calgary Methods Story-writing activity ○ One-page story about the history of their relationship Semi-structured interview ○ 60-90 minutes Research methods
“Tell me about a moment or experience that has occurred since you moved in together that seemed to strengthen your sense of being a couple.” “When did you first start to experience this sense of ‘we’ in your relationship?” “How have others in your life noticed this ‘we-ness’ in your relationship? What is it that they might be noticing?” “Have you heard anything new, different, or surprising in what you or your partner have said today?” Examples of interview questions
Focus on storytelling as a social action Attending to the “external” aspects of storytelling, including audience, purposes, functions, consequences, and shared plotlines (including common stories about relationships and cohabitation) Analyzing stories as well as the practice of storytelling Analyzing narrative reality Gubrium & Holstein, 2009
Narrative Work The Hows of Storytelling Analyzing narrative reality Narrative Environment The Whats of Storytelling
Abbie: Umm I think it seemed like, the next...step in our relationship. Tommy: I wanted to come home to her every day. Charles: It was just a realization of, this is where we are in life. Tyler: I was sleeping at your place all the time anyway. So it was more just a formality, I guess, to say okay, I’m actually living with you. Talking about cohabitation
Cohabitation & marriage M: So, I'd like to just kind of start off and see what it was that made you guys interested in participating in a study about this topic? Dana: Oh, sure. So, we, well, we've been together over eight years, so we always get....like, for the last five years, we get questions about when are you going to get married? Why aren't you married?
Inviting responses about "we-ness" M: Okay. Um, so have other people in your life noticed this we-ness or closeness in your relationship? Bob: This wouldn't work if they didn't think, agree with what I was doing or think that we were both…happy and…had that we-ness.
Dana: The photographer, the race photographer, took a photo at like the perfect time and it’s like this awesome photo of us running together. Bobby: Yeah. Dana: And like holding hands across the finish line or whatever. But those have been very, like, ah… Bobby: We moments Dana: Strengthening we moments Inviting responses about we-ness
M: Um so, and when did you first start to experience this sense of we in your relationship? Bob: Um...it, well, always kind of it- it was definitely started happening before we were living together but, I think, since we were living together it’s accelerated...exponentially... Inviting stories about we-ness
Sally: Yeah. I- I don't know. That's the weird thing about it is its not like one day you don't have it and then you wake up the next morning and then all of a sudden its there. Like it creeps up on you and you're totally not conscious of it until it…completely and utterly present and, and you just sort of notice oh, my life is utterly intertwined into yours.
Sally: Yeah, I know and it, it’s everyone has a different way that they sort of build their relationship together, its just for us it’s…I think a huge part of it is time together Tommy: Mmhmm. Inviting stories about we-ness
Bobby: But, that question about marriage and stuff like that, Dana got that a lot from her mom. Dana: No I didn’t. Bobby: Didn’t you? Dana: No never. Bobby: I thought you did? Dana: No. Bobby: Well she’d like subtly say stuff… Dana: For like…no, like…she was…not…she was very quietly not happy with the fact that we moved in together…initially Bobby: That’s true. Yeah, that’s true. Co-narrating & Co-editing
Marnie: Mmhmm. And so was there a particular moment that helped establish your being a couple? Charles: Ahm…I think it was before…our first fight. We… Layla: Kick-boxing fight! Charles: Yeah, kick-boxing fight! (All laughing) Co-narrating & Co-editing
Developing we-ness through our conversations Charles: I think this in and of itself is…would build sense of we. Right? Like this… Layla: Yeah, because you have to think about everything that's happened till now and… Charles: Yeah, it’s, let’s do this together and we would be a good fit for this and then it does invoke this kind of conversation.
Developing we-ness through our conversations M: Yeah, very good. And just to conclude, what has it been like talking about this topic with me? Dana: Oh it’s good, I love… Bobby: I feel like another we moment Dana: Yeah. I've had a lot of fun doing this. And, its like I know that we're gonna keep talking about this. You know what I mean? Like, this is…next Chiazzo, next time we're at Chiazzo for a coffee like we're probably like, you know what I mean? Bobby: Yeah. Dana: Yeah.
What do our responses to couples invite and how do these responses fit their stories of “we-ness”? Our reflexive questions and responses – what do they invite? How are couples co- editing their stories of we- ness in response to our questions/responses? Storied resources (+/-)
Future Possibilities “Co-action is far more than words alone. Speaking and writing are bodily actions, and in this sense equivalent to all other actions taking place when we converse – smiling, laughing, gazing into each other’s eyes, shuffling the feet. All that has been said about co-action includes the entire coordination of bodies” (Gergen, 2009, p. 34) Attending to couples’ bodily responses as they talk and tell stories about their relationship
Marnie: And so it sounds like that sort of shared sense of where you’re going really contributes to your relationship in the present. Tyler: Yeah, it keeps us centered…depending, like whatever the situation, we can always just like shrug it off. We’re like yeah, we have each other, we’ll have each other tomorrow, we’ll have each other the day after tomorrow. We’ll just keep going. Going forward together
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Contact us! Marnie Rogers, BA (Hons) University of Calgary firstname.lastname@example.org Alan Parry, PhD University of Calgary email@example.com