The “Imperial We”

If you listen to the Queen of England speak, you’ll notice that she uses the term “we” instead of “I“. The reason she does this is because, she speaks for the nation. This “Imperial We” includes everyone, not just the Queen.

In my job in the corporate world, we have a business version of the “Imperial We”, sometimes referred to as the “Corporate We”.  For example, when writing emails, people will typically use “we” instead of “I” and that can instill a sense of belonging or inclusion with the audience of the email. Again, “we” it’s a sense of togetherness, a “we can do this”.

For many years, I was subjected to a different version of the “Imperial We”. In my case, it wasn’t meant as term of togetherness or inclusion.  Rather, what was really meant was “Me” not “we“.  Let me give you a few examples:

“We need to take out the trash.”
“We should to clean the house.”
“Can we do some lawn work?”

When I was told these, make no mistake, there was no “we” in them.  What was really meant was:

“You need to take out the trash.”
“You should clean the house.”
“Can you do some lawn work?”

If I didn’t do whatever the “we” command said, there would be abusive consequences ranging from mental abuse (e.g., the silent treatment), emotional abuse (e.g., tension in the home, intimidation), verbal abuse (e.g., name calling, sarcasm, etc.).  It got to where I would cringe whenever I heard the “we” term.

Fast forward to today…

I’m now in a real, loving, relationship.  We are a partnership. I support her, and she supports me.  When “we” want to do something, “we” do it together, as a team.  Bedroom needs repainting?  Boom! “we” do it together.  House needs cleaning?  Boom! I’m vacuuming while she’s dusting, “we” knock it out fast and “we” knock it out together.  With my wife, I know that when she says “we” she means “we“.

Over time, I’ve been un-learning a lot of my learned behaviors from my abuser. In this case, I’m trying to erase my learned definition of the “Imperial We” and replace that with its true, inclusive, definition.

The next time you hear a “we” statement from your partner, don’t just hear the “we“… listen to it.  You’ll know it if it’s a real “we” or not, deep down.  You might not want to (or possibly might not be ready to) admit it yourself, but you’ll know it.  You and your partner should be equals and you should be treated as such.  You deserve respect.  You are worthy of love.

We” should always be inclusive, it should never mean just “me“, and with the help and loving support of my wife, it never will again.


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