University of London, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, UK
'WE' TO 'ME': RECONFIGURATION OF THE SELF DURING THE DECISION TO DIVORCE
This paper examines the way in which the individual strives to redefine identity during the process of disengaging from a long-term marriage. An intimate relationship requires the formulation of a story reflecting a shared understanding of that relationship and its history. Analysis of transcripts of marital therapy that results in a decision to divorce suggests that as each partner examines the marriage in the context of their own life story (McAdams, 2001), they reformulate the shared understanding into an individual narrative that captures their unique experience of the relationship, both past and present. Thus, narratives presented in therapy evolve over time from stories about the 'we', which are usually active voiced, ("We did..., we moved to...") to those about 'us', which are ususally more objectified ("Is there an 'us' anymore?"). Consideration of 'us' naturally leads to themes of separate identities ("Who have I become in this relationship?"). And the progression of psychological separation evolves into issues about 'me', disentangled from the partner and facing the construction of the next stage of my life as an autonomous being ("Will anyone else love me? What do I know about myself?"). These themes are discussed in the light of recent research on autobiographical memory and personal coherence.