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Do You and Your Partner Have an "Our Song"?

Couple defining songs are associated with positive relationship factors.

What do the songs 'Love of a Lifetime' by Firehouse, 'I'm Yours' by Jason Mraz, 'Crash Into Me' by Dave Matthews Band, and the film song classics 'My Heart Will Go On' by Céline Dion (from Titanic) and 'I Will Always Love You' by Whitney Houston (from The Bodyguard) have in common? They are all ‘couple defining songs’, according to the people who took part in our online USA study of this phenomenon (Harris et al., 2019).

Intimate couples often have a special song or piece of music that plays an important role in their relationship, which they typically refer to as ‘our song’. These couple defining songs are very common in daily life, but we were surprised to find there had not been any research on this phenomenon. So we conducted the first scientific study about ‘our songs’ to try to understand how and why they exist and what purpose they serve in relationships.

Two hundred people in romantic relationships answered questions about couple defining songs, and if they had one, its origins and meaning, and any emotions and memories they have when thinking about the song. They also completed questionnaires about their appreciation of music and relationship intimacy.

 Andrew Baird
Source: Andrew Baird

We found that the majority (60%) of participants had a couple defining song. They were typically acquired early on in romantic relationships, within the first year, and were more common among married compared to dating couples.

The most frequently stated reason for a song being a couple defining song was that it was linked to their identity as a couple. The songs cued positive emotions such as happiness and love, and triggered memories of specific events such as the first time the couple met or their wedding day, extended events such as a trip taken together, or lifetime periods such as the early days of their relationship.

Compared with those who did not have a couple defining song, those who did reported higher music appreciation on the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire (Mas-Herrero et al., 2013). People who had a couple defining song also reported higher relationship intimacy, as measured by the Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships (Schaefer & Olson, 1981).

We know music contributes to our well-being in many ways, including reinforcing our identity and promoting social bonding. Our study shows that music is also important for romantic relationships in that it promotes intimacy and positive emotions, and reminds couples of important shared memories.


Harris, C. B., Baird, A., Harris, S. A., & Thompson, W. F. (2020). “They’re playing our song”: Couple-defining songs in intimate relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(1), 163-179. doi:10.1177/0265407519859440

Mas-Herrero, E., Marco-Pallares, J., Lorenzo-Seva, U., Zatorre, R. J., & Rodriguez-Fornells, A. (2013). Individual differences in music reward experiences. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 31, 118–138. doi:10.1525/mp.2013.31.2.118

Schaefer, M. T., & Olson, D. H. (1981). Assessing intimacy: The PAIR inventory. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 7, 47–60. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.1981.tb01351.x

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