“They’re playing our song”: couple-defining songs in intimate relationships

Celia B. Harris*, Amee Baird, Sophia A. Harris, William Forde Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Music has been argued to contribute to well-being in multiple ways, through its links to identity, social relationships, emotion, and memory. We investigated the phenomenon of “couple-defining songs (CDSs),” in which members of a couple come to jointly identify their relationship with a particular song. Two hundred participants who were currently in a romantic relationship, diverse in age and relationship length and status, reported whether they had a CDS. Those who reported a CDS described its origins and meaning, and any memories and emotions elicited by thinking about their song. In addition, participants completed measures of music appreciation and relationship intimacy. We found that CDSs were common, relatively unique to romantic relationships, and associated with higher music appreciation and higher intimacy. CDSs tended to be acquired early in relationships, and they cued positive emotions and specific memories. These findings suggest that CDSs represent a common and understudied phenomenon. We propose that the multifaceted nature of music may contribute to the prevalence of CDSs in intimate relationships.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)163-179
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
    Issue number1
    Early online date1 Jul 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


    • autobiographical memory
    • intimate relationships
    • music


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