The Language of Relationships: Why Silly Nicknames Aren’t Silly

I’m a nickname person. I love calling friends and family abbreviated versions of their proper names. I also relish using endearments, both common and made-up.

I wasn’t always a fan of romantic or expressive endearments. I remember going to New York in my 20s to visit a pal who was living with her boyfriend; I also remember cringing every time they called each other “babe,” which they did a lot.

I’m sure there were compelling reasons for my discomfort, but they don’t apply anymore, at least not to me. These days, I, too, lapse into “babe-ing” my wife.

Turns out, my communicative shift might be good for our marriage. I laughed when I read the first line of an article about couples’ “insider language:”

“Lovey-dovey language—even your own—can be so corny it makes you want to puke.”

Yep. See reference to NYC trip above. But here’s another perspective:

Pet names and made-up terms help nurture playful, happy and resilient relationships.

One study found that relationship satisfaction is higher among couples that use a lot of silly names and code phrases with each other.

Just to be clear, we’re talking about language that our spouses want to hear, not unwelcome nicknames or code words. Those terms can be detrimental.

For those among us who remain on the fence about using “insider” language with spouses, here are some reasons to introduce it (or ramp it up if we’re fans):
–       Endearments enhance intimacy and mutual appreciation;
–       Code phrases or private language are efficient communication;
–       Insider language helps us bond when we’re in public;
–       Playful communication & inside jokes ease conflicts;
–       Spousal playfulness has a positive “spillover” effect on our kids.

Not able to overcome the nausea or embarrassment this kind of communication prompts in you? No worries. You don’t have to use it. The research isn’t prescriptive; it just means there’s a correlation between endearing language and relationship fulfillment, not necessarily a causal effect.

Plus, that old standby, “I love you,” still remains the fastest way to ramp up positivity in our relationships, without the need for cutesy or made-up embellishments.

No matter what your opinion about using endearments or code phrases with spouses, or I might add kids, the research reminds us that what we say (not to mention, how we say it) is important.

Remaining aware of the impact of our words—and doing our best to ensure that impact is positive—can only enhance our relationships with co-parents.


2 responses to “The Language of Relationships: Why Silly Nicknames Aren’t Silly

  1. Good one, honey! I remember calling my then fiance ‘baby’ (which had been the go to in other relationships) and him finally telling me (after a week) that it wasn’t working for him. Good to know, right?

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