The Secret Ways You Say "I Love You"
With three kids in the house, Stacie Zaragosa and her husband, Ricardo, have
to get creative when they want to escape the crowd. So this Winsted, CT, couple
have come up with a secret code phrase that lets them slip up to the bedroom,
no questions asked. "One of us will say, 'I think we should both go
upstairs and fold the laundry,' " says Stacie, 34. "The kids would
never go near laundry, so it's a safe bet!"
Whatever your secret code is, speaking a private language doesn't just give
you two a charge - it actually has the power to strengthen your bond.
"Public displays of commitment - such as having a signal at a party to let
each other know you're bored and want to leave - are better predictors of a
couple's longevity and stability than public displays of affection, according
to a recent study," says therapist Pat Love, coauthor of the upcoming book
How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. "That's because
these acts show nonverbally that you think as a couple, that your partner's
having a good time is as important as your having a good time, and that your
commitment to each other is bigger than your commitment to almost anything
else." (Not taking sides against your spouse in a heated cocktail-party
political debate - or even something as simple as finishing your meals at more
or less the same time - also counts as public displays of commitment.)
"Communicating in code reinforces your solidarity and rapport," adds
Diana Boxer, Ph.D., a professor of linguistics at the University of Florida.
"It not only shows off your identity as a couple, it actually strengthens
it, and that makes you feel more connected."
Where Do Codes Come From?
Three words: your shared history. "When couples have a meaningful
experience together, they tend to use a word or phrase as a shorthand way of
evoking the entire experience," says redbook Love Network expert Tina B.
Tessina, Ph.D., couples therapist and author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be
Free. For Tessina and her husband, that word is "candles," because on
their honeymoon, they passed out with candles blazing and almost torched the
place. "Now all one of us has to say is 'candles' and we both laugh,"
No couple sits down and makes a point of figuring out a covert phrase or
signal to share; rather, "The meaning of a code evolves over time,"
Boxer notes. "The more we get to know each other, the more we understand
how the other person thinks."
Usually, codes are created at random, as was the case for Andrea Nemeth, 36,
and her husband, Vadim Shleyfman, of Caldwell, NJ. "When we wave our hands
in a shooting motion like a gun, we mean, 'I love you,'" Andrea says. Its
origin? She can't remember! "We created it in some goofy moment," she
says, and they now use it often.