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The Secret Ways You Say "I Love You"

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WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

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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," she says.

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