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The Secret Ways You Say "I Love You"

What Code Can Do for Your Love

Having your own shorthand is a time-saver, for sure. But your catchphrases and nonverbal cues can also help you put hard-to-express emotions into words, find a comfortable way to ask for sex, even say, "Why are we fighting, anyway?" Some of the surprising benefits of your secret language:

Code keeps "I love you" from being one-size-fits-all.

When Anna Colombo, 37, met her man, she knew right away they were meant to be together. "Yet saying 'I love you' was not my thing," says this native of Italy who now lives in Salt Lake City. "So one day I told him, 'You're my home.'" More than 10 years of marriage and two kids later, the pair say these three magical words all the time. And their pet phrase has new relevance, she adds, "since we left Italy and our families and friends to move here."

So why not just say "I love you"? "Code is extra-intimate, because it says that you and I have been through this thing that nobody else has," says Tessina. "It's absolutely specific to you two." And if you're not a Hallmark kind of couple, it also lets you personalize the tone of your "I love you," as Shannon and Daniel McCauley of Philadelphia do. "I often call him 'a half-witted, stuck-up, scruffy-looking nerfherder,' to which he replies, 'Who's scruffy-looking?' - in perfect Han Solo timing," says Shannon, 32. "We also sign every email with 'I.M.S.' It stands for 'Implied Mushy Stuff.'"

Code lets you be private in public.

No matter where you are or who else is around, code creates a space for just you two. When Stephanie Hahn-Schmidt and her husband started dating, he was working for a paving company, side by side with big, burly guys' guys. "Every time he called me from a job site, he was embarrassed to say 'I love you,' in case someone was listening. So instead he would tell me, 'I like you,'" relays Stephanie, 38, a mom of four from Lodi, WI. "We've been married more than 11 years now, and we still say it to this day."

Glynis Buschmann, 42, of Yuba City, CA, and her husband have devised their own sneaky shorthand to help them feel connected in a crowd. "We just say 'magnificently' or 'incredibly' to say 'I love you magnificently' or 'I love you incredibly,' " Glynis says. "We started it when we were first dating and talking on our cell phones, where other people could hear us."

Heck, you don't even need words to create a just-us bubble: Suzanne Dunn's husband, Stevon, touches his nose to let her know she's adored. "He does it all the time - during family dinners, at parties, at our kids' ball games," says Suzanne, 35. "Nobody else has a clue what he's doing. It's our secret, and it feels so good."

It's no surprise that getting covert makes you feel cozy in a crowd, says Love. "It says, We're together, you're tuned in to me, and I hold a special place in your heart," she explains. "The reason we're in a relationship in the first place is we want to know we're somebody's best friend, and that we hold that unique place in his life."

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