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The Secret Ways You Say "I Love You"

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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."

Code helps you bridge the man-woman communication gap.

"Shorthand is a way for women to speak the male language," Love says. "Men aren't given to nuance. They like quick - doing rather than talking through things. And they hate having to figure out meaning. Having a code saves time and energy, so he's happy." In other words, codes help the two of you meet halfway between the talky female style of communicating and the silent male style.

Even though codes tend to be male-friendly, we XX's take to cryptic talk just as much as men do. "Women lead the way with developing a private language," Love notes, "because women's brains are highly specialized for reading subtle and nonverbal cues, and for attaching emotion to language." That's how it happened for Jacque Mellor, 42, of Casselberry, FL, and her husband. "We always kiss when the clock says 12:34 - a.m. or p.m. - because that is the time we were married 23 years ago," Jacque says. "My husband says I'm the one who started it, but he's the one who made it a tradition."

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