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The Secret Ways You Say "I Love You"

You can use code to say "Truce!" continued...

No matter what your twist on "Want a chip?" is, having a lighthearted white-flag phrase or signal breaks the tense mood, helping you remember the big picture ("We're great together!") rather than the little issue at hand ("He used up my $30 conditioner!"). "Humor and teasing can be a powerful tool for defusing a charged interaction," explains Boxer. And it doesn't just help you in the moment: Research has shown that couples who use humor to alleviate tension and conflict have longer-lasting marriages than couples who don't.

Still, your truce code doesn't have to be a knee-slapper, as Kimberly Salem, 40, and her husband, Joe, of Proctorville, OH, have discovered. "We often forget how much we mean to each other in the midst of an argument," she says. "So we came up with a code that puts things into perspective: W.A.B., which stands for 'We Are Blessed.' It puts a smile on our faces every time."

Having a saying with personal meaning can even help you through really tough times. Nobody knows that better than Mandy Snyder, 29, and her fiancé, Ed Blank, 29. The Allison Park, PA, couple were trying to build a house, but "at every turn, we ran into difficulties," she says. "Around the same time, we watched the movie The Money Pit, and every time the main characters would ask a carpenter or plumber how long something would take, they got the same answer: 'Two weeks!' Now, any time one of us is getting too stressed, we'll smile at each other and say, 'Two weeks!' We always laugh and it draws us closer together."

Code Red

As long as you're not calling each other "Splenda lips" in front of the boss, there's little downside to using code. Of course, you don't want to communicate exclusively in a private pig latin, Love advises. "Remember there's a time and a place for deeper expressions," she says. "Make sure your connection is deeper than a catchphrase."

Here's one good sign that it is: Your secret signals keep the two of you feeling connected over time. "When we're at a party and someone else is talking too much, my husband and I will discreetly push our knees together and glance over at each other for a second," says Jade Woodson, 36, of River Rouge, MI. "For 20 years, it's let us know that we're both feeling the exact same way. It's sweet satisfaction to know that not only are we soul mates, but we're also still great friends."

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