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The Secret Ways You Say "I Love You"

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Code makes asking for affection less scary.

It's little wonder that so many of us have a signal or password that means, "Action, please!" "Sex makes us more vulnerable than almost anything else," Love points out. After all, being turned down for sex can make anyone feel inadequate, rejected, or undesirable. "But when you have a code or cue," she continues, "it takes away that awkward negotiation and paves the way for true intimacy. It provides an easy way for your partner to say no without it seeming like a big deal."

And these cues do more than subtly get your point across - they help get both parties in the proper frame of mind. It makes sense: If you consistently associate a word or signal with sex - such as if your sex shorthand is "Orlando," because that was the site of your first overnight together - with time, that word or signal alone can actually get you both fired up. That's the case with Christi Mann, 25, and her husband, Dave. "I have a shirt that I put on when I want to get frisky - it's a gray tank top with a little bunny on it," says Christi. "Now, every time I put it on, it drives him crazy!"

You can use code to say "Truce!"

The first thing Wendy Alli ever said to her husband-to-be when she saw him sitting three bar stools away was, "Want a chip?" She instantly felt stupid, but it started a conversation that started a real-life love story. And the phrase now saves the Spring Hill, FL, pair from letting silly fights get in the way of their good thing. "When we get a little frustrated with each other, one of us will say, 'Want a chip?' and it brings us back to that moment when we first met," reports Wendy, 33. "It always makes us laugh!"

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.

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