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Bruess and Pearson found that idiosyncratic communication is associated with marital satisfaction and couples in their first five years of marriage without children reported using the most idioms.
But rather than these private words and phrases dying off over time, Bruess thinks that they become so ingrained in a relationship that long-term married couples may stop recognizing them as special.
But from what has been studied, and from the experience of several experts, it seems nicknames can be a good thing for a relationship – if both partners are into it. Plenty of my friends have developed nicknames with their romantic partners.
I asked the question on Facebook and got a broad assortment of answers: There’s a husband and wife called “Nerk(le) and (Milk)Dud,” a dating couple called “Sweefy and Darsh,” and former boyfriends who knew each other as “Tiger and Teddy.” An American man who dated a Chinese woman told me he called her “Popo,”,which means “wife” or “broken broken,” depending on your intonation – and she called him “Benben,” which he says means something like “dumb dumb,” referring to his lackluster mastery of the Chinese language at the time.
“It’s just a human way of expressing love,” she says.
“If we can’t laugh at ourselves and with each other in the relationship, we’re less likely to sustain that relationship in a positive way over time,” she says. That sounds like a high correlation, too, but gives me pause as a science writer because the survey did not use randomized sampling to find participants.
There seem to be a variety of languages with pet names, too.
According to the website of the popular language-learning software Rosetta Stone, the French say “Mon Petit Chou” (my little cabbage or cream puff), the Russians say “Vishenka” (cherry), the Dutch call girlfriends “Dropje” (candy) and in Brazil you can say “Meu Chuchu,” where “chuchu” is a vegetable.
I began to wonder: Is there any science behind using pet names?
Is it a mark of a healthy relationship, or unhealthy?
Are couples who give each other names, ranging from the generic “Honey” and “Sweetie” to the creative “Loopy Lop,” more likely to stay together?