Sappy relationship tropes generally aren’t my thing, and I’m certainly not into Instagram PDA—or IRL PDA, for that matter. In fact, I’ve been known to audibly gag when I see a couple savagely making out on a street corner, and it makes my skin crawl whenever I hear a pair communicating via baby talk when no child is in sight. No one, I contend, wants to see it or hear it!
But there is one icky-by-my-own-standards relationship behavior I myself tend to fall into with just about every partner I start to catch feelings for. And that, friends, is the pet name. Once I get comfortable with a man I’m dating, the nicknames just start flowing out, unconsciously, like a romantic tick.
My usual suspects are “babe” and “doll” (“baby” and “daddy” are gross, so I never go there). And while I see myself slide into pet-name territory as a compelling sign that I’m warming up to the person in question, the practice isn’t just reserved for romantic partners. My platonic pals get ’em too—“kitten” and “sweets” are some stellar terms of friendship endearment in my lexicon.
Calling a partner “sweet cheeks” may actually be code for—or even a more romantic way of saying—“our relationship is progressing to a point where I feel comfortable letting my guard down around you.”
Are you annoyed with me yet? Well, if you are, consider switching over to the pet-name-accepting team, because there’s science to back up habit. A survey conducted by Superdrug—a United Kingdom-based health and beauty store—of more than 1,000 people in the United States and Europe found that couples who used pet names were more likely to be satisfied with their relationships than couples who didn’t. In fact, there was an increase of 9 percent satisfaction among Europeans surveyed and 16 percent with those in the U.S. when pet names were used. So peppering your date-night chatter with a “honey” or “sweetie” might actually lead to you both feeling happier and more secure in your relationships. Who knew?
Granted, the survey selection was small, but it does point to the idea that our comfort levels in relationships influence our language in relationships. So calling a partner “sweet cheeks” may actually be code for—or even a more romantic way of saying—“our relationship is progressing to a point where I feel comfortable letting my guard down around you.” And I think that’s pretty special.
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