real life

Lovey-dovey nicknames: secret relationship killers. Fact.

Baby. Honey. Sexy. Sweetie. Pumpkin. Chances are if you’re in a relationship, you’re also in the habit of using a nickname to refer to your significant other.

But if recent studies are anything to go by, it might be time to come up with a pet name that’s a little more original than “sweetie”, or else revert back to plain old John. (Or whatever his or her real name is. Don’t be weird about it.)

Yep, relationship experts have sussed out the type of nicknames that actually harm relationships — and today, we’ve broken down the research so you can sort-of-scientifically determine whether your lovey-dovey pet name is killing your love.

It may be time to come up with a pet name that’s a little more original than “sweetie”, or else revert back to using his or her real name…

Couples of Australia, you’re welcome.

“Honey”, “muffin” and other passion-killers.

Maggie Arana, co-author with Julienne Davis of Stop Calling Him Honey…and Start Having Sex!, argues pet names can be a passion-dampener.

She told science journalist Elizabeth Landau of Scientific American that couples can improve their sex lives by dropping the pet names — and she warns that not-so-sexy names like “honey” can contribute to “roommate syndrome”, where a relationship slides from passion into a more platonic bond.

Related content: Do you have a pet name for your partner?

Arana adds that calling your partner by his or her first name can also work to reignite the sexy times.

“When you don’t call your spouse ever by his or her name, I think you can run into trouble,” she said.  “If you’re calling each other Muffin, for example, it’s really hard to go from Muffin to having sex.”

The experts don’t all agree on this one, though. Pat Love, co-author of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, says it can be a red flag if  your partner stops calling you by your pet name. “It’s like calling a naughty kid by his full name. It sends the signal ‘I’m not being intimate with you anymore,” he says, as Women’s Health reports.

“Muffin”: not so sexy.

Unique nicknames.

Other studies have shown that in the language of love, nicknames work to bond relationships — but only if they’re original enough.

A famous old study by Carol Bruess and Judy Pearson examined the relationship between nicknames and the satisfaction of 154 married couples, and found that “idiosyncratic communication” — including coded talk and nicknames — was linked with marital satisfaction.


Related content: Unique baby names 

“You are saying, symbolically, that you care enough about the other person and the relationship to develop your own way of speaking,” Dr Bruess, now the director of family studies at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota, explained of the phenomenon. “You’ve got your own private world, your own mini culture,” she said, as Women’s Health reports.

One study found that women use idiosyncratic nicknames more than men.

Another study by Dr Catherine Morelock found in 2005 that women use idiosyncratic nicknames more than men — and that “idiosyncratic communication was overwhelmingly perceived as having a positive impact on the relationship, independent of frequency of use.”

Such communication, which includes quirky nicknames, is also linked by the study to “feelings of closeness, knowledge of one’s partner, feelings of fondness and admiration, bids for connection, and repair attempts”.

Baby talk.

Baby talk — the use of a changed, often higher voice to talk to their partners — is a feature of many a nickname-heavy relationship. But does it spell happy news for couples, or the kiss of death?

Researcher Amanda Gesselman says baby talk “seems to be a way to strengthen an emotional bond between relationship partners”.

Experts at Indiana University’s The Kinsey Institute conducted a study of about 500 participants in relationships. While their research hasn’t yet been published, postdoctoral research fellow Amanda Gesselman says it found that such talk — which she calls “loverese” — “seems to be a way to strengthen an emotional bond between relationship partners”.

She told Landau that reduced relationship satisfaction correlates with the tapering off of baby talk.

“It appears to be a normal, healthy thing for couples who are very into each other, and satisfied and passionate toward each other,” she says. “When it starts to taper off, people tend to be less satisfied.

“It doesn’t mean that being satisfied stops the baby talk (or vice versa). They both seem to be declining together.Related content:8 unique date ideas you need to try. 

 So, what pet names do you and your partner use?