Using your own made-up language with your partner is an indication that a couple has a strong and exclusive bond. So says Mary Johnston, Specialist in Counselling with Accord, on Drivetime, to the sceptically listening Sarah and Cormac.
Apparently married couples have been posting videos on TikTok with the hashtag #MarriageLanguage, which show the secret words and phrases they have developed between themselves over the years. Is this necessary in a relationship, is the question Sarah put to Mary and, well, yes, is the answer Mary came up with:
"Yes, it is, I mean it's common and it’s inevitable. It’s something probably that’s gone on – it's nothing new, but I suppose it’s new up on social media now, but couples do have pet names for one another that, you know, they may or may not share or others may or may not become aware of."
There’s a study out that says this kind of private language within a relationship indicates more relationship satisfaction, Mary says. Eager to prove the point, Sarah told Mary that the other night she and her husband both used the same phrase in response to something and then followed that up with a second response that was also exactly the same. So, not exactly a private language then, more perhaps a nascent hive mind. Or as Mary puts it:
"Sometimes in a relationship we can influence one another and maybe you’re becoming a little more alike in terms of the language and the sentence structure you’re using."
The article in the New York Times that inspired this discussion states that most people give their partner affectionate nicknames and as many as two thirds of couples use "romantic baby talk" to signal closeness. This is too much for Cormac, who rumbles his displeasure and sounds like someone who just wants to make it stop. But Mary continues:
"And it says marriage language is the natural extension of these behaviours and... It says happier couples are more likely to have their own dictionary of secret words and nicknames, indicative of the exclusive bond they share, no less."
Mary says that marriage language can be similar to the language parents use for their children when they’re babies, full of made-up and words and fond little phrases. But there’s a little bit of a difference:
"There’s the language that’s, you know, the names for things that they have in common that don’t make sense to other people and then there’s maybe the words and phrases they use towards one another to indicate their closeness and their tenderness for one another. So there’s a slight difference there."
Sarah, sounding less and less convinced by the passing second then reads out what could be described as something that maybe should not be shared with the outside world unless the intention is to draw ridicule upon oneself:
"I’ve got another sentence here: 'Darl, can you grab the pinger, then go and tell the munches the microwavies just dinged for the pops.’ And I’ll give you the translation, right? ‘Darling, can you grab the TV remote, then go and tell the children their popcorn is ready.’"
Is it a shorthand, does it save time? No, not really. Is it inscrutable to the outside world? Probably. Does it sound at all intimate? No, no it doesn’t. Cormac is not impressed with the sharing of these secret words and Mary, who’s all for so-called marriage language (within reason), docks Sarah points for her performance of the pinger monologue.
You can hear the full #MarriageLanguage conversation on Drivetime by clicking above.