If you are currently known by both your real name and the name ‘Mr Schnuggly Wuggly’, then this may actually be harmful to your relationship in a number of ways. It seems like harmless (if embarrassing) fun, but actually research suggests that pet names may be damaging to the way you see and communicate with your partner.
The idea behind pet names is innocent enough – the main reason we use them is usually that we’re fond of our loved one and because we want to demonstrate that. Unfortunately, this can have unforeseen consequences that manifest themselves in a number of ways.
The Way You See Your Partner
One of the ways that a pet name can influence your relationship for instance is by changing the way you view your partner. If you’ve ever heard someone say that you ‘suit’ your name, it’s actually because our names change the way we think about someone. If someone is called ‘John’ then this is going to have different associations and implications for us than if they were called ‘Ted’. These connections are informed by society, experience and a basic synaesthesia that we all share and they can colour our perception in a number of ways.
If your partner knows you as ‘Sweetie Moose Pie’ then, this is going to instantly change the way they see you. They may not mean it to happen but suddenly you’ll become a loveable, cuddly character in their eyes which is all good and well until you want to be taken seriously or until they’re talking about you to their friends. These kinds of names hardly ooze sex appeal, and when it comes to ‘keeping the passion alive’ (let alone the respect) they may actually be counter-productive. Particularly when the names are actually ‘playfully’ insulting (Mr Fart Bottom does not sound sexy).
The Way You See Your Relationship
Using pet names may also trivialise your entire relationship such that you stop taking it as seriously. According to studies, many women will use nicknames to describe men they have a crush on to their friends in order to create emotional distance and prevent things from feeling too serious too early on. At first they’re ‘Hot Mechanic Guy’, until they’ve been dating for a while and then they become ‘Frank’. The point is that using a pet name may mean that you don’t view the relationship quite as seriously, even if you didn’t consciously start using the term for that reason. Most women can’t see themselves becoming ‘Mrs Bunny’ someday…
Emotionally Blackmailing Miss Wigglebelly
Pet names can also be used almost as a form of emotional blackmail. If you do something to annoy your partner and they look up at you with big, sad eyes and say ‘Mrs Love Squirrel… ??’ then chances are that you’ll cave in and do what they want. This can pretty quickly start sounding needy and irritating and it’s another way that the once-cute pet name can become toxic.
Then there’s the fact that pet names can be disgusting and cringe worthy. If you often rub noses with your partner in public while going ‘oogly googly woogly bear’ at them, then you’re going to make everyone hurl up their dinner. More to the point, there’s a good chance you’re also embarrassing your partner even if they seem happy to go along with it at first and this is something that will obviously put pressure on your relationship. It can become a habit to call someone by their pet name, but if your partner begins to associate that with embarrassment they may come to resent it and to resent you as a result…
Of course that is assuming that you find a pet name that you both like and there are actually a lot of politics at work when it comes to the choice of a pet name too. In fact, some couples can feel quite a lot of pressure when it comes to choosing a pet name. You know – when your friends in relationships all have super-cute nicknames for each other and you’re still trying out awkward names that never quite fit. Sometimes it can be so bad that you assume there must be something wrong with your relationship because you just can’t find a natural pet name that seems to fit. Obviously though this is ridiculous if you really think about it.
This can then result in an even worse scenario – where you try to force an awkward pet name into the relationship that you both know isn’t quite working. Your partner is likely to go along with it but every time they do they’ll wonder if they’re also just ‘going along’ with the relationship.
So No More Captain Snuggle Pants?
Of course all this doesn’t mean that there’s never any place for a pet name in a relationship, and when used correctly they can be a nice way to show affection and work as a nice little ‘in joke’ that will make you feel closer. The secret though is to treat the pet name carefully and not to force or overdo it. Never try to consciously create a pet name because it just won’t stick, and then when you do, make sure you don’t use it all the time and that you keep it as a private thing between you and your partner.