Anyone in a relationship or around one long enough soon realizes there are times couples speak their own secret language. Sometimes it's a private vocabulary that makes no sense to eavesdroppers but somehow perfectly communicates between the couples without question. In other instances, words aren't necessary at all, and it seems like a simple look or gesture is a full-blown sonnet (or dirty joke) from across the dinner table. Couples do a lot of strange things behind closed doors, but many of their idiosyncrasies occur in plain sight, they're just not easily interpreted by onlookers.
When you're coupled up, you change in a lot of ways, constantly influenced and affected by one another, eventually adopting each other's mannerisms and quirks. Nicknames and special words create intimacy and cement memories, and eventually develop into a dialect all their own, only decipherable to the shared mind of that couple. There has been correlation between the number and usage of couples' "secret words" and how happy they are, since the special communication reflects bonding and intimacy.
When we first meet a new person, we self-censor, but with time we let our guards down and become more open. With our significant others, this change is markedly different from other relationships. Our intense intimacy makes our coming into our own that much more sincere, and our glimpses into each other's "secret selves" allow us to create a shared identity, complete with its own lexicon and social rules. This explains the uncanny ability couples have to communicate without making sense or without saying words at all, and here are 12 times you've encountered it.
1. When you say "I love you" with just a look
Whether it's during the silence after pillow talk or out in public when you two meet eyes, you share a look that's as good as saying "I love you" out loud. Maybe it's accompanied by a nose nuzzle, or a simple hand squeeze, but the look could say it all without a word or physical gesture. There's a warmth in your expression whether your lips give in to a smile, and your eyes soften when they meet your partner's gaze. As much as you may verbally tell them every day just how much you care, it's these intimate moments of silence that strengthen that assurance.
2. When you text
If you scroll through the text history you have with your significant other, it will become evident quite quickly that how you two type to one another is not quite "normal," whether it's your use of acronyms that don't actually exist or your creative license with emojis. Sure, you're two articulate, well-educated individuals in daily life, but when it comes to your text thread, you write with a blatant disrespect for the rules of the English language. Whatever your "thing" is, you two almost can't help but revert to it every time it comes to texting each other. If ever someone reads over your shoulder, they have no idea what's going on.
3. When you use physical gestures instead of words
Actions speak louder than words, and the two of you have an arsenal of peculiarities that may seem odd to others, but are what make you tick. While many of us might cross our hearts with our loved ones, we also do things like make a half-heart with one hand that connects with theirs as we're parting ways, or dramatically act out a pinky promise to show solidarity from the other side of the room. You have your specific way of snuggling — you know exactly who's big spoon and what nights call for a pretzel-like cuddle session or a simple side-by-side caress.
4. When what you're saying doesn't entirely make sense but you both understand it perfectly
The longer we're with someone, the weirder we get. As we feel more comfortable with one another we become more candid, and even begin subconsciously adjusting our speech patterns to build a more unified partnership. Along with these subtle changes that make communication more fluid, we start developing our own private vocabulary. Eventually, the way we convey things and how we express ourselves to one another becomes so embedded in the unique communication methods we've established that they're almost indecipherable to everyone else.
5. When you don't even have to ask
As trust builds in the relationship, we begin to let our guard down and be more honest in our actions. We know our partner's likes and dislikes and how to interact without causing drama or discord. You know you can reach over for their fries even though you ordered a salad and you always save the last bite of salmon sashimi for them because it's their favorite and they don't even have to ask.
6. When you know exactly what it takes to make each other laugh
You were first attracted to each other because of the ease of conversation and your similar sense of humor, but the longer you've been together the more in sync you are in terms of getting each other to laugh. Just like your private vocabulary, you develop your own inside jokes that continue to build and get better with time. Eventually you may forget the origins of some of your favorites, but they're entrenched in your relationship and will never get old or die out.
7. When you dance like no one's watching
Even if dancing's not your forte, you've developed your own special way to move together on the dance floor. Once your favorite song comes on there's no stopping you two, and the magic takes over, no matter who's among the onlookers.
8. When you know your teamwork is making the dream work
Happy couples are couples that feel like they're on the same team, rooting for each other's successes and celebrating each other's triumphs. The secret language here is the almost telepathic transferral of emotions in a way that pumps you up every time you support each other. When your partner is in the middle of a job interview, you might as well be there too because you can hardly focus on anything else. You're sending positive vibes the whole time and repeating "you can do it" in your head as if it were yourself in the hot seat. If you just scored a great promotion, your significant other is even more excited than you are, and spends the next five days calling you by your new title.
9. When you know the other is feeling down
Even if no tears are shed and no words admit that anything's wrong, you know immediately if something is off with the person you love. You catch on before anyone that not all is right and know just how to make it better. You know if your partner prefers not to talk about it right away, but you offer a hug before they can even know they need one. While you can't always pinpoint the cause of the sadness, you know just how to approach figuring it out while still respecting their space and giving them time to talk.
10. When you know each other's fears
At some point in your relationship you might discuss your particular phobias, but most often you'll learn from experience. While some may seem comical initially, when fear does set in, you rush to be there for them, whether it's comforting, reassuring, or taking out the spider that made its way into the tub. Even when we share the same fears, seeing your partner in distress makes you want to step up to the plate to save the day. We find strength in supporting one another and push ourselves through our own anxieties so we can protect the ones we love.
11. When you push each other's buttons in the cutest way
You may have had flirting down from the get-go, but it's only gotten better now that you know each other better. Now you can walk that fine line between teasing amicably and getting on their nerves, and you walk that line all the time. Sure, sometimes one of you takes it too far, or someone reacts poorly because they weren't in the right mood, but at the end of it all, you still find the antics endearing, even if a little annoying.
12. When you feel like it's the two of you against the world
There's no power move quite like being beside your significant other and feeling like you're taking on the world together. You might just be maneuvering through a packed grocery store — he pushes through the insane line while you rush around grabbing everything you guys need — or making a pact to give up late night social media by reading your respective novels side by side in bed, knowing at the end of your reading hour you'll share the latest development in each of your choice reads instead of separately scrolling through Instagram. When hardships come your way, you face them together, and you see challenges between you two as opportunities to learn and strengthen your relationship. In trying times you give the side eye and a nod, telling each other "I got you, babe" and facing whatever comes next.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast,I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.
Images: Oleksii Karamanov/Tetra images/Getty Images; Giphy (12)