Code Words for Couples

Simone Koger, MA, LMFTA, CGP



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Sometimes it can be hard to communicate with a spouse when we are juggling so many life things. Work, school, life transitions, or just getting too stuck into a normative routine can all slowly create lack-luster practices of communication with the people we interact with the most.

A cool couples counseling tool to help support rebuilding communication is code words. Now I know what you might be thinking, aren't code words for kids or the military? Well they can be- but we can also use them wisely in couples work.

Code words can be used to help say things without FULLY saying them.

When privacy is not a luxury we have. Whether it is a public space, parenting, being around other people or just not feeling comfortable saying in out loud yet- code words can signal a deeper meaning.

Try choosing a word that is not utilized in your daily life.

For this example, let's say you are new parents & your kids ears are around. Maybe you are trying to work on your intimacy with each other and need a code word so you can get the kids in bed to have alone time. Yes, the kids might start using the code word if they hear it enough- but that is a lot easier than trying to talk romantically to your partner while you avoid stepping on legos.

In our next example, maybe you are processing your own mental health symptoms and get overstimulated sometimes. When triggers push us to dissociate or start to curl into ourselves- it is important to let your partner know what you are battling internally so they don't misread your body language or responses as irritation. Maybe try a code word that relays- I need to go take a few deep breaths, or I need to leave, or I think I am getting overstimulated right now. That way your partner can turn towards you with understanding.

Finally, maybe you are fighting and you are trying to implement Fair Fighting Rules. Part of this is being able to step away to take a mini-break so you can resume discussing the topic without adrenaline clouding your judgement. Code words can help you both feel less attacked. Rather than saying, "I just need a break from you" or another phrase that adds to the defensiveness, using a code word has a tone of teamwork- that while we are at a disagreement, we are going to work through it together.

Relationships are about teamwork.

You are both unique individuals, and that makes your relationship the only one of it's kind in the WORLD! Because you two (or more) are the only "you's" on Earth. Figuring out the cycles, communication patterns, code words, and functions that work for your connection is essential.

For more readings on Couple's & Code Words:

10 Secret Codes Long-Term Couples Have

LOVE LANGUAGE: Why You Guys Need a Secret Couples Code

Secret Words

Gottman's 3 Skills for Intimate Conversation