The Science Behind Why We Use Certain Relationship Tics To Relieve Tension
When you hear the word "tic," you may think of two things: Avril Lavigne and her bout with Lyme disease, or the habitual behaviors nervous children have, like always sitting in a certain seat or clicking their tongues before speaking.
But what about relationship tics?
Believe it or not, there is such a thing.
“Relationships tics” can be described as the patterns of behavior used by couples to relieve tension, feel closer to one another and dissolve fights. We may fall into the habit of these tics for a myriad of reasons, including feeling comfortable, being part of an inside joke or, sadly, because the tics are the only things holding the relationship together.
Say, for example, you feel as though it’s time to end your relationship. You may keep putting it off and pushing your true feelings aside, all because the thought of never having these patterns of behavior (like baby talk) scares you.
It keeps you holding on because now, there is something to hold onto.
If you’re scratching your head at all this (and hopefully not from actual nervous tics), here’s a breakdown of common relationship tics you didn’t realize you were using:
1. Baby Talk
Cuddle muffin. Snuggle bunny. Bebe. Sugar tits.
These are all “cutesy” names that make couples in love go "awww" and make bitter, single folks cover their mouths to stop from gagging.
Clearly, it can go either way on the spectrum. But what remains clear is this relationship tic is a common one, used mainly in two situations: while feeling deeply in love or whilst needing to relieve tension.
According to Psychology Today, baby talk has a lot to do with our early experiences of feeling loved by our parents. It also involves the releasing of different neurotransmitters.
These include dopamine, which activates the brain’s reward centers; phenylethylamine, which is the love chemical that gives us a rush; and oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” It bonds us with others and is often released when a couple is affectionate.
With regard to the nitty-gritty details of relationships, though, baby talk can be used as a way to boost your bond with your partner and feel as though you are part of an “inside joke.”
During fights, you may also find yourself resorting to this habitual tic as a way to end them.
It serves as a tension-fixer during a heated argument by giving you both something to laugh at. It is a declaration that you no longer want to fight.
Emojis fall under this too. A fight over text may be halted simply by someone sending an emoji of a monkey covering its eyes or a penis-shaped eggplant.
2. Lying (To Get What You Want)
To me, a Saturday morning isn’t complete unless I’m up super early and off to get all my errands done.
My boyfriend, however, does not share in this feeling.
Because of this, I’ve resorted to finding rather manipulative ways to get him out of the house. In the past, I’ve promised him a surprise and ignored his attempts to find out where we were going, only for him to realize that -- ta da! -- my “big” surprise was a trip to the grocery store.
After doing this many times, I finally realized this was a relationship tic -- one I wasn’t even subconsciously aware I was doing.
According to PsychCentral, finding sneaky ways to get what you want as an adult in a relationship is similar to what a child does to get his or her way. It’s a trial-and-error process, one that involves lying and feelings of fear.
I had been doing the same thing habitually, and all because I had learned from experience that asking him to do something he didn’t want to do often resulted in a fight.
So, as the sad result, I lied to coax him into doing what I wanted.
When Carrie from “Sex And The City” dated Jack Berger, they fought a lot. So much so that in order to stop a fight, they invented what they called a Hollywood Kiss.
Whenever an argument got too heated, they would kiss like they were in an old Hollywood movie.
While it was cute, using affection like this has become a go-to quick fix for resolving fights, instead of using what really matters: communication.
Make-up sex is another well-known relationship tic. Couples rely on it to mark the end of a fight and may even initiate sex during a fight, just so they can dissolve the tension once and for all.
While Psychology Today suggests responding warmly can help dissolve a fight, using sex or other forms of affection as a way to get what you want is rather manipulative.
So the next time you want to end a fight by sending an eggplant, penis-shaped emoji, just be aware of what relationship tics you may be picking up.