Pet names aren’t for everyone. Some people find them patronizing. Others find them straight-up creepy. Whenever a partner uses a term of endearment with me for the first time, I always feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but I know that’s not the case for everyone. There’s no right answer for when to start calling someone babe, sweetie, hun, cutie, or any other romantic nickname, and it’s possible you and your SO decide not to do pet names at all. But if you are tempted to start calling someone babe, then there are a few questions you should ask yourself first.
According to experts, pet names aren't super important in making a relationship last, but they can make it more fun. "Pet names can be a great way for couples to get closer because they are generally used in secret since most other people won't realize the reference of the pet name," psychologist Denise Limongello previously told Elite Daily. "The secrecy of pet names is what gives couples the thrill of having something that is uniquely their own, which can build intimacy and closeness." Whether you choose a nickname based off an inside joke or go with a standard pet name like “babe,” you should consider these questions before using it on the reg.
What Do You Want To Call Them?
Babe may be the go-to for cute SO nicknames, but you aren’t limited to commonly used pet names. If you're stumped on what nicknames to try, start out with something low-stakes and common like "babe," and if you want something more unique, consider things that you really enjoy or have in common. What food do you both love? Do they remind you of a certain fuzzy animal? What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of them? The possibilities are endless!
What Did Their Past Partners Call Them?
Before you try using “babe” or any other nickname for the first time, it might be helpful to know what their old flames used to call them. If that ex who broke their heart used to call them babe, then it’s probs best to steer away from that one and try another pet name. As clinical psychologist Carly Claney, Ph.D., previously suggested, “Focus on one or two names that you want to use, and explore with your partner what kind of associations they may have with those words — they may be resistant because of past experiences or negative associations from media or previous relationships.”
What Do You Want To Be Called?
Chances are, if you give your boo a nickname, then you’re going to want a nickname, too. And while they may start using the same nickname you use (like “babe”), it’s possible they don’t, and yes, it’s OK to ask them if they will. "You can always ask your partner to call you 'babe'," relationship and etiquette expert April Masini previously told Elite Daily. "A direct request is easy to accommodate. There’s no wondering. If you’re clear, then it gives your partner an opportunity to please you." And if you’d rather be called something besides babe, then just let them know.
Claney recommended bringing up your desire to start using nicknames with your partner and focusing on the positive way it makes you feel. "You can even start by telling them that being called certain names make you feel special, loved, playful, or appreciated," she said. "And this communication will help explain the 'why' behind your request to use pet names in the relationship. Hopefully, in understanding how this makes you happy, your partner will attempt to reciprocate."
Will They Like Using Pet Names?
While the idea of calling each other “babe” may totally appeal to you, it’s important to understand why pet names may be difficult for your partner to start using. "Not everyone is comfortable with verbal displays of affection," Masini previously explained. "If you and your partner grew up in families who called each other 'babe' and other terms of endearment, doing so will come naturally. But if your partner did not grow up in that type of community or family, it may seem like fingernails on a chalkboard to hear that endearment come out of his or her mouth."
If the nickname you choose for your partner doesn’t go over well, then try another, or ask your partner directly if there is something they wouldn’t mind (or would even like!) to be called. "The most important thing in a relationship is that you both feel comfortable and secure in your expressions of affection," Masini added. If your partner isn't on board with the term "babe," then you can find another way to connect. Good luck, babe!
Denise Limongello, psychologist
Carly Claney, Ph.D., clinical psychologist
April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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