Why Pet Names For Our Lovers Are Such Powerful Messages Of Desire

Express your love and affection through pet names.

happy man and woman getty

Popular music has used pet names for lovers over decades.

For example, the lyrics "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" used in the song "I Can’t Help Myself" by the Four Tops is my favorite and certainly gets me dancing and singing and in the mood.

"I Can't Help Myself" is one of the most well-known Motown recordings of the 1960s and among the decade's biggest hits.

Though I’ve always noticed these terms of endearment — pet names — in songs, it wasn’t until recently when asked about terms of endearment that I really hadn’t taken the time to look into the data on this common practice in couples.


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Pet names for lovers are one of the most powerful ways to express desire and contentment.

This data is quite fascinating. Worldwide, terms of endearment with loved ones and objects of affection seem to be a common practice.


So, I was curious.

Do all couples do it? How old is the custom?

I was shocked to find more than I realized. As a matter of fact, this practice has spanned over eons.

Yale Ph.D. graduate Pepper Schwartz, who co-authored a book called The Normal Bar interviewed 100,000 participants worldwide.

Of those in the U.S., over two-thirds used pet names and, of those, three-fourths reported being very happy in their relationships.

In the book, Schwartz believes that pet names are important shorthands for affection, especially for those who don't get enough of it. It makes up for not hearing someone talk about how wonderful they really are.

"It may be easier for someone to say, ‘Hey babe, you look great,’ than, ‘I love you," says Schwartz.


Some pet names have faded away in time and even changed meaning.

For example, in the mid-1500s, "bully" was a term for a good friend or a sweetheart.

In current times, the word has a totally different meaning as "a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable."

Certain terms of endearment from back then are still being used now. For example, "sweetheart" dates back to the 1290s, "honey" from the mid-1500s, and "sugar" from the 1930s.

Another study done in 1993 involved the participation of 150 couples, ranging from "newly married" to "married over 50 years." Based on Spanier's Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the couples were asked about idioms or nicknames they used within their marriage.


The study found that, "the hypothesis that satisfied husbands and wives report more idioms than unsatisfied spouses was supported. Results also suggest that spouses' use of idioms declines over the life cycle.”

Using pet names for our loved ones lets them know that we adore them.

In my relationship experience, I use pet names. It's a sign of happiness and contentment for me. I have not had a partner that didn’t like pet names.

Though I have to admit, I’m always the one that starts using the pet names first. I’ve had pleasant responses from those I love when using terms of endearment — and not just lovers, my daughters, and pets.

I’ll be honest, the pet names I use aren’t very original, but they are dear to me and those I love.


I’ve heard some very interesting pet names in my life and some make me giggle or cringe and think, "I’d never call my lover that name." It’s a personal preference and something that should make the person respond positively.

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Couples should discuss pet names first. 

As cute and admiring as these terms are from my experience as a dating and relationship coach, this is something that couples need to actually discuss and test out.

Discuss it during pleasant and happy moments in a relaxed, light, and jovial way. Pillow talk is usually a great time to bring up these subjects.

For example, "Umm, babe, this feels good snuggled up with you like this. Do you like it when I call you babe?"


This opens up the topic for further discussion. Certainly, respecting the person’s feelings when using pet names is of uppermost importance.

Keep in mind how pet names were used in past relationships, in case your partner feels triggered by using a specific pet name. It could bring up unpleasantness or trigger them negatively.

Pet names shouldn’t be used to tease or to send covert mixed signals.

Pet names are a sign of happiness in relationships shown by their widespread use over the centuries.


You're never too old to hear sweet adoring pet names. They may even keep the passion and positive tension in your relationship alive.

Pet names are like secret codes to elicit desire when no one else knows what they mean. Together with body language, you have the ingredients for a hot steamy encounter.

The research shows that more often than not, people enjoy hearing cute, sexy, and admiring pet names from their lovers. It’s a sign of happiness.

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Lisa Hawkins is a certified life coach, certified cognitive-behavioral therapy coach, and a dating and relationship coach. She has 26 years of experience in personal growth and development, psychology, and human behavior with an emphasis on relationships, which includes the most important one: with yourself. For more information, visit her website.