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Please No “Bun Bun” Or “Cutie Patootie” In My Office

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I am beginning to like this author, Mary Jo Rapina. She is funny. We have all met one of these couples. Search the net for some of the text and you will find the complete text and web site of the author.

Please No “Bun Bun” Or “Cutie Patootie” In My Office

It happened again. A couple came in with intimacy issues and had just sit down when the 6'8'' very hairy, masculine man turned to his wife and said in a baby voice, “Cutie patootie, did you remember the check book?” She said in a baby voice, “Oh no, Bun Bun, I thought you had it.” Okay, forget the part that I may not get paid, this baby talk has got to stop. I have a rule in my office. NO BABY TALK. Tell me your problem, as honestly as you can, but please say it in an adult voice with adult words. My head was hurting at this point, and I let out a small sigh. It was going to be a long session.

Research actually has proven that as we are together in a relationship for a long period of time, we begin talking like each other. In fact, it's not that we are looking more alike, it's that we begin to express ourselves more alike verbally, and that's why we get expression lines on our faces in the same places. This process is called LSM or “language style matching.” Dr. Christos Ballas, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, specializes in forensics and notes that couples often respond similarly, depending on the tone of the conversations with their loved ones. So when one smiles, the other smiles, and over time they develop similar lines on their faces. Ballas goes on to say that if a man begins dressing in a style similar to his wife, it is usually because he has stopped buying clothes and is adapting to his wife's style. It is all part of mimicking the partner they are involved with.

When couples begin mimicking each other with speech patterns, Ballas says it's because they are naturally adapting to each other. It's a power play. The person who needs something is usually the one to adapt. So I am not sure who needed something - Bun Bun or Cutie Patootie - but I do know they adapted. Even though it is irksome, it usually means they are connected. James Pennebaker and Molly Ireland published an article in The Journal of Personality and Social Behavior which looked at two famous couples who wrote poetry. They found that at the happiest points in the relationships, the couples styles were also the most similar. The adapter changes so both feel more understood. Ballas says talking to babies is the same way. We are trying to make the baby understand us. We regress to what we think the baby's level of understanding is.

When couples use baby names, such as the ones mentioned above, it can be embarrassing for others watching. I don't know what to do with Cutie Patootie, but I do know what to do with, “Did you remember the checkbook,” and “No, I am sorry I thought you had it.” That level of communicating tells me these are two adults, and they are ready to deal with the issue. Baby talk tells me that a couple may have difficulty saying what they really mean. They may regress when they are angry and resort to childlike ways. Therefore, I prefer if everyone uses grown-up words, and tries to be candid with their thoughts without being caustic. I have a few other suggestions that may help you match your language styles and also deal with the real issues in your relationship:

1. Hold hands whenever possible. This tells your partner you are present.
2. Instead of baby talk, try “classical sleaze” and say it in private. As a woman, I don't want to be called a “Cutie Patootie,” However, I might go for “Hottie Patotie.” (Of course, I am kidding. Mary Jo works well for me, and most women and men like hearing their name.)
3. Tell each other when they do something that makes you feel special.
4. Watch movies together and enjoy the way each other laughs.
5. Spend time together on Saturday morning or Friday night talking about interesting things you have seen or heard.
6. Ask your partner why they love you…then mimic that for them.

Just as my baby talk couple was leaving, we shook hands and he put his arm around his wife and said in this deep, baby voice, “Ready to go big Moo-Moo Mama?” I watched her face to see a big grin. This behavior was not going to be extinguished any time soon. Personally, I think “Bun Bun” deserved a night in the barn.

about the author
Mary Jo Rapini is a psychotherapist specializing in intimacy and relationships. She works in Houston, Texas at Methodist Hospital, maintains a private practice, is a renowned lecturer, author and frequent contributor in the media.
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What do you think she would say about this line?  "Baby, play your cards right and this could all be yours one day."

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The author has a way with words! Enjoyed reading this. I will have to look her up. Thanks!