When two people are in a relationship, it’s best that they feel comfortable around each other, that they can act and be their true selves. So, too, the names we tend to call our loved ones have to feel natural and true. I was once walking in a flea market many, many years ago and heard a woman refer to her husband/boyfriend as “Poo Bear.” This man stood over six feet tall, had several tattoos and a face that apparently only his mother and this woman could love. He looked nothing like a “Poo Bear,” but that was what she called him, and that’s the name he answered to. For whatever reason, she felt that that particular name suited him. But what if you don’t know what to call your significant other?
I recently became a kallah and it shocked me that my chasan wanted us to start calling each other by pet names when no one else is around. He likes calling me “Love” or “Babe.” It’s not something that I’m used to, because my parents don’t do that and I don’t think my siblings do (but I’m not sure what they call each other when they are home with their spouses – and I don’t want to think of it). I’m just a little uncomfortable. I asked my chasan what name he’d like me to call him. He said I have to decide. It has to come naturally for me; he can’t dictate a name. I’m not really sure. It doesn’t feel natural. Do I call him “Honey?” “Sweety?” I know this may sound like such a shallow problem, but I don’t want to ask a friend advice about this, because it’s personal. I’m writing to you because I can remain anonymous.
How do you feel about pet names?
Thank you for your email, No Name.
Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how I feel about nicknames or pet names because you and I are not in a relationship. As you said, it’s a personal issue, and this is between you and your chasan – and may it be the only issue you and your chasan have for many years to come.
I don’t think this is a “shallow problem,” as you put it. What is it that most of our teachers have told us throughout the years: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” If something is bothering you, do your best to find the answer, and who cares what others may think. Believe me, I have asked some pretty strange questions when I was in school because I was curious about the answer. Some snickered after I asked them. In graduate school, I actually turned around in my seat and said, “Great, pay me for being a stand-up comedienne and then leave. Obviously, you don’t care about the question, so you don’t need to hear the answer.” The person was actually a troublemaker in class, and a few, including the professor, laughed and applauded, but the point of the story is, I asked the question not caring what others thought. So, No Name, I, too, applaud you for asking about something that is bothering you.
Many feel that by calling one another a cute loving name when they are in a relationship brings the couple closer, and is an example of showing affection without actually showing affection (think PDA – public displays of affection – that you may see in the street). It makes the one using the name feel special, because he or she is the only one calling his or her partner by that name. “No one else can call her ‘Love” or “Babe” because we belong to each other. She is my Love.” I agree with your chasan: He can’t dictate what you call him; it has to come to you naturally. Since he has said this to you, can I guess that you may have broached this subject, of feeling uncomfortable about this with your chasan? I think communication is great. But let me ask you, do you want to have a marriage like your parents or siblings, or do you want to live your own life and have a marriage and life that you and your chasan create? You will find yourself doing things that your parents never did, at least to your knowledge, and at times think, “Oh, my goodness, I am my mother. This is exactly what she does.”
Shanah Rishonah is hard, because you need to get used to living with someone and learning to love or just to put up with all of his or her habits. It is a lot of adjustment, but before you blurt out, “What are you doing? Are you crazy? That’s so wrong!” or any phrase like that, ask yourself if that phrase is worth it in the long run. Your spouse may get offended and hurt by those words. You may have said those words out of surprise, and he or she may think it was out of anger. Someone once said, “You can either be right or happily married; choose one.” No Name, you are now seeing that pre-Shanah Rishonah may be a bit more difficult than you had thought.
Give yourself some time. You may fall into that comfortable rhythm where you won’t even notice that when you call out to your chasan when he’s in the other room, you call him Sweetie or Honey or any other name. It may happen, but don’t rush it because then it won’t feel natural no matter what. Let your chasan know that it may take you time to choose a name, but when you choose it you want it to be the right one – like when Cinderella put on the glass slipper, it was a perfect fit to her foot. Don’t try to be Anastasia or Druzella by forcing a cute name out of your mouth if it isn’t meant to be.
I was once at a friend’s house – a very proper friend who always has everything in its place, looks proper, whose kids are well behaved, whose house is always immaculate… you get the picture. She left her phone face up on the counter, and I was sitting on a stool by the counter. When my friend went to the powder room, her phone buzzed. Just as a reflex, I looked at the screen and I wasn’t surprised when I read the caller’s name: “Smoochy.” That’s right: Smoochy. When she returned, I mentioned to my friend that she missed a call when she stepped away. She looked at her screen and only said, “It’s Moshe. I’ll call him back in five minutes.” Did she care or know that I saw the name? Who knows? I just found it as surprising that my prim and proper friend would have such a cutesy-wootsy pet name for her husband. But apparently, it’s what she thinks of him as, and who he is to her in her heart of hearts.
No Name, I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. I may have gone about answering your question by taking the long route. Take your time. Wait until the feeling and the name come to you; and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But don’t expect to have the same type of marriage as others. This is a marriage between you and your chasan and you will both chart the course. You will try new things: Some you may like, some you may not. Think of it as a compliment that your chasan already thinks of you as his Babe and Love and he isn’t ashamed to tell you or call you that.
Hatzlachah to you all.