Every couple develops their own language over time. Sometimes it takes the form of a mundane comment about groceries or a dateline, which actually equates to: “we need to leave now”. In other moments, an expression – a come-hither look – says it all.

Code Sharing
How do you share a private message in front of everyone else?
Read on for the codes that these Singapore women use. Image: Corbis

We ask six Singaporean women to fess up to the secret phrases they use to pass their husbands those secret messages in public.


1. “Gosh, this weather is a killer! Makes me want to have a cold shower right now!”
What she really means:
“I’m horny! I want to have sex with you now.”

Legal secretary Kris Tay*, 47, confides that this is the phrase to use if she has the urge “to have sex with him desperately” while the couple are out with friends. She’ll pretend to feel hot and start fanning herself, glancing seductively at her husband as she uses that phrase. He’ll understand the code and then the couple makes up an excuse to leave early.

2. “I have a work dateline to meet tonight!”
What she really means:
“Let’s leave this function – I’m bored!”

Writer Chen Mei Lin*, 30, admits that “attending my husband’s work or family functions is not my idea of fun”; and her husband knows it. When she feels like leaving early, she’ll say that she has “a story to file before the end of the night.” Her husband knows that Mei Lin never has the habit of “submitting stories at the last minute” but his family and friends would have no clue; they know how important Mei Lin’s work is to her.

3. “Can you give me a ride to the mall? I just remembered we’re out of detergent.”
What she really means:
“I’m really angry at your mum right now”

Marketing manager Ellanor Chin*, 36, visits her in-laws with her husband every Sunday but her mother-in-law occasionally says or does things that get on Ellanor’s nerves. Although Ellanor never shoots a scathing answer back to her mother-in-law, there are times where she knows that she needs a timeout. Ellanor then uses grocery shopping – “can you give me a ride of the mall?” – as an excuse to leave the house for half an hour; that’s usually enough time for her to calm down.


4. “Can you fill up my glass, please?”
What she really means:
“Your boss is getting too personal.”

39 year-old stay-at-home Marjorie Roberts* says that her husband’s boss can get too personal at the company’s frequent barbecue and dinner gatherings. While she has no issue talking pleasantries to his boss, she hates it when he asks unnecessarily about “my relationship with my husband, in-laws” and so on. At the moments when she feels that he’s about to cross the line, she’ll ask her husband to fill up her glass politely; her spouse will then make some excuse to get her out of the conversation.

5. “Hey babe, I saw something I like at that other store.”
What she really means:
“That’s too expensive, we can’t afford it”

Designer Kate Ning*, 31, says that her husband likes to browse the IT malls on Sundays but if she is not with him, “he’s likely to buy something from every store”. Saying that “we can’t afford it” outward would make things embarrassing for her husband. To signal that the couple needs to leave the place “before his gadget addiction gets totally out of hand”, Kate will make an offhand comment about fancying some item at another shop.

6. “That was a great meal! Hope it doesn’t cost too much! Ha, ha!”
What she really means:
“Please do not pay for everyone else’s meal”

“My hubby has a habit of picking up the tab when we eat out with friends”, says communications executive Mary-Louise Wong*, 29. He knows she doesn’t approve of him paying, especially when it is a large group. But her husband often instinctively reaches for the bill when it arrives. Instead of making a fuss of it in front of everyone, Mary-Louise will comment jokingly about the cost of the meal, to give her husband the “cue to leave his credit card alone.”

*Names have been changed.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer April 2011.