What do you call your significant other?

Somehow this was brought up in a conversation between my friends and I the other day, and I have talked about it with my boyfriend Evan recently as well…

significant-other

Because if you’re not married, the terms boyfriend and girlfriend sound a little bit on the…juvenile side. I mean, Evan and I are in our 30s and we have been living together for about a year and a half. He isn’t just a boyfriend, you know? Isn’t there a word that is more appropriate?

I’m sure one day we will get married and we’ll graduate to husband and wife, which sound LEGIT. You say the words husband or wife and everyone immediately knows the seriousness of the relationship. That means we are IN IT. TIL THE DEATH.

But as I tell everyone who asks me at least once a day, I don’t know when we’re going to do the whole marriage thing. It’s not currently a priority. Maybe we won’t! Either way, I’m pretty sure I don’t want a traditional wedding. The times, they are a changin! We’re committed, he’s my lobster, the lid to my pot, my one. So if we don’t ever get married, is he just my boyfriend for life? Is that it? The only word I get? Am I going to be 80 years old referring to Evan as my boyfriend?

I think of people my parents’ age, who are maybe divorced and have now been with a new significant other for a long time and will never get married again. Referring to their spouses as boyfriends/girlfriends doesn’t seem to do justice to what they actually are.

So I’ll break down the alternatives. I have also googled these alternatives to see which one looks the most appropriate according to the internet.

Partner

I will put this in a sentence for you:

My partner and I went hiking this weekend.

Are you immediately picturing me out hiking with my lesbian lover? Because if someone said this to me that is the first image that would pop into my head. Same-sex romantic hiking. Not that it would be a big deal if anyone happened to think I was a lesbian, you’re attracted to who you’re attracted to… But when I hear someone call their significant other their partner, I assume they’re gay. And if they are actually referring to someone who is of the opposite sex, I picture a yoga-loving-pot-smoking-hippy-dippy-dirty-blonde-hair-in-a-single-long-braided woman saying it (ie: Sarah, the most recent winner of Big Brother Canada – I just assumed she was a lesbian until she got a letter from her “partner” Scott…and then I was like “Oh! Surprise!”). In fact, when I think about it, I don’t think I’ve heard a man refer to his significant other as partner UNLESS he was referring to his longterm boyfriend. Maybe it happens, but I haven’t heard it that I can think of.

Here are the google image results of partner:

partner

Oh okay, so not same-sex love, but like a business deal. A romantic transaction.

Life Partner

I don’t get quite the same image as partner, but I feel like this will inevitably get shortened to just partner if you actually started saying it on the regular. Also it sounds cheesy. I’ll try it out.

My life partner and I went hiking this weekend.

No one would take me seriously. I wouldn’t take someone seriously if they said this to me. And I still sound like I’m talking about my life-partner of the same sex. I would maybe say this if I was writing some sort of love letter to my life partner. “You are my life partner.” But I can’t use that in the every day.

Google says…

life-partner

So I guess this was a movie.

Spouse

My spouse and I went hiking this weekend.

Hmm, nope. Spouse is like the government word for your significant other. It reminds me of tax season. It also rhymes with mouse, grouse and louse, so it doesn’t conjure up particularly great images of Evan and all that he is.

spouse

Like I said, government. Sterile. And super stock image-y.

Soulmate

Can you even imagine saying this to people seriously?

My soulmate and I went hiking this weekend.

I would just be too embarrassed for myself to utter those words aloud, in public. Unless I’m attempting to be funny, and then okay maybe.

Google says…

Soulmate

Gag, is what Google says. Nothing says soulmates like inspirational quotes.

Manfriend

My manfriend and I went hiking this weekend.

I feel like this says I’m trying too hard. Like manfriend was funny the first time I heard it but now it’s been way overdone, like amazeballs.

Google says…

manfriend

See? I’m too late. It’s already a meme. Evan does usually have some sort of beard though, so maybe it is accurate.

Lover

My lover and I went hiking this weekend.

So that I actually do say sometimes. I can’t help it, I just like the word lover. The Barenaked Ladies and their “Lovers in a dangerous time” got me on this back in high school and I can’t stop myself. But I am well aware that it isn’t a grown-up thing to say. Plus, if I’m saying it to people I don’t know, it sounds like I am referring to someone I am having an affair with. Admit it, that’s the image you have when people refer to someone as their lover! But Evan IS my lover!

Google agrees!

lover

Bit of a Twilight feel here, but I think this one might be the most accurate! Also, sunsets. Lovers like sunsets.

So what do YOU call YOUR significant other?

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39 responses to “What do you call your significant other?

  1. LOL to the spouse confronting the other spouse about her bottles of pills. AMAZING.

    I called Fabian boyfriend for 7 years before we got married. In fact, when calling his name in a store didn’t work, I would shout, “boyfriend!” and he would actually look. Then I probably called him boyfriend for the first year we were married because it was hard to change. Now I usually call him honey or wooks, but not around other people because I value not being punched.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just “boyfriend.” I think it’s even better when you’re older cuz it makes you sound young and hip!

  2. My “boyfriend” and I typically just introduce one another by first name. He’ll say “This is Nicole” and people generally get the gist of who I am to him and vice versa.

    Fiance is a fun thing to say when you get to that stage, and you’re right, HUSBAND/WIFE is just like… BAM. It’s been really weird for me going backwards now from being divorced, downgrading my current BF to mere boyfriend status when I know for sure now he is THE ONE, heart eyes emoji, fireworks, etc.

  3. I thought spouse was only if you were married…never mind.
    Over here people say their partner if they are living together and not married – I’ve never imagined it as same sex however now that’s all i will think of, lol! And lover is totally if you’re having an affair, haha!
    What annoys me (and it’s generally only the bogans who say it) is when couples who aren’t married and the man refers to his woman as his “missus”. It sounds so tacky.
    I’m trying to remember what my Mum called my now Step-Dad when they were dating because she was almost forty so i don’t think it was boyfriend…

    • So what I am getting here, from your comment a couple others, is that partner seems to be a more progressive term outside of my little bubble in Canada.
      Oh totally agree on the missus. Definitely tacky.
      That’s what I’m trying to think of too, my dad and his girlfriend of 10 years. I say partner when I’m referring to her, because girlfriend to me sounds like a fling.

  4. generally I just call Cam “Cam” when talking about him. but maybe ill say “me and my man”, but in a slightly sarcastic way

  5. First of all, I am CRACKING up right now! Great post, and so very true. I have always wondered this too, like grandmothers with “boyfriends” and thought there should be more suitable name, but never really came up with one! Interested to hear some replies!

    • Yeah! Like “My grandma and her boyfriend” sounds like the grandma is dating some hot young thang, and for a short time (to me). If my nana started dating anyone, I would totally use “My Nana and her lover” 😉

  6. I’m really glad you wrote this. It is startling (although I guess it really shouldn’t be at this point in my life) how many people treat you differently in a business setting when you use the term ‘boyfriend’ especially as a 30+ yr old. I always struggle with this. Generally, I default to ‘spouse’ but recently have just been saying ‘family’. In a sentence “Oh I can’t. I have to get back to my family tonight we have plans.” Because after almost 6 years – he’s my family.

    • I like “family”!

    • Yes, that is mostly what I was thinking about, in a business setting! I was in a meeting with the CEO of a company the other day and I was talking about Evan’s job, and I kind of hesitated at what to call Evan. I said boyfriend but then corrected to partner so he knew we were serious. And not that it even matters!

      I like family, too! Yes, you are definitely family.

  7. There is a big push for partner to be used more and more by straight couples, so that people don’t assume you are referring to a same-sex partner when you use the term (Sarah even mentioned this on BB). The thought being that people who are gay but not comfortable disclosing this can use ‘partner’ without any judgment. It seems to have had the opposite effect though where, like you mentioned, people just assume you are gay if you use partner instead of a gender specific label. The real solution is people just need to be more accepting, but sadly I think we are still a few years away from that.

    I live in a hippy dippy university town where people look at you sideways if you use the term boyfriend or girlfriend, so partner is what most of my friends use when describing their significant other, but I think people should use whatever they feel comfortable with!

    • Did Sarah mention that? I must have missed it, but good! I agree! Unfortunately, yeah, we are a few years away from that I think.

      So that is interesting about your hippy dippy town. Partner seems to be the most popular in more progressive communities.

  8. I have had this exact same conversation in my head for years… and thought the exact same thing about most of the options. I’ve been with my guy for almost 14 years, living together for 8… and we’re 40, so boyfriend sounds just plain silly. I believe most of his friends call me ‘The Wife’ even though I say we don’t get to use that word until he puts a ring on it, which as you can probably tell, we’re not in a huge rush to do.

    So, I usually go with a variation of ‘The Guy’ or ‘My Guy’, though someone got really offended and insisted I use Significant Other, which ick. Though i guess it’s better than ‘Annoying Guy who Lives in My House and Hogs all the Blankets.’ 😀

  9. Honestly, I always said “partner.” If people assumed I was a lesbian, it had no effect on me. But what I found more often (or at least that I was aware of) people assumed I meant business partner. Again, oh well. I’m not trying to impress anyone so I always called him whatever I wanted.

    • Yeah, I get the oh well. Like it doesn’t really matter what people think of me, it’s more when I hear myself saying boyfriend I think to myself “well that sounds like I’m in high school and he’s just a fling”

  10. I use partner or boyfriend. When I’m in a setting where boyfriend sounds juvenile or unprofessional, I default to partner (aka talking to professors or higher ups). I call him honey when I’ve lost him in a store. He calls me his girlfriend, his special ladyfriend, or his wife (sometimes I think he forgets we aren’t married). Our nephews and nieces call us both Aunt and Uncle on the whole, even though we’re not married.

  11. Oh and I forgot about my friend’s Grandma who told her to call her bf her “special heart interest”. So throwing that hat into the ring!

  12. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I married my husband after 9 years. No other word (especially with clients in a professional environment) gave the described the relationship as it was.

  13. We went through this too, when we had moved in together but weren’t yet engaged. I remember the first time I introduced him to someone, I said, “This is T, my…roommate?” So after that I called him my lifetime roommate for a long time. Now he is my husband, but I like what Karyn said about “family”!

  14. I call mine my sea otter. Or the other half that is a testament to my training skills. Or the boy who will one day be co-owner of my children. I hate partner with a passion, we’re not in business together!!!! And generally, people know who he is if I introduce him as Dave as well. My boss got really offended when I was at work and told everyone he was my sea otter, until I made the group go round and tell us all the silly things they call their wives/relationships (A LOT WORSE than sea otter, let me assure you!) Nothing more fun that making a bunch of middle aged men feel uncomfortable in public!

  15. My BF and I have been together 7.5 years, living together for 3 so we are common law. I call him my man in social settings but in professional setting I refer to him as my husband. It takes away the awkwardness of the term ‘boyfriend’. I never thought we would get married but to be honest this conversation is a reason I want to. We need an acceptable term! 🙂

  16. I would use Hubby – you have lived together for over a year – it’s no one’s business if you actually married or not – he is your HUBBY!!!!

  17. I called my now-husband “partner” when we were dating, especially in professional situations. It did feel a little pretentious, though. When we got engaged, I hated saying fiancé. Now THAT felt pretentious. And now that I refer to him as husband, I always feel like I’m gushing or bragging when it comes out of my mouth. In short, nothing feels right except his first name or “butthead” which is what I call him in private 🙂

  18. I’ve used the following:

    My main squeeze (kinda jokey, he hates it)
    My designated hitter (ditto)
    My president elect (engaged)
    My mister (using currently)
    My C.L. (common law. Always needs an explanation, so abandoned that one)

  19. I’ve run into this issue before. My boyfriend and I have been dating for 4.5 years and living together for almost 3 of those years. I know a bunch of people who’ve met and gotten married over the time we’ve been dating. We’re basically committed to staying together longterm but marriage is not a priority right now. Anyway, when I was talking to a recruiter about a job opportunity a few months ago it I mentioned that we will likely be relocating in a year or two depending on when my boyfriend finishes his graduate program. Except I didn’t want to sound like I was making career choices based on an OMG ~*~*boy*~*~, so I referred to him as my partner, which felt awkward simply because I don’t usually use that term for him.

  20. I was actually really glad to call my husband my fiance when we got engaged because I hated the term boyfriend! I agree, we need a more grown up word. Partner to me does sound more business as well. Now he’s just my husband, so I’m good with that. We call each other babe and other various words based off of it (baben, wabe, waben, etc).

    No idea why I can’t get this emoji guy to delete!

  21. I like to say “My love”, or “My man” . but mostly “My love”. I have been together with my love for almost 6 years. We don’t want to get legally married , maybe when we are much older when our future kids are older. but want a wedding, and have rings, and everything like a real marriage wedding. we don’t think its right to want to get married, and have the government /money/tax part of it. we want to get “married” in the eyes of god, in our own love. I think marriage should not only be a legal thing. if you have a wedding, and exchange rings, and are committed, and have kids later, and been together for a long time, with friends and family you can say “wife & husband” and between each other. but then again, who cares what people think. you can say “this is my husband” to a stranger because between the two of you, you are husband and wife. ( just not to the government) the strangers will think you are legally married, but whatever.. I think there is a legal marriage, and marriage by heart. why give up those rights just for a legal marriage. do what you want, you do everything the same even if you get legally married. legal marriage is just a piece of paper, and more money to the government. you can still be married within each other and live the same life a legally married couple would.. you can even change your last name by not getting legally married in some countries.

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