Author Topic: Romantic "partners"  (Read 17177 times)

Pylortes

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Romantic "partners"
« on: April 11, 2015, 08:13:21 AM »
Does anyone else find the use of the term "partner" when referring to the other party in a romantic relationship confusing?  Perhaps it's because of my background as an attorney (note I do not practice in a law firm so don't use the term myself either) but I'm uncomfortable with its usage in this context.
When I hear/read someone use the term I immediately think either they must be practicing law together, be co-owners of a business, or they must be in a homosexual relationship.  That was confusing enough, but then I've noticed recently that non married heterosexual couples are now also referring to themselves this way!

Is there something that "partner" proclaims that one of the following terms does not also accomplish???
1. Spouse
2. Fiancée
3. Significant other
4. Boyfriend/girlfriend

I could understand the usage for homosexual couples in the era before gay marriage, but now that it's legal in 46 of 50 states in the U.S. it seems to me that usage could be retired as well.    Am I the only one who cringes when they read/hear someone refer to their "other half" (even that term is preferable!) as "partner".    So, how's business these days?!

Psychstache

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2015, 08:25:07 AM »
I assume most people say partner in case studies and such on forums in attempt to avoid having gender biases cloud the advice given.

Pigeon

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2015, 08:28:28 AM »
I don't mind partner. Boyfriend/girlfriend sounds silly if you are past teenager hood. Significant other is stilted. There really isn't a good term for adults in a dating or live in relationship.

arebelspy

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2015, 08:36:24 AM »
You may need to "get with the times" as they say.  :)

As you note, it's becoming more and more common.  Time to update your internal dictionary.

I do understand where you're coming from though.  It sounds weird to me when people use the phrase "life partner"--but I also try to take my own advice, above, and work on accepting whatever phrasing people want to use.  :)
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netskyblue

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2015, 08:39:44 AM »
I like "partner."  I have used it interchangeably with "husband" in writing.  And I'm a woman, not part of a same-sex couple.  I think "husband" and "wife" still have certain connotations about each's role in a relationship, and saying "partner" avoids that.  It puts both people on completely equal footing so that readers aren't forming biased opinions.

solon

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2015, 08:43:01 AM »
I'm with you, pylortes. It just sounds weird. Like an inability to commit or something. Don't want to be single, but don't want to be married either.

I'm married, and proud of it. I would never refer to my wife as my "partner", even if I'm asking advice. Our sexes are integral parts of who we are. To disguise sex to get neutral advice seems like it would generate incomplete advice at best.

Kris

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2015, 08:46:19 AM »
Does anyone else find the use of the term "partner" when referring to the other party in a romantic relationship confusing?  Perhaps it's because of my background as an attorney (note I do not practice in a law firm so don't use the term myself either) but I'm uncomfortable with its usage in this context.
When I hear/read someone use the term I immediately think either they must be practicing law together, be co-owners of a business, or they must be in a homosexual relationship.  That was confusing enough, but then I've noticed recently that non married heterosexual couples are now also referring to themselves this way!

Is there something that "partner" proclaims that one of the following terms does not also accomplish???
1. Spouse
2. Fiancée
3. Significant other
4. Boyfriend/girlfriend

I could understand the usage for homosexual couples in the era before gay marriage, but now that it's legal in 46 of 50 states in the U.S. it seems to me that usage could be retired as well.    Am I the only one who cringes when they read/hear someone refer to their "other half" (even that term is preferable!) as "partner".    So, how's business these days?!

Well, spouse and fiancé, obviously, you won't use if you arent married or engaged.

Significant other always sounds stilted and formal to me (not to mention long).
Boyfriend and girlfriend can feel silly and childish if you're 40 years old. 

So.... What other options?  Partner at least is a solution.

Pylortes

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2015, 10:36:39 AM »
I suppose it doesn't matter what you call it.  I just don't like that particular phrase because it generates confusion.  There are romantic partners, business partners, workout partners, law partners, study partners Etc.  To me if it needs to be used how about "domestic partners" (I agree life partners sounds weird).  I also think boyfriend/girlfriend is an acceptable term- even if some find it juvenile at least we know what they are referencing.

The other issue is if a relationship is serious enough that you want or need to put a label on it to the world, fiancée and then spouse are still good ways to do it.  It's a little strange that there are groups of people fighting so hard to get the right to marry, but then another large percentage that is shunning it for various reasons but still building committed relationships. 

Kris

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2015, 12:17:57 PM »
I suppose it doesn't matter what you call it.  I just don't like that particular phrase because it generates confusion.  There are romantic partners, business partners, workout partners, law partners, study partners Etc.  To me if it needs to be used how about "domestic partners" (I agree life partners sounds weird).  I also think boyfriend/girlfriend is an acceptable term- even if some find it juvenile at least we know what they are referencing.

The other issue is if a relationship is serious enough that you want or need to put a label on it to the world, fiancée and then spouse are still good ways to do it.  It's a little strange that there are groups of people fighting so hard to get the right to marry, but then another large percentage that is shunning it for various reasons but still building committed relationships.

That's true, but ultimately the ones fighting for marriage equality are in part fighting for the concept that it's no one else's business how two people decide to live their lives... Which it isn't.

bludreamin

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2015, 01:26:24 PM »
Nope not confusing. When I see partner I use context to ID between business and romantic. And if there's no context I default to thinking romantic but that's how I use it. If I was in a serious romantic relationship, I'd  most likely use partner when referring to that person in a forum or similar setting. 

I could understand the usage for homosexual couples in the era before gay marriage, but now that it's legal in 46 of 50 states in the U.S. it seems to me that usage could be retired as well.    Am I the only one who cringes when they read/hear someone refer to their "other half" (even that term is preferable!) as "partner".    So, how's business these days?!

" other half" is worse IMO because it suggest someone is less than "whole" and not a complete person in their own right.

Also not sure where you got only 4 states not recognizing.. Based on http://www.hrc.org/state_maps  there are at least 11 states where your marriage is not recognized if you happen to be the same sex as the person you're trying to marry.

I suppose it doesn't matter what you call it.  I just don't like that particular phrase because it generates confusion.  There are romantic partners, business partners, workout partners, law partners, study partners Etc.  To me if it needs to be used how about "domestic partners" (I agree life partners sounds weird).  I also think boyfriend/girlfriend is an acceptable term- even if some find it juvenile at least we know what they are referencing.

The other issue is if a relationship is serious enough that you want or need to put a label on it to the world, fiancée and then spouse are still good ways to do it.  It's a little strange that there are groups of people fighting so hard to get the right to marry, but then another large percentage that is shunning it for various reasons but still building committed relationships. 

So if "partners" can be any in that list why do you assume business?  My "workout partner" is my "workout buddy". I'll only use  "___" partner when a person's actions/efforts have a direct and significant impact on my success in "___".

If/when I find the person I want to build a future with and  spend the rest of my life with, I don't know if I would want to get married.  Until all my friends get the same marriage rights  that I have regardless of where they live in the US, I'm not really interested in marriage. Even after that, I'm not sure for other personal reasons.

But then again society and its need to label individuals confuses me most days. 

sol

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2015, 01:57:13 PM »
I'm married, and proud of it.

This is the fundamental problem that necessitates the use of words like partner.

Do you feel superior to people in relationships that are not heterosexual marriages?  Do you at least recognize how a person's use of "husband" and "wife" (a) forces gender roles on people in an otherwise anonymous medium of communication in which people might want to avoid them, and (b) implicitly asserts your belief that your relationship is somehow more secure, more traditional, and therefore better than any other kind of relationship?

For the record, I'm a straight white male who is married with three kids and I prefer "partner" to just about any of the alternatives.  I'll use "spouse" if the legal standing of the marriage is somehow relevant to the discussion, like we're talking about taxes or something, but otherwise I embrace it as inclusive, nonjudgmental, open-minded, and forward looking. 

It sounded weird to me at first, too, back in 1999, but I'm totally over it.  These days the only people who object to it are Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck fans.

Pylortes

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2015, 02:08:29 PM »
My point is that if the nature of some relationships has changed/evolved in recent years, perhaps we need to have our language evolve to create a term to differentiate this change.  Sorry,  but saying "partner" with nothing else qualifying is ambiguous.   If you need to look for context when reading a paragraph where someone is discussing relationship status or business/legal interests then that goes to my point of that the reader would benefit from another term that's more clear.  I suspect for many people including folks in this discussion, picking up on the context is not that difficult,  and that's great,  but I also have to guess that some folks will have more difficulty.  For myself,  because of my background my first thought is when I hear someone speak of their partner is their law partner.  This is probably not the same for all. 

I stand corrected on the 46 states with gay marriage,  looks like that number is high (I was going from memory).  In my defense the number has changed so much recently that it's hard to keep up with but it looks like it's currently 37 plus DC. 

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2015, 02:56:54 PM »
I feel like the term "partner" in a romantic context is usually used to refer to people who are in committed relationship, generally living together and possibly raising children, but with no immediate plans to marry. My sister used to refer to her husband this way before they were married. They had a child together, he took care of her children from previous marriages while she was working, she was paying his credit cards off (he is a SAHD), but they were not married and, at that time, did not plan to marry for some years (those years passed and off to Vegas they went). "Fiance" would have been inaccurate, and other terms would not have conveyed the depths of their domestic entanglement.

"Partner" worked for her, but she never did find a good term to describe his relationship to her other children :-).

CommonCents

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2015, 04:09:07 PM »
Like most things, I used context to help me and it's rarely an issue.  People are pretty clear about what they mean.  And I'm a lawyer too. 

I use partner sometimes solely because I *don't* want it to be turned into a term only homosexuals use.  It's a neutral term and I'd like it to stay that way, so I support it by using it not just for my homosexual friends/coworkers etc. and in ambiguous contexts (e.g. you mean someone new and don't know their preferences), but also sometimes to refer to my own (hetero) relationship.

Cathy

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2015, 04:26:28 PM »
I suppose it doesn't matter what you call it.  I just don't like that particular phrase because it generates confusion.

I am more pedantic than most people and I have yet to be confused by the use of the term "partner". If there is any possibility of confusion, the speaker can say "romantic partner".

I'd also question why you feel the alleged ambiguity needs to be resolved. Suppose you are introduced to two new people and one of them tells you that the other one is his partner. You don't know whether they are business partners, romantic partners, law enforcement partners, or what... but who cares? Why does the nature of their partnership matter to you? Why do you want to know so badly?

Your basic argument here is analogous to claiming that the word "cousin" is confusing because, unlike in certain romance languages, it doesn't tell you the gender of the cousin. So if somebody tells you their cousin is coming to town, you don't know what gender the cousin is, whereas you would know in certain romance languages. However, this is actually fine because the gender of the cousin doesn't matter or the speaker would have mentioned it. As the listener, if you want to know, you can ask, but it's not essential information. Similarly, you don't need to know the romantic status of every person you meet. If you want to know, you can ask. Their failure to disclose it explicitly to you is not a source of confusion.

nzmamma

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2015, 04:37:49 PM »
'Lover' and 'man-friend'/'lady-friend' are some possible 'partner' alternatives, a bit cringe worthy. I use partner/husband interchangeably.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2015, 04:52:53 PM »
My uncle has been with his significant other since before I was born. My mom always referred to her as his "partner." But the partner's name is sort of uncommon and can be seen as gender-neutral. The most common assumption is that she's referring to his business partner. The second most common is that she's being polite and he's gay.

But they are specifically and intentionally not married. So what is she supposed to be? His girlfriend of 40 years? It doesn't really fit the kind of commitment they have to each other.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2015, 04:56:11 PM »
I sometimes find 'partner' a little confusing - tend to first think business partner and then catch up w/ myself and realize what the person meant.

I say "my honey" or "my sweetie" when I talk about my boyfriend. Boyfriend sounds childish ... So I might say at work something like "My honey and I went to the movies this weekend..."

*shrug*

solon

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2015, 05:43:07 PM »
I'm married, and proud of it.

This is the fundamental problem that necessitates the use of words like partner.

Do you feel superior to people in relationships that are not heterosexual marriages?  Do you at least recognize how a person's use of "husband" and "wife" (a) forces gender roles on people in an otherwise anonymous medium of communication in which people might want to avoid them, and (b) implicitly asserts your belief that your relationship is somehow more secure, more traditional, and therefore better than any other kind of relationship?

For the record, I'm a straight white male who is married with three kids and I prefer "partner" to just about any of the alternatives.  I'll use "spouse" if the legal standing of the marriage is somehow relevant to the discussion, like we're talking about taxes or something, but otherwise I embrace it as inclusive, nonjudgmental, open-minded, and forward looking. 

It sounded weird to me at first, too, back in 1999, but I'm totally over it.  These days the only people who object to it are Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck fans.

I think you're reading to much into my comment. I just meant that I'm proud of my wife and our marriage. I work hard at our marriage, so does she, and what we've built is nothing short of amazing. To hide this from people so they won't form opinions about us seems silly.

But that wasn't even my point. My main point was that our sex necessarily defines us. To call my wife a "partner" would hide the fact that she's female, and that is a necessary component of her identity.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2015, 05:50:39 PM »
Before I was married, my husband's parents would introduce me as his partner. I think that was to connote the fact that this was a serious longterm relationship, not just a casual bf/gf relationship.

resy

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2015, 05:53:01 PM »
Does anyone else find the use of the term "partner" when referring to the other party in a romantic relationship confusing?  Perhaps it's because of my background as an attorney (note I do not practice in a law firm so don't use the term myself either) but I'm uncomfortable with its usage in this context.
When I hear/read someone use the term I immediately think either they must be practicing law together, be co-owners of a business, or they must be in a homosexual relationship.  That was confusing enough, but then I've noticed recently that non married heterosexual couples are now also referring to themselves this way!

Is there something that "partner" proclaims that one of the following terms does not also accomplish???
1. Spouse
2. Fiancée
3. Significant other
4. Boyfriend/girlfriend

I could understand the usage for homosexual couples in the era before gay marriage, but now that it's legal in 46 of 50 states in the U.S. it seems to me that usage could be retired as well.    Am I the only one who cringes when they read/hear someone refer to their "other half" (even that term is preferable!) as "partner".    So, how's business these days?!
Before marrying, I started using the term "partner" instead of boyfriend because "boyfriend" sounded too casual but we were not yet engaged. I think it acts as a neutral term that is helpful in shielding you agains prejudice for both hetero and hemosexuals.

Megma

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2015, 06:11:37 PM »
I feel like the term "partner" in a romantic context is usually used to refer to people who are in committed relationship, generally living together and possibly raising children, but with no immediate plans to marry. My sister used to refer to her husband this way before they were married. They had a child together, he took care of her children from previous marriages while she was working, she was paying his credit cards off (he is a SAHD), but they were not married and, at that time, did not plan to marry for some years (those years passed and off to Vegas they went). "Fiance" would have been inaccurate, and other terms would not have conveyed the depths of their domestic entanglement.

"Partner" worked for her, but she never did find a good term to describe his relationship to her other children :-).

I agree, and often refer to my boyfriend as my "partner." We live together, share expenses, plan out lives together and will get married eventually. It is more serious than a boyfriend, which can be quite casual or serious, but we're not married (unless we're talking to the utility company, then we say wife/husband bc it's easier!). I also will do it intentionally when I feel that my personal life is none of the person's business.

And as CommonCents said, I like that it's Gender neutral and want it to continue to be perceived that way.

That said, when I was interviewing for my current job I referred to by my bf exclusively as partner bc I did not feel like it was their business what my romantic situation was. I happened to have a very short haircut at the time and I'm pretty sure they thought I was a lesbian as a result. I had the impression that a few people wanted to ask. After I got the job, and got to know them, I made a point of saying "boyfriend" a few times.

Middlesbrough

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2015, 07:06:48 PM »
I guess I am young, but there has been a large shift in rights of non heterosexual relationships in my lifetime. When I was young, the term partner always seemed to infer a disadvantage the right to marry. To say someone is your partner, it always leaves something short of total commitment. Also, considering school has made up most of my life to this point, a partner was a participant in a varying length commitment who could be a voluntary participant or forced into the relationship (i.e. lab partners, group partner, or work partner). I can't recall all the times I was told to partner up or find partners for a task that I find no long term commitment to the title. Partner to me always seems to lack emotion or something I can't quite explain via text when you refer to a binding commitment to another.

Significant other seems to a better job of this, because it says so in the one adjective presented: significant. Also, it gets compressed to SO. Pretty easy to type for us kids who only seem to use text language anymore.

okonomiyaki

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2015, 01:04:24 AM »
I'm married, and proud of it.

This is the fundamental problem that necessitates the use of words like partner.

Do you feel superior to people in relationships that are not heterosexual marriages?  Do you at least recognize how a person's use of "husband" and "wife" (a) forces gender roles on people in an otherwise anonymous medium of communication in which people might want to avoid them, and (b) implicitly asserts your belief that your relationship is somehow more secure, more traditional, and therefore better than any other kind of relationship?

For the record, I'm a straight white male who is married with three kids and I prefer "partner" to just about any of the alternatives.  I'll use "spouse" if the legal standing of the marriage is somehow relevant to the discussion, like we're talking about taxes or something, but otherwise I embrace it as inclusive, nonjudgmental, open-minded, and forward looking. 

It sounded weird to me at first, too, back in 1999, but I'm totally over it.  These days the only people who object to it are Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck fans.

I think you're reading to much into my comment. I just meant that I'm proud of my wife and our marriage. I work hard at our marriage, so does she, and what we've built is nothing short of amazing. To hide this from people so they won't form opinions about us seems silly.

But that wasn't even my point. My main point was that our sex necessarily defines us. To call my wife a "partner" would hide the fact that she's female, and that is a necessary component of her identity.

I completely agree with Sol - and this is why, even though I am now married to a person of the opposite gender, I still refer to him as partner in conversation. It's my little way of trying to promote relationship equality in day-to-day life. Because even though Australia is pretty liberal, gay marriage, adoption and some other protections afforded to heterosexual married couples are not completely equal for de facto partners, especially if they are LGBT.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2015, 01:28:36 AM »
People can use whatever terms they want - but if they seek accurate financial advice about some topics they do need to disclose their filing status.  If "my partner/SO/spouse and I file MFJ" or "my partner/SO/whatever and I each file single" that's all one needs to know.

Unless "my partner and I file MFJ" omits "but we each do it with another person" but that's a different topic....

FIRE me

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #25 on: April 12, 2015, 01:30:11 AM »
Does anyone else find the use of the term "partner" when referring to the other party in a romantic relationship confusing? 

To me, in that context, it means “life partner” which I think is a near perfect description and not at all confusing.

resy

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2015, 01:43:45 AM »
"To call my wife a "partner" would hide the fact that she's female, and that is a necessary component of her identity."

Wait... so you are saying that you dont like using the term "partner" basically because it doesn't clearly state you are in a heterosexual relationship?
who cares?
THAT'S strange to me as, to me, it's the equivalent as "needing" to identify my husband as blonde/tall/short/perfectionist/name any trait as, well, its "a necessary component of his identity". Necessary to who? what for????

*edited for damn typos.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2015, 01:46:00 AM by resy »

okits

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #27 on: April 12, 2015, 02:21:15 AM »
Terminology seems to evolve all the time.  I've spoken with various women who refer to their husbands, despite their not being a married couple. I wonder if they use the term to denote a committed familial, economic, and domestic partnership.  Or if they do so to avoid negative judgment because they are not officially married.

I think the term "partner" is coloured by each person's connotations. While Middlesbrough said the term might infer less than total commitment, I sometimes use it to emphasize the equitable and fully committed nature of my marriage.

Gockie

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #28 on: April 12, 2015, 03:42:09 AM »
I always refer to my other half as my Partner.... I'm not married, not engaged... I don't think there's a more suitable word for it.

Btw, did you know in Chinese there's no different spoken word for he and she? They are pronounced the same. So if Chinese can get along without these words, any language can. Note, they are written differently though. And this would be why sometimes Chinese people mix up the words he and she. :)

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #29 on: April 12, 2015, 06:04:29 AM »
I think it's a bit different in Canada because of our common-law marriages as a legal status for most things - taxes, benefits, child support, etc. So if someone uses husband or spouse I don't really care if they are legally married. They are just saying that they have a spouse-equivalent person in their life. I'm equally fine with SO or partner/life partner as I think the point is to show a certain level of commitment that might not be part of a boyfriend/girlfriend thing.
Yes, type of partner can occasionally be confusing but that's rare and you usually get it clarified by whatever they do next.

Zamboni

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #30 on: April 12, 2015, 06:34:20 AM »
From Mirriam-Webster Dictionary:

"Partner

: someone's husband or wife or the person someone has sexual relations with

: one of two or more people, businesses, etc., that work together or do business together

: someone who participates in an activity or game with another person"


Sometimes I use "partner" or "other half" to describe the love of my life.  I am fully aware that when I use the term partner people who don't know me well might immediately start wondering if I am homosexual since its use did seem to come from that context. But I don't really care if they think that.

I do think of my relationship as a loving partnership. That is the best description of it. We don't adhere to what many would consider the traditional gender roles for a husband and a wife. We make financial and household decisions together, we plan for our future together, and I like to think that we consider the other person's feelings and wishes before deciding on all matters. 

I also have a partner in a sport and a different partner for the game bridge. Both of these endeavors are true partnerships: I can't even participate in those things without a partner! I tend to clarify the sports one by making it the phrase "doubles partner" if it's not in the context of the sport, but if it is then I just call them my partner. If I was introducing that person at a party I might even say "Have you met my doubles partner?" Sometimes I even address those people as "partner" (ie "Nice shot, partner!" or "Well done, partner!")

What I do not have is a business partner. Never had one. So the word doesn't really mean that to me.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #31 on: April 12, 2015, 06:38:08 AM »
OP, can you offer alternatives? I have been dating the same man for six years. We are planning on living together imminently, at which point I will likely start referring to him as my spouse. I am 40 years old and he is nearly 60 years old.
While I do generally refer to him as my "boyfriend" if he needs a title, I cringe a little bit inside when I do, because I don't like the term for someone his age at all.
Similarly, I don't particularly care for partner for some of the reasons you mentioned.
So, from the options proposed in this thread, that leaves Significant Other as an option. I equally don't much care for that term. It seems pretentious and vague all at once to me (not saying others shouldn't use or would certainly come off sounding pretentious using it, only that I would feel like I'm being pretentious using it).
I do think we need a better term to denote something similar to boyfriend/girlfriend for older people and people in more long-term or significant relationships than those terms imply, but I don't know what that term is. Partner, while not entirely satisfactory from my perspective, serves a role in such situations and is one of the better terminological options. But if you have something better to offer, I'm all ears!

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #32 on: April 12, 2015, 08:42:18 AM »
I guess I've used "partner" mostly when specifically discussing relationships.  Like, I've never introduced my husband as my "partner," but in a relationship discussion, I might say "at that time, my partner and I were having some problems..."  And I might be referring to my husband, my ex-boyfriend, or my ex-husband, at some point during our marriage, engagement, or before we were engaged. 

I mainly use it to refer to the person I was romantically involved with at the time referred to, so I don't have to sit and think "hmm... was that 2003 or 2002?  Was he my boyfriend or my fiance then?"  Because specific relationship status doesn't matter in the context of the discussion.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #33 on: April 12, 2015, 09:15:01 AM »
When I see partner I use context to ID between business and romantic.

Ditto.

I'm married, and proud of it.

This is the fundamental problem that necessitates the use of words like partner.

Do you feel superior to people in relationships that are not heterosexual marriages?  Do you at least recognize how a person's use of "husband" and "wife" (a) forces gender roles on people in an otherwise anonymous medium of communication in which people might want to avoid them, and (b) implicitly asserts your belief that your relationship is somehow more secure, more traditional, and therefore better than any other kind of relationship?

For the record, I'm a straight white male who is married with three kids and I prefer "partner" to just about any of the alternatives.  I'll use "spouse" if the legal standing of the marriage is somehow relevant to the discussion, like we're talking about taxes or something, but otherwise I embrace it as inclusive, nonjudgmental, open-minded, and forward looking. 

It sounded weird to me at first, too, back in 1999, but I'm totally over it.  These days the only people who object to it are Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck fans.

I like this.  I'm going to try to start using "partner" more.
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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #34 on: April 12, 2015, 09:39:27 AM »
I thought it was weird and ambiguous when I first heard this term too. The first time someone used the term I assumed they meant business partner and didn't figure it out until much later. But it never made a difference, since the exact nature of their relationship wasn't really any of my concern.

But now I'm used to it and I've even used it a few times. For me it depends on context and who I am talking to. I also have no problems using boyfriend in my 30's. I'm neither married, nor engaged, so I flip back and forth between partner and boyfriend (or girlfriend depending on who I am dating/referring to). Significant other is way too long. Maybe I'm lazy (I call it efficient) but I prefer the term with the shortest number of syllables. Life partner just doesn't fit right with me either (maybe it's the extra syllable).

Gender neutrality is most helpful when a) I am referring to two partners at the same time (one female one male) or b) it's none of their business.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #35 on: April 12, 2015, 10:18:39 AM »
I don't mind partner. Boyfriend/girlfriend sounds silly if you are past teenager hood. Significant other is stilted. There really isn't a good term for adults in a dating or live in relationship.

+1. And we can't legitimately say "engaged/fiance" if we're not engaged.

I'm having a funniness around it in one case, though. In my new village, plenty of people are gay. When one man referred to his (male) partner, I was surprised to "learn" he was gay, as he was often with someone I had assumed was his wife. So, I recalibrated my brain to this new fact, no problem. Fast forward a few weeks, and I realize I have no idea. Is the woman he hangs out with, who has the same last name, his wife or his sister? Or does he have a wife and a gay lover? None of my business, and it doesn't impact my life, except that I'm too shy to refer to his relationships because I don't know whether to say "wife", "sister", etc. I'm worried that if I get it wrong or ask, it'll prove one of those really obvious things that they'll laugh at me over, lol.

I'll see 2/3 of them shortly, and enjoy another round of my shy confusion.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #36 on: April 12, 2015, 10:49:48 AM »
When one man referred to his (male) partner, I was surprised to "learn" he was gay, as he was often with someone I had assumed was his wife.
Perhaps in this case he truly is a business partner...?

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #37 on: April 12, 2015, 10:57:42 AM »
I prefer partner and I think I'm going to make a point of using the term more after reading this thread. If you prefer to resolve ambiguity, you can also just attach their name. If the context that comes with husband/wife is an important part of your relationship to your relationship, or if the legal context that comes with it is important, then those are more appropriate terms. Seems pretty simple.

Solon- congrats on building a great relationship; that is something to be proud of. Sol may have taken a slightly more argumentative tack than what you had intended, but his point is quite valid. There is a lot of baggage that comes along with the positive and essential relationship aspects of husband/wife. The use of partner has advantages as does normalization of the use of the term given the large number of people in long-term committed relationships sans marriage. It is also worth considering that in some conservative/patriarchal settings, the use of wife may communicate something quite different than the relationship you describe and "partner" may actually communicate your meaning better even if it loses the gender-specificity. Context matters.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #38 on: April 12, 2015, 12:30:40 PM »
I think it's a bit different in Canada because of our common-law marriages as a legal status for most things - taxes, benefits, child support, etc. So if someone uses husband or spouse I don't really care if they are legally married.

This is a surprisingly complicated issue that is widely misunderstood by Canadians.

First you need to understand what is meant by "common law" when used in legal writing. It's a somewhat ambiguous term. It can refer to a legal system where court rulings create precedent which are binding on lower court judges, but that is usually written as a "common law jurisdiction" or "common law system". It can also refer to body of decisions under such a system, but I prefer the term "case law" or "decisional law" for that.

The remaining use, and probably the most common use, of the term "common law" is to refer to the law in England as it existed around the time of American revolution. There's no exact date, but generally speaking, it refers to the period before English law was reformed by codifying many topics in statutes. This is the meaning of the term "common law" in the 7th amendment to the US constitution, which "preserves" the right to a jury at common law. The US supreme court has held that the effect of this amendment is to elevate the common law (meaning, the law as it existed in England historically) regarding juries to the status of a constitutional right. Notably, England itself no longer offers the same rights to a jury as it did at the time this amendment was adopted, but that is irrelevant since that is not what is meant by the term "common law" in this context.

You can see that "common law" can be a pretty confusing term with many different meanings -- certainly more confusing than "partner".

So which use of "common law" is being invoked in the phrase "common law marriage" to refer to an unmarried couple living together in a committed relationship in Canada? The answer is "none of them". A "common law marriage" as Canadians use the term is not a real legal concept. At common law (in the sense of historical English law), a marriage within the territory of the UK was created solely through a religious ceremony and later according to legislation that required formal documentation requirements. It was not the case in the common law of England that marriages could be created without a formal procedure (subject to a couple exotic exceptions).

To further muddy the waters, in some US states, it is possible to create a marriage without any formal procedure. This is actually very interesting from a legal history perspective. To understand this, you first need to understand a general principle of law in the USA which is that, unless modified by statute, the common law (as in historical English law) forms of the base of state law (except for Louisiana). So if something was the law "at common law" (meaning in historical English law), it remains the law in a US state, unless the state has a statute modifying the common law position, in which case the statute controls.

With that background in mind, we can consider the US Supreme Court case of Meister v. Moore, 96 US 76 (1877), in which the Supreme Court (acting pursuant to diversity jurisdiction -- meaning it was considering state law) considered the validity of an alleged marriage that had been purportedly entered into without following the Michigan statute on marriage formalisation. The US Supreme Court held that the statute did not explicitly say that the procedures in the statute were the only way to formalise a marriage, and therefore, if the marriage was legal at common law, it would also be legal for state law purposes. To quote the Court, "[n]o doubt a statute may take away a common law right, but there is always a presumption that the legislature has no such intention unless it be plainly expressed." The Court then went on to find that at common law, no formal ceremony was required to create a marriage, and therefore, the marriage in that case could potentially be valid even though the statute had not been complied with.

Based on the above, you'll notice that the Court's finding here was based on an erroneous understanding of the common law. The Court believed -- without citing any authority other than a contemporary book chapter -- that at common law, marriage could be created without any formal procedure. At explained at great length in chapter 2 of "The Misunderstood Contract Per Verba De Praesenti", by Rebecca Probert, this Court ruling was in error and the ability to create a marriage without formal procedures is, as a result, a "distinctive American concept" (page 83), not something that existed at common law. However, despite the premise being an error, it is still the law in some (but not all) US states. The term "common law marriage" is used to refer to marriages of this nature in the US states where this applies. These would not have been valid marriages at common law, but they are valid in the US states where this applies.

So where does this leave Canada? As in the US, the common law forms the base of law in Canada, except to the extent modified by statute. For example, in Alberta, the law on fraudulent transfers is actually still controlled by the common law, because the Alberta legislature has never passed any statute overruling the common law. Thus, cases on fraudulent transfers in Alberta often cite legislation and cases from 1677 and earlier.

In Canada, the "Solemnization of Marriage" is explicitly under exclusive provincial jurisdiction pursuant to s 92(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867. That means that if a province did not explicitly abolish the common law on marriage solemnisation, then marriages that would have been valid at common law would be valid in the province. However, herein lies the key fact: unlike in the US, no major court in Canada ever fell into the error that the US Supreme Court made in Meister. As a result, "common law marriage" in the American sense of a marriage created without a formal procedure, has never been valid in Canada. This is still the case today.

So why do Canadians almost uniformly believe this concept exists even though it does not? I figure it is a combination of four things.

First, American television may lead Canadians to believe they are seeing law that applies in Canada.

Second, at common law (and continuing to the present day in every province), in an unmarried relationship, one partner could still recover damages from the other one in the case of a split up, under the legal theory of unjust enrichment. There are some similarities between the law of unjust enrichment and the law of division of maritial assets, but the law is emphatically not the same. In particular, the law of unjust enrichment does not presume a 50/50 split, but rather a split in proportion to the work invested into the relationship (such as raising children, keeping the home, etc.).

Third, most or all provinces have also enacted laws creating a statutory form of unmarried relationship (not a marriage) conveying certain rights that did not exist in the common law of unjust enrichment. In Alberta, these are called "adult interdependent relationships", but the term varies in other provinces. These relationships are controlled by a wholly separate body of law compared to marriages, although some of the principles are similar.

Fourth, the federal Income Tax Act (and the Canada Revenue Agency) use the term "common-law partnership" to refer to a pure tax concept relevant for computing income tax. This concept is relevant for tax purposes, but not for any other purposes. Just because somebody is a common-law partner for tax purposes does not convey any rights itself, although as a practical matter, they may have some rights under the other law discussed above.

This ended up being a very long post, but to summarise all of the above: "common law marriage", as in a marriage created without formal procedures, did not historically exist in the common law of England, but due to a mistake, it does exist in the law of some but not all US states. It never existed in Canada and still does not exist in Canada.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2015, 02:09:46 PM by Cathy »

scrubbyfish

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #39 on: April 12, 2015, 01:21:15 PM »
When one man referred to his (male) partner, I was surprised to "learn" he was gay, as he was often with someone I had assumed was his wife.
Perhaps in this case he truly is a business partner...?

Absolutely! This was my first guess (since I had believed him to have a wife), but subsequent context eliminated that, so that's not an easy fit, either. The mystery continues! However, today I saw his hand graze his lady-companion's butt, so things are starting to narrow down. Maybe. lol.

I have at times asked people outright, so I can know how to refer to their tribe members, but while some are easy and happy to be asked, others have been offended, so I've become more studious.

Cookie78

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #40 on: April 12, 2015, 01:30:41 PM »
When one man referred to his (male) partner, I was surprised to "learn" he was gay, as he was often with someone I had assumed was his wife.
Perhaps in this case he truly is a business partner...?

Absolutely! This was my first guess (since I had believed him to have a wife), but subsequent context eliminated that, so that's not an easy fit, either. The mystery continues! However, today I saw his hand graze his lady-companion's butt, so things are starting to narrow down. Maybe. lol.

I have at times asked people outright, so I can know how to refer to their tribe members, but while some are easy and happy to be asked, others have been offended, so I've become more studious.

Sometimes it's fun to try to figure it out without having to ask. :p My poly-bias is guessing wife and boyfriend.

When my grandmother passed away I brought my then-girlfriend to the funeral. She hadn't met my family before. My parents and at least one of my brothers understood that I had a romantic girlfriend (in addition to my boyfriend they'd already met). I referred to her at girlfriend to everyone else I introduced her to. Unfortunately 'girlfriend' in that context (being both female) is also vague. Everyone assumed I meant 'friend'.

Now any time I hear a female refer to their girlfriend I wonder if it's romantic or friendship.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #41 on: April 12, 2015, 01:39:05 PM »
When my grandmother passed away I brought my then-girlfriend to the funeral. She hadn't met my family before. My parents and at least one of my brothers understood that I had a romantic girlfriend (in addition to my boyfriend they'd already met). I referred to her at girlfriend to everyone else I introduced her to. Unfortunately 'girlfriend' in that context (being both female) is also vague. Everyone assumed I meant 'friend'.

Now any time I hear a female refer to their girlfriend I wonder if it's romantic or friendship.

Yep, that too :)    I have a...female friend...who is poly and bi. When she met her new husband's very conservative family, she was relieved to be able to continuing referring to her great love as her (past) girlfriend and know they would assume a female friend. ha! Best of all worlds.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #42 on: April 12, 2015, 02:20:05 PM »
OP, can you offer alternatives? I have been dating the same man for six years. We are planning on living together imminently, at which point I will likely start referring to him as my spouse. I am 40 years old and he is nearly 60 years old.
While I do generally refer to him as my "boyfriend" if he needs a title, I cringe a little bit inside when I do, because I don't like the term for someone his age at all.
Similarly, I don't particularly care for partner for some of the reasons you mentioned.
So, from the options proposed in this thread, that leaves Significant Other as an option. I equally don't much care for that term. It seems pretentious and vague all at once to me (not saying others shouldn't use or would certainly come off sounding pretentious using it, only that I would feel like I'm being pretentious using it).
I do think we need a better term to denote something similar to boyfriend/girlfriend for older people and people in more long-term or significant relationships than those terms imply, but I don't know what that term is. Partner, while not entirely satisfactory from my perspective, serves a role in such situations and is one of the better terminological options. But if you have something better to offer, I'm all ears!

One idea is to use an existing term such as "companion" or "other half" (I'm leaving significant other off bc you don't like that but that could possibly work also.

The second idea, and one that I personally favor is to coin a new term to reflect this status.  My thought instead of randomly putting letters together is to make a word out of an acronym.  How about this- "Cilre"- which stands for "companion in loving relationship" and is gender neutral.  For those who would want to use it in a masculine or feminine form they can utilize "Cilro" or "Cilra" in the alternative.  Along the same lines could be "Picre" (Partner in committed relationship).

Maybe this board can start a movement to provide a proper name! What do you think of my idea?  Got another possible word??? Let's hear it!!

scrubbyfish

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #43 on: April 12, 2015, 02:25:02 PM »
When I'm in a relationship, I use words like "partner" or "beloved" or "sweetie pie". The latter two fit my silly personality while also making clear my heart and the type of relationship I have with the person. Super serious personalities would probably be uncomfortable using those, though.

MLKnits

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #44 on: April 16, 2015, 06:25:26 AM »
As a gay lawyer with business partners ... yup, it gets pretty confusing.

The difficult thing is there's not a massively better word if you're in a professional setting. I'm certainly not going to say "girlfriend," I'm not using "wife" for someone I'm not yet married to, "spouse" and "significant other" sound cold to me ... there are few good options! "Romantic partner," while too syllabic, is at least instantly clear and a nice combination of the formal "partner" and the emotion-laden "romantic."

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #45 on: April 16, 2015, 06:35:36 AM »
Been using partner since we moved in together, put our names on a lease together, adopted a dog together, and joined bank accounts.

We're getting married in nine days (WOOT!) and I've called him my partner all through our engagement. I'll probably call him my partner after we're married (speaking of linguistic connotations, husband makes me think of animal husbandry, which makes me feel like nothing more than a baby-maker. Spouse is fine, but bleh.)

1) I got out of boyfriend/girlfriend language real quick, although I shorthand BF on the forums (and probably will after we're married, oddly enough). Where we're from, boyfriend can mean the 15 year old you've been dating ten days. It didn't carry the weight I felt our relationship (partnership) called for.
2) I think partner is also about asserting equitable roles within the relationship. Yes we're romantic, but we're also partners in life - supporting each other emotionally, financially, etc. It is a partnership, albeit a romantic one.
3) I like fucking with people's heteronormative assumptions. (This is super far down the line in importance compared to my other reasons, but notable. The conversations its led to about heternormativity have been really wonderful).

tl;dr: Language is malleable and contingent. I'm all for self-definition and identification with the caveat that not everyone will understand immediately and all non-normative language will at some point require conversation/explanation.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #46 on: April 16, 2015, 09:43:54 AM »
Anyone who is close enough to you to matter already knows the status of your relationship . . . so I just grab whatever term happens to float through my head.  Typically that would be her name.

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #47 on: April 16, 2015, 10:00:11 AM »
Typically use Husband to describe DH, but I'm digging the idea of an alternative...

he is my "Chosen One"  :)

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #48 on: April 18, 2015, 09:21:46 PM »
As a gay lawyer with business partners ... yup, it gets pretty confusing.

The difficult thing is there's not a massively better word if you're in a professional setting. I'm certainly not going to say "girlfriend," I'm not using "wife" for someone I'm not yet married to, "spouse" and "significant other" sound cold to me ... there are few good options! "Romantic partner," while too syllabic, is at least instantly clear and a nice combination of the formal "partner" and the emotion-laden "romantic."

I've on occasion referred to my partner  as my "man candy", maybe you could try a variation on that? Though that's not very office suitable 😉

MLKnits

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Re: Romantic "partners"
« Reply #49 on: April 20, 2015, 05:46:08 AM »
As a gay lawyer with business partners ... yup, it gets pretty confusing.

The difficult thing is there's not a massively better word if you're in a professional setting. I'm certainly not going to say "girlfriend," I'm not using "wife" for someone I'm not yet married to, "spouse" and "significant other" sound cold to me ... there are few good options! "Romantic partner," while too syllabic, is at least instantly clear and a nice combination of the formal "partner" and the emotion-laden "romantic."

I've on occasion referred to my partner  as my "man candy", maybe you could try a variation on that? Though that's not very office suitable 😉

Ha! I can't say I've never used "lady friend," but as you say, not exactly professional. (I'm lucky in that my actual officemates are very casual, maybe even too much; it's more a question of how I chitchat with opposing counsel, court staff, clients, etc.)