Thursday, September 19, 2013

What do you call your significant other?

I'm curious, what do you call your significant other?

In Canada, even before I was married, I referred to Mike as my partner. In my experience it's not uncommon to do that in Canada. My mom always called Mike my partner and I had heard it repeatedly before that. I liked the neutrality of the word. I hated the word boyfriend, which always felt inadequate after so many years together. Plus we were partners - common law, in every sense, according to Canadian provincial law. I liked the seriousness, the legality-sounding of the word. I liked that it connoted equality and accurately described our relationship.

I would have probably referred to Mike as my partner forever, but then we moved to Malta.

When we first moved to Malta I would sometimes get strange looks when I referred to 'my partner' or people wouldn't understand (or would pretend not to understand) what I was talking about. I switched to 'boyfriend' and later, 'fiancé'. It was just easier.

Now I call him my husband because I think it's a pretty word and because it's always understood. But sometimes I still throw in the word partner, too, because I think its important that people get used to hearing it so we can all (regardless of our sexuality) have a vocabulary for love that is normal and useful and doesn't raise any eyebrows.

When I talked to some American friends about this they thought it was strange that I had ever used the word partner, and I thought it was strange they never had! So what do you call your significant other and in what situations (and languages)? I'm genuinely curious.

12 comments :

  1. This is something that drives my husband (that is what I call him) crazy! In Sweden it is not very common to be married for almost three years at the age of 28 so people will refer to me as my husbands girlfriend or other Swedish words that mean other things but not wife and it really bothers him since he feels they are being disrespectful to me and our marriage. I even have a friend who was interviewed by the local paper and they changed when she said fiancee to the Swedish word for common law partner and she was very upset by it and she also thought it was diminishing the idea of marriage and the bond her and her now husband have.

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    1. Hi Bailie,

      That's fascinating! Thanks for your comment, and your insight into what vocabulary is used in Sweden.

      That sort of sounds like the opposite of Malta. Here, even when we weren't engaged, everyone thought we were married and would call Mike my husband (and we don't look very old, either)! I just kind of went along with it, it wasn't worth explaining.

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  2. Partner is a nice neutral word here in Canada, and it covers a wide variety of relationships. Of course, people have different preferences about these "titles". I always refer to my Mike as my husband, but we've been married 26 years ... a different era. I refer to my nephew's husband as his partner because I don't know if some other people in social situations would be confused by the term husband ... we've come a long way regarding gay marriage but not long enough! I really should ask my nephew and his husband what term they would prefer be used. :-)

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  3. I like 'partner' and appreciate it's use in Canada. Funny enough, I can't really recall what I called Joe pre-marriage. I know I occasionally used 'significant other,' rarely used 'boyfriend' so perhaps he was just 'Joe?'

    These days we're rely on 'husband' and 'wife.' It's easy, I like the way it sounds & when living overseas, I try to avoid confusion when I can as we're already facing a few language barriers. I like the idea of throwing 'partner' in there every once in awhile though.

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    1. Haha I normally called Mike 'Mike' since I didn't like 'boyfriend'. That's a good point about language barriers too. To be fair, I'm sure that's half the reason people here give me strange looks when I use the word partner. Funnily enough, people in Malta have a really hard time understanding my accent (which is often mistaken for British, American, and - the weirdest one - Texan) so I try to use the most recognizable words I can, and no slang.

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    2. That's funny about your accent. In Gabon, everyone had a lot of trouble with Joe's and I was often having to reiterate for him.

      {I think I'm going to read your posts with a Texan accent in my head from this point forward ;) }

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  4. My brother and his wife very commonly refer to one another as partners. WIth my boyfriend, I will either call him my boyfriend (but I agree, there's something in that word that is missing!) or sometimes I just call him my guy. :) I think partner is perfectly encapsulating.

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    1. And I think calling him your guy is the sweetest!

      Glad to hear I'm not the only one using the word partner :) May I ask where you brother and his wife are from/live? I love learning what vocabulary people use in different countries.

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  5. Hi Jess,

    Love the new blog by the way!

    I refer to my boyfriend as my man and he refers to me as his girl, I regularly introduce him as "This is my man, Lee" and I think he quite likes the manliness about being called a man.

    But for me he is my man, he is all the connotations associated with the word man. He is strong, brave, supportive, solid, stable, male, risk taker, protector and my hero.

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    1. Thanks Natasha!

      There's something so affectionate and sweet sounding about that. Thanks for joining the conversation!

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  6. I call my significant other just that or boyfriend or partner. I think its important to use the word interchangeably as well.

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    1. First of all, you have the best name ever. I seriously considered changing mine to Jeska. When people pronounce my name they often say it as 'Jeska' instead of Jessica anyway. LOVE it.

      Thank you for chiming in! Glad to have found another person who uses the word partner!

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