My problem is when people assume then that we’re married. We’re both in our fifties, so maybe that’s why it happens so often. People will ask me something about my “husband,” and he’ll get the “your wife” question. This doesn’t bother him at all; he just continues the conversation as though we’re married. I feel impelled to clarify every time with a laugh: “He’s my boyfriend.”
He thinks I should just pretend for that moment that we are married and leave it at that. It’s no conflict between us — he doesn’t mind what I do one way or the other. But I guess I kind of mind that he’s not correcting the impression that we’re married. Maybe I’m having a knee-jerk reaction to not wanting to feel pressured into a decision that to me is fraught with implications. I’m not even sure I’ll ever want to sign on the dotted line. There are too many financial repercussions. And he’s still only legally separated from his former wife. They’re in the throes of a drawn-out property settlement. We’re not living together yet–although that may happen soon. I am wearing on “that” finger a ring he gave me, but it’s not “the” ring.
Should I just pretend that we’re married when those moments arise? Is it more important to make the other person feel comfortable by not pointing out the mistake? Or is there something better I could say? Since I’m campaign manager for a local candidate, it’s mostly at the political events that this is an issue. I don’t want to weird people out unnecessarily, but I also don’t want to give an inaccurate impression. There’s precious little truth in politics already! Thanks for your help. — Not a Wife
When people refer to your boyfriend as your “husband” or to you as his “wife,” they aren’t so much making the assumption that you’re married as they are assuming that you’re a couple, and in that sense they’re correct. If you were, say, his daughter and someone referred to you as his wife while your boyfriend didn’t rush to correct him or her, that would be weird. But you’re not his daughter – you’re his girlfriend, and your boyfriend recognizes that, when people make the (incorrect, but understandable) assumption that you’re married, it’s really just a semantics choice and most of the time it isn’t loaded with any more meaning that what you might give it.
Of course, there are times when it might be more necessary to make sure someone has an accurate impression of your relationship status. Like, I don’t know, when you’re filling out a census report or when you’re filing your taxes or, possibly, when you’re both quoted in a newspaper article about 50-something couples who are either married, living together, or just dating. Other than that, I can’t see what difference it makes. To other people anyway. To you it matters, and that’s fine.
If other people assuming you are married to your boyfriend causes you some anxiety and makes you feel pressured, then address the underlying cause of that anxiety with your boyfriend. If the word “wife” and all its implications gives you pause or makes you feel claustrophobic, talk about that. Talk about what your expectations are in terms of your relationship and what you both want.
It sounds like there are some holes in your communication and you’re filling those spaces with a lot of assumptions of your own. Maybe your boyfriend has no desire to get married again either. Have you discussed it? Have you discussed whether moving in together is a step toward marriage, or is it just a step? What does your future together look like? What do YOU want it to look like?
I think once you have some clarity about these issues, you’re going to feel a lot less anxious when someone refers to you as your boyfriend’s wife. But if you aren’t, or if you feel like not correcting the assumption that you’re married makes you a liar, a simple, “Actually, we’re a couple, but we’re not married,” should suffice.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.