Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Topic of the Day: Do You Say ‘Partner’ to Refer to Your Significant Other?

In the comments of this post the other day, someone pointed out that I referred to the LW’s significant other as her “boyfriend” when she had referred to him in her letter as her “partner.” The commenter said:

Wendy, he is not her ‘boyfriend’, he is her partner. Why do you always respond to people who reference their partners by referring to the partners as boyfriends/girlfriends? The term ‘boyfriend’ (or ‘girlfriend’) is dismissive and disrespectful when used in reference to adults, as it implies that the relationship is immature and invalid only because it is not bound by traditional marriage. This man is not a boy, nor is he a friend; he is an adult partner.

The commenter is both right and wrong here. I don’t “always” change the descriptor to boyfriend and girlfriend. (Here’s one example of many where in lieu of a descriptor from the LW, I went with “partner” in both the headline and my response.) But if someone gives me the language he or she wants used, that’s what I should use, and I haven’t always done that. I didn’t even realize I was making this switch as often as I do, but I don’t think my subconscious reason for the switch is to be dismissive or disrespectful. I think in headlines, “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” is a little more descriptive. Does “partner” mean “business partner” or “romantic partner”? It’s unclear. There’s no confusion with “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” I also think people are more likely to find my posts doing Google searches for “my boyfriend” instead of “my partner,” so for SEO purposes, partner doesn’t work quite as well. But, whatever. Those aren’t big things, and I will be better about honoring the phrases and descriptors people use in their letters to me, qualifying their relationships.

This got me thinking about the language we use for our relationships, and I wanted to find out if I somehow missed the memo that everyone has switched to “partner” except me. Or maybe it’s a generational thing and Gen Xers like I am are more apt to go with “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” to describe a significant other one of us is committed to but not, like, super committed to as in life partners with yet. And maybe it’s just the younger generations – millennials and Gen Zers – who use “partner” for significant other. I posed the question in my instagram stories, asking if people use “partner” exclusively for their significant other, or if they use “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”

I got lots of varying responses:

It seems that if there was a consensus, it was that people – across generations and across sexual identities – definitely still say “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” though “partner” is common, too, and most people wouldn’t be offended if someone else referred to their significant others as any of the above. The commenter who said my use of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” is dismissive and disrespectful seems to be in the minority in feeling that way (and, as BGM pointed out here, some gay people don’t like the use of “partner” because of it’s historical anti-gay marriage use). But I’ll pose the question here, too: What language do you use to describe a significant other? If you use “partner,” is there a time frame – say, six months, one year – or a milestone – like moving in together – when you start using it? Do you always avoid “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” or “partner,” and, if so, why?

58 comments… add one
  • LisforLeslie June 16, 2021, 9:58 am

    Gen Xer – most of my peers use boyfriend, girlfriend or partner but most use girlfriend, boyfriend if they are unmarried and wife/husband/spouse when married.

    My grandma, in her 70’s, did not like to use the word boyfriend so she would use the term gentleman friend but that’s a mouthful and manfriend doesn’t sound right to the ear.

    My mom and her friends, currently in their 70’s – 80’s refer to exclusive (or semi-exclusive) partnerships as boyfriends and girlfriends. As in “My 80 year old friend’s boyfriend just turned 82.”

    I don’t have any particular preference with the exception of “lover”. I’d rather hear Fuck Buddy in my ear than “lover”. I would love if poly people would start referring to their people as “pod-ners” because that would be hysterical.

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  • Bittergaymark June 16, 2021, 10:31 am

    To me “partner” only calls back a grim time (not that long ago either) when gays were supposed to willingly cloak their relationships in vapid mystery so as not to offend asshole heterosexuals (the real fucking snowfkakes fyi) who simply couldn’t handle the very idea of men having boyfriends, lovers, or (gasp!) husbands.

    It’s a dated, awful term. And one that should really fucking be put out to pasture.

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    • Lucidity June 18, 2021, 8:49 pm

      When I was a student in uni, living in and around Toronto’s “Gaybourhood,” as it’s fondly called, there was a belief amongst my hetero friends who fancied themselves woke (myself included) that adopting the term partner was one way we could be good allies. It was understood that some gay people might want to be able to bring up their significant others without signalling their sexuality every time – maybe they were closeted in workplaces that weren’t progressive or something – and hetero folk using the term would normalize it and help them fly under the radar if that’s what they wanted.

      I’m cringing now. I don’t ever remember talking to any of my gay and queer friends or acquaintances about how they felt about the term.

      I tried to use the term partner because I thought it was the inclusive thing to do, but I always found it clunky and mainly stuck to bf/gf/husband/wife, unless I was referring to people whom I knew had chosen to adopt the term partner.

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  • Akeath June 16, 2021, 10:45 am

    I’m an older millennial. For me, “partner” isn’t synonymous with boyfriend/girlfriend. “Partner” suggests more commitment, more closeness, and working together in life as a team. Boyfriend/girlfriend can apply to those relationships for some people, but it can also apply to more casual relationships.

    For example, I’m friends with a couple that have been dating and living together nearly 10 years, I’ve been calling them partners since they were living together for a year or so. Any couple that has kids and isn’t married usually go by “partner”. Couples that are firmly against the idea of marriage but consider themselves to still be especially committed also tend to go by “partner”. Time together can correlate with that, but sometimes people think of each other that way early on, and I’ll follow a couple’s lead on when to use that term.

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  • Kate June 16, 2021, 11:05 am

    No. Always used boyfriend.

    But if someone talks to me about their partner, if I’m asking questions or whatever, I’ll use that same term and whatever pronouns. Someone on my team (late 20s) uses “partner,” and “they.” I’ve never met her partner, but they present as female in a photo I saw. I still say “they” though. I heard someone else asking about her partner and using “she/her,” and I didn’t think that was cool. I mean, whatever you want, I’ll go with it.

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  • mickmaverick June 16, 2021, 11:07 am

    I was married to a man for a long time (during most of which I identified as female) and called him both my husband and my partner. I am, however, non-binary and now have a girlfriend, but I didn’t want to call my girlfriend my partner because it felt too serious/LIFEpartner-y at the stage when we decided to begin a relationship. As a non-binary person, boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t work for referring to me, so my gf calls me her ‘joyfriend’ which I don’t love because it’s kinda goofy but it’s also very cute coming from her. Now that I’m getting a bit more serious with her, I’ve actually been thinking about having the ‘can I call you partner?’ conversation, so for me it’s a bit of a relationship stage indicator.

    I’m also polyamorous, and it’s VERY common to refer to everyone you’re in a relationship with as ‘partner.’ It’s actually sometimes recommended that polyam people use ‘partner’ when talking with people they’re not out to so that they don’t accidentally slip up and talk about their husband one day and their girlfriend the next.

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    • Kacie June 17, 2021, 6:38 am

      Well said! I am poly as well, and just refer to my boyfriend and my husband as my partner(s) interchangeably. Same with my husband’s non binary partner.

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  • Miel June 16, 2021, 11:14 am

    I like the word “partner.” I started using it after my boyfriend and I had been together 6-7 years when I started getting weird reactions from acquaintances or colleagues. The conversation would go “I’m planning to move to city X where my boyfriend lives” and immediately these people who knew nothing about my personal life would go “you’re going to sacrifice your career for a random guy? You guys are not even engaged?” or some other nonsense. But if instead I said “I’m planning to move to be with my partner,” all was well. They would assume it was some form of serious relationship and I would get no negative comments at all. (Eyerolling, I know).

    So basically, it became a way to keep some distance with new people, especially in a work context. In our private life I would still say “boyfriend” (like telling him “you’re the best boyfriend” when he would do something nice), but in situations where I would refer to him when talking to people who didn’t know us, I would say partner. “Partner” meant people would assume we were at least serious and committed in some way. Also, in public/professional contexts, considering I’m in a heavily male-dominated field, I didn’t really want a bunch of strangers to know about my sexuality (even though I’m straight), so I liked the gender neutrality.

    So I guess I wouldn’t have been offended if someone had referred to him as my boyfriend. He WAS my boyfriend. It’s just that saying “partner” got me fewer negative comments.

    And now of course, I refer to him as my husband because that also resonates really well with strangers. We just moved to suburbia and all of our retired neighbors seem very pleased with us being a married couple. (Eyeroll again)

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    • Kate June 16, 2021, 11:21 am

      I agree partner sounds more professional at work!

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  • Copa June 16, 2021, 11:31 am

    I commented on the original post, but we use boyfriend/girlfriend and we’re both older millennials. My friends in similar situations to mine (live-in, longer-term, unmarried couples) also use boyfriend/girlfriend. I don’t think it’s inherently rude or dismissive to use these terms in reference to adults as the original commenter said, but I do think it’s considerate to use people’s preferred terms when you know what those are.

    This topic came up last summer with a couple of my girl friends when one said she felt juvenile using “boyfriend” at 32. She’s starting to feel old, desperately wants her boyfriend to propose, and worries about being an old mom — I think these factors influence how she feels about the term. Another friend said she felt like it’d be outwardly confusing since to many it still implies same-sex romantic partners.

    I’ve never been in a situation where someone made a reference to their partner and I assumed they meant business partner. I have, however, wondered a few times about which pronouns to use when it’s been unclear.

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  • Marj W June 16, 2021, 11:39 am

    We were firmly in the “boyfriend/girlfriend” camp, largely but not exclusively for reasons of avoiding confusion. My now-husband has a longterm writing partner, with their collaboration predating our relationship, so when the word “partner” is used, that’s who we mean.

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  • ktfran June 16, 2021, 11:47 am

    Even as a teenager, I was never a fan of using the boyfriend/girlfriend terminology. I never felt right saying it. I would use boyfriend if needed, but I tried to avoid using it. Maybe I’d use “the person I’m dating” or “seeing” or something like “we’re together”. Later, I would occasionally use partner, but not often. Now, I use “the husband” instead of “my husband.” IDK. I’m weird.

    I’m a gen x/millennial cusper.

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  • Kali June 16, 2021, 11:55 am

    Am I the only boomer here? Anyway… I have called my guy of 20-plus years my boyfriend most of the time. I call him my partner when we’re in a medical setting and they want to know who he is to determine what they can say in front of him. Partner always sounds to me like we’re on an episode of Law & Order. Significant Other is too long and pretentious. Boyfriend isn’t great either but it usually gets the nod.

    Side note: once had a new boss say to me “Oh, let’s not call him your boyfriend; it’s juvenile. Let’s say partner.” I didn’t respond because I was in shock but needless to say she didn’t get to define my relationship (I didn’t work for her very long and hated every minute) but it did make me think about outsider interpretations of the terms we use to define ourselves.

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  • Helen June 16, 2021, 12:37 pm

    I say my husband, but when we were unmarried I said boyfriend. I was 30 & he was 40 when we got together so sometimes bf/gf felt juvenile but never stopped using it. Everyone understands bf/gf. Partner has several meanings

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  • Lau June 16, 2021, 12:48 pm

    I’m a millennial woman in a heterosexual relationship and I refer to my partner of 6 years as, well, my partner. I am not offended when someone else refers to him as my boyfriend, but I do see us as life partners and I believe the term reflects our level of commitment more accurately than boyfriend/girlfriend. I do however get annoyed when people make statements insinuating that non-married couples are not as serious/committed to each other as married couples are. We have no intention of getting married (I come from a culture where marriage has become very optional and my non-married parents have been together for 35+ years, he doesn’t care one way or another) but we do intend to be together for the long run.

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    • Miel June 16, 2021, 2:40 pm

      Coming from Quebec where marriage is very optional, I would say “conjoint” in French for long term partners that aren’t married, or if I don’t know about their marital status. It’s so common, I know so many unmarried “conjoints”.

      But I haven’t found a good English word for it. “Partner” isn’t exactly it. “Spouse” makes it sound like they are married.

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      • Lau June 16, 2021, 4:02 pm

        Ha! I’m québécoise as well as and do refer to my partner as “mon conjoint” in French, especially in more formal settings. 🙂 I do believe it’s a case of the English language not having caught up with evolving cultural norms.

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  • Fyodor June 16, 2021, 12:48 pm

    Partner for me always has the connotation of people who have some sort of very long term relationship unmarried relationship where they’re living together, etc, but aren’t necessarily planning to get married. Whereas people who had been together for a year would go by “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.”

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  • Moneypenny June 16, 2021, 12:55 pm

    I am 36 and refer to my boyfriend (of ~5 yrs) as boyfriend most of the time. However, if I’m talking to people who don’t know me or if I’m in a professional setting, I’m like Miel- I refer to him as partner, at least most of the time. I have found that people can be really judgy! Like, we are not married, yet we are totally committed to each other. Yet people are like, oh, you’ve been together for xyz time, why aren’t you married yet? He’s still your *boyfriend?* (Eyeroll.) Example: we were traveling in Europe in 2019 and were on a ferry and we shared a seat/table with an older couple from Montana. Nice people, but the woman was like, oh, how long have you been married? And then wanted to know why we weren’t married. (Like, you can’t travel with your significant other if you’re not?)

    Using one term over another isn’t a big deal to me, and I have also had friends refer to their serious boyfriend as a partner as well as gentleman caller and manfriend. I feel like there is an in-between where maybe a person wants to call their SO something a little different than boy/girlfriend. I don’t know if partner is it though!

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    • Copa June 16, 2021, 1:17 pm

      I suppose since people are mentioning it in this thread, work may be the only context where I feel kind of silly talking about my boyfriend. I don’t think it’s the term “boyfriend” itself as much as it is wanting to keep my private life private. I used royal we for a long time to avoid it altogether (e.g., when asked about weekend plans, “We did X” vs “My boyfriend and I did X”). But at this point I have mentioned him as a boyfriend a few times. IDK that “partner” would change anything for me in that context.

      My boomer aunt, who divorced probably 15 years ago, has been with her boyfriend for probably… IDK, maybe close to a decade? Not sure, but he’s been around for awhile and she moved in with him during COVID, though it sounds like this was not her first choice. I’ve noticed she introduces him to people as her friend.

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    • Ele4phant June 16, 2021, 3:07 pm

      Oh you know – significant other would work.

      It’s gender neutral but seems to connote a certain seriousness and adult ness.

      And some people may assume you’re married, but that’s fine.

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      • Moneypenny June 16, 2021, 3:13 pm

        Yes, significant other works as well!

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  • Prognosti-gator June 16, 2021, 2:15 pm

    I (GenX) use girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband by default – but follow the lead of the person I’m talking to when referring to their relationships. If they call someone their partner, that’s the term I’ll use when referring to that person, but don’t use it for my own relationship.

    “Partner” still sounds new to me for romantic relationships. It’s not the first connotation I have with the word. I recall a business/social gathering I went to about 15 years ago, and was introduced to one of the people there “I’d like you to meet A, and his partner B.” Being a somewhat business related function, I had assumed “business partner.”

    It wasn’t until later in the evening when I was talking with B, and he said something along the lines of “… like the one at A’s and my lake house” when it clicked in my head, “Oh! THAT kind of partner.” [Side note: they (older GenX) used “husband” for each other, it was the 3rd party (Boomer) introducing me, that used the word “partner.”]

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  • ele4phant June 16, 2021, 2:26 pm

    I personally don’t use partner, and never have.

    Granted, I’m married so I do understand how if I weren’t, at my age “boyfriend” might seem childish. But, there are plenty of married spouses that use partner, and find husband/wife un-pc, but meh, works for me.

    I’m happy to use partner if that’s what other couples care, in general, I sometimes find the dialogue around labels tedious. Happy to respect what you prefer, don’t think finding just the right wording is going to rip down the patriarchy anytime soon, but it’s really important to some people so happy to accommodate others, so long as you don’t lecture me about my choices.

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    • ele4phant June 16, 2021, 2:30 pm

      Will say “partner” can be so generic it can almost feel useless sometimes.

      Like who is this person to you? Sometimes from context it’s clear, but sometimes it’s like…wait, do you mean they are your business partner or something? What role does this person have in your life, exactly?

      Husband/Wife/Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Boo all at least provide quick clarity on what your relationship is to someone without you having to go into a long explanation.

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  • Allornone June 16, 2021, 3:00 pm

    I mostly use boyfriend, but after 7 years together, I admit the term boyfriend doesn’t seem like it quite fits. I find I use significant other sometimes, but mostly in more formal situations. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word partner, though I have noticed it’s more in use these days.

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  • anonymousse June 16, 2021, 3:30 pm

    I’m an older millennial and I called my husband my partner before we got married. Boyfriend/girlfriend seemed juvenile to us and didn’t signify the importance of our relationship. Many of my coworkers and friends (of all genders and sexual orientations) that are unmarried but in committed relationships use the term partner. No one has ever seemed confused if it was a business partner.

    I thought this was interesting:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/01/21/forget-boyfriend-or-girlfriend-why-millennials-are-using-word-partner/

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    • Anonymous June 16, 2021, 4:01 pm

      Uh… We didn’t exactly gleefully adopt it. It was fucking forced upon us. Christ. This article is almost as clueless and useless as the entire Newsom family is.

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  • Hannah June 16, 2021, 5:12 pm

    I’m in my 40s and I live with my boyfriend. Technically, he’s my fiancé but I’ve never warmed to that word, nor partner. Oddly, I’m looking forward to him being my husband, but I’ve never liked the term wife. I’ll live though.

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  • Ange June 16, 2021, 5:41 pm

    In my crew of largely white collar ~40 year olds we tend to use partner because we felt a bit silly using boyfriend or girlfriend after a certain age. There wasn’t anything else in it, really.

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    • Ange June 16, 2021, 5:47 pm

      I should say partner was used until marriage in which case husband/wife always became the default.

      I’ve got friends that aren’t married that use partner and I think it’s a nice way to add some heft to the relationship that others might not give it otherwise. I mean, these are people that are more or less middle aged and share houses and kids so they’re just as committed as I am, why not add some gravitas.

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  • Kate B. June 16, 2021, 5:44 pm

    To me, a partner is someone you do business with. I’m okay with boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband. But, that’s just for me. If someone I know uses the word partner, I’ll use it when referring to their partner. But call me girlfriend or wife.

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    • Kate B. June 16, 2021, 5:45 pm

      Hm, I can’t edit, but I also like co-conspirator or partner-in-crime. 😉

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    • allathian June 17, 2021, 4:34 am

      If it’s a business partner, why not say it’s a business partner? If I hear someone mention partner, I’ll assume a romantic or life partner rather than a business partner. But the terms are evolving.

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      • ele4phant June 17, 2021, 3:21 pm

        I think the challenge is, particularly depending on age or maybe regionality, just “partner” used to mean business partner or some sort of other non-romantic, perhaps utilitarian, relationship. That association is still there for many, even if younger generations have decided to use it in a different way.

        Not saying anyone owns the term or that it can’t be changed over time to suit different purposes, just saying, while you may hear it and first assume romantic or life partner, that’s not true for everyone, so it can still sow confusion.

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      • Ange June 17, 2021, 5:56 pm

        I just don’t think THAT many people these days would confuse it as business partner, how many people these days have a business partner vs a life partner? Plus I imagine it would be fairly clear in context.

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  • KAM June 16, 2021, 5:56 pm

    33 yo Millenial here who definitely still uses boyfriend/girlfriend. I’m hetero as is my ex but in my community spaces that are more inclusive, I noticed others would default to referring to us as partners (i.e., “This is so-and-so’s partner, Jeff”). I didn’t feel the need to correct anyone (because they weren’t wrong) but it did rub me the wrong way as I most often associate “partner” with “life partner” or something equally serious. Given we weren’t serious (and are no longer together) it felt like external pressure to *make us serious.* Didn’t love that. That may just be a reaction that’s unique to me, though. I don’t have issues with the term partner in general and like another commenter said, would much prefer “partner” over “fiancée” if/when things do get serious with a SO. But probably not before.

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  • Viki June 16, 2021, 6:35 pm

    I use Partner. We’ve been together for 18 years, we own a house, a car, animals and a kid. We’re not married because I don’t want to be and he doesn’t care.

    We have a whole life together, and calling him my boyfriend, feels like that trivializes it and makes us sound younger than we actually are, and our actual commitment.

    I’m 43 and he is 51

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  • Sam June 16, 2021, 6:50 pm

    The younger generation makes everything offensive these days. It’s really sad that this is the direction we are heading.

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    • Bittergaymark June 18, 2021, 9:50 am

      I agree. It’s exhausting. And I’m over it.

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  • js June 16, 2021, 8:04 pm

    In university in the late aughts my professors all used the term partner to refer to their significant others. Being only in my early 20s and only newly dating it didn’t come naturally to me. When my now husband and I started dating during our masters program we told everyone we had moved past partner and were to be known as associates. I thought that was hilarious at the time. I use partner if I have heard the other person use the term first. If it feels too old fashioned to say “my husband” I just say his name instead because the context usually gives away that I am talking about the person I share my life and residence with.

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    • Bittergaymark June 17, 2021, 10:27 am

      That’s because back then many homosexuals were forced to stay in the closet…

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      • Anonymous June 18, 2021, 11:50 pm

        I absolutely acknowledge this terrible reality. They all said this regardless of who they were referring to, to be inclusive as possible. It just felt too mature to describe a newly dating but monogamous situation. I couldn’t say the word boyfriend naturally either at that time so that’s where associate came in. Which is what I found funny, not the use of partner. I had a lot to learn with respect to sexuality and relationships but fortunately was not clueless to the history of the term and its context in a sociology department.

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  • allathian June 17, 2021, 4:50 am

    I’ll respect other people’s preferences in how they define their own relationships, but I think bf/gf is juvenile when the people concerned are middle-aged or older, unless it’s a very casual relationship. I think it sounds weird when a cohabiting couple refer to each other as their bf/gf. When older people use it, I see it like they don’t really want to acknowledge that they’re no longer young adults or that they don’t see their relationship as a serious commitment even if they live together and share a mortgage. If they use partner or SO, I see their relationship as a committed one even if they choose not to get married.

    When I was dating my husband, we were bf/gf for the first few months. I’ve never been one to date casually, and neither has he, so after a few months I started calling him my guy and he called me his lady friend. When we moved together, he became my partner or sometimes SO (initials rather than significant other), because that’s less clunky than cohabiting spouse or common-law spouse. Now that we’re married he’s my husband and I’m his wife and I don’t have a problem with those terms.

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    • allathian June 17, 2021, 4:54 am

      I’m X-gen and I met my husband when I was 33.

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  • Lucia_la June 17, 2021, 5:51 am

    Boyfriend/girlfriend don’t work at all for trans/non-binary people! I think that’s why millennials and younger have started using partner — it’s gender neutral and thus more inclusive. I’ve been with my guy for 4+ years and we live together, so I tend to use “partner” but sometimes still say “boyfriend.” I’ve also heard people use “sweetie” as a gender-neutral term that sounds less serious/long-term than partner.

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    • M June 20, 2021, 10:20 am

      That’s definitely a factor in my social circle. If people get married, they can use “spouse.” If it’s a new relationship, “crush” or “date” or something like that. But for long-term/serious but not married, there really isn’t anything as succinct and gender-neutral as “partner,” and I have yet to be in a context where people would confuse that with business partners (I am considerably more likely to be confused by straight women of a certain age referring to their platonic female friends as “girlfriends”).

      I’d also note that what might look like a heterosexual relationship from the outside is not necessarily, and a lot of nonbinary people would be very unhappy to be assigned to the boyfriend/girlfriend role because someone sees “partner” as problematic.

      LGBTQ people have a wide range of feelings about the term “partner,” and ultimately, the best thing to do is to respect how people self-describe their own relationships.

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  • PassingBy June 17, 2021, 6:57 am

    I use both partner and boyfriend to refer to my same-sex partner who I’m all but married to.

    Partner has the benefit of being gender neutral (not to hide the fact that I’m in a gay relationship, but just to de-emphasize gender when it isn’t relevant to the discussion).
    Partner doesn’t inherently indicate a level of commitment to me. I could see it being used for a relationship of three weeks, or a spouse.

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  • Cleopatra_30 June 17, 2021, 11:04 am

    I have not yet been in a relationship to the point where partner seemed right to use. My last relationship was 2 years and we used BF/GF. It seems from the comments that everyone has a different reason to use a different term. I think taking cues from letters and or in person interactions and what couples refer to themselves is the best way to avoid any assumptions of what is used.

    That being said, I personally don’t see anything wrong the use of all terms being partner, BF/GF, fiancé etc when appropriate. Everyone as a personal preference, and it shouldn’t be torn down because it doesn’t align with your ideals etc, especially when it comes to personal terms of reference for individuals relationships. This is not to say that because you use BF/GF that EVERYONE must be BF/GF, everyone has a responsibility still to respect the terms and how they are used by other couples.

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  • ron June 17, 2021, 2:19 pm

    I just say wife. When I had gfs, partner wasn’t as big a thing as now and we used gf. Never actually used fiance/fiancee.

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  • ron June 17, 2021, 2:26 pm

    Gay professors still seem to choose the partner terminology, unless married.

    Terminology is quite the issue for the over-75 set. Some use bf/gf, but think it is silly to refer to a senior citizen in that way. Others use gentleman/lady friend, but that sound Victorian. Generally not interest in marriage, often fairly long term. Often, it’s simply ‘this is Wylbur’.

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    • Kate June 17, 2021, 2:47 pm

      Older people seem to say “my friend,” too.

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  • Clover Neiberg June 18, 2021, 11:43 am

    I call the man I have lived with for several years my partner. The word just fits. We are together, in every sense that matters, and it feels like a beautiful partnership and we like calling each other partner.

    We’re solidly middle-aged (I’m early Gen X, he’s a young boomer). We’ve both been unhappily married and divorced (no kids). I’ve had many boyfriends in the past and he’s had many girlfriends. We agree that our relationship feels quantitatively different, better, more grown-up, and more serious than any past relationships, and we feel that partnership expresses our commitment better than any of the other labels we’ve applied to past relationships. We are unlikely to marry, unless some legal/practical reason emerges.

    I have a gay sibling, and she has a nonbinary spouse, and I am very close to them and have been for many years. They use “partner,” and due to that familiar it definitely rolls off my tongue more easily than some alternatives. It also seems to be the norm in my very diverse and somewhat younger-skewing friend group.

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  • sarah'a mom June 18, 2021, 7:32 pm

    I’m new to this site but I have to say that I love, love, love Bittergaymark. I really enjoy reading his comments and I find him to be honest and not the type to sugar coat his responses. Wish I could have a friendly dialogue with him at some point. He just seems like a really amazing person. Yes, I am straight but have some gay friends that are very much in my life. I also have a close relationship with my former boss and his partner. Wouldn’t trade them for all the money in the world.

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    • Bittergaymark June 19, 2021, 10:59 pm

      Thanks!! You can find me on facebook. Or instagram. Mark ilvedson.

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  • bloodymediocrity June 19, 2021, 10:56 am

    I kind of think all words that describe romantically-involved peoples are kind of cringe at best. I don’t like boyfriend/girlfriend as it’s juvenile and binary. “Partner” is non-descriptive and feels old and dusty. I guess “Husband” and “Wife” are tolerable, but very binary, but the gender-neutral “Spouse” feels icky. “Significant Other” is a mouthful. “Paramour” sounds pretentious. “Lover” sounds outdated and overly sexual.

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  • Hazel June 19, 2021, 6:42 pm

    always say partner as my other half is also my business partner. I do hate it a little bit when women my age refer to themselves as girls as we are all very definitely women now but it doesn’t bother me enough to mention it hell if someone wants to refer to themselves as an introspective cactus I am up for it.

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    • Kate June 19, 2021, 6:48 pm

      Right, me too, like, whatever you identify as, I’m here for it. It’s fun!

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