Question of the Week: December 3rd, 2014

Bouncing off the discussion of preferred identity labels from a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about preferred terms for significant others (if you have one). Since I got married, I’ve noticed that a lot of people default to “wife” to refer to me and my one partner, in an effort to be supportive. Unfortunately, that word feels wrong to both of us–me because I’m still really not comfortable with the cultural baggage that comes along with marriage, and my partner who doesn’t actually identify as female. I’ve found over time that I vastly prefer words that have some more ambiguity or which are a little less charged, like “partner” (my top choice always) or “spouse” if I’m dealing with legal stuff. Which is all just a long winded way of building up to saying this:

Are you more or less comfortable with some relationship terms than others? If so, why? 

About Sciatrix

Sciatrix is an American graduate student studying ecology, evolution and behavior. She identifies as asexual and has mostly given up trying to sort out the whole romance thing for now. She has previously blogged about asexuality at Writing From Factor X. In her free time, she trains in canine agility and knits oddly cabled hats.
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7 Responses to Question of the Week: December 3rd, 2014

  1. Siggy says:

    I always use “boyfriend”. Because it’s gendered, and really no other reason. Coming out is hard, disclosing the gender of my partner is easy.

    I think I might be that annoying person who refers to his boyfriend all the time, but straight people never feel comfortable complaining because there isn’t really a way to do it without coming off as homophobic.

  2. Alice says:

    I’m not a huge fan of ‘girlfriend’ because I feel like it’s a little too possessive and infantilising. Neither of us is a girl, we’re women. ‘Partner’ always comes across as a little possessive too, although less so. ‘Lover’ has connotations that we don’t want in terms of sexuality.

    We haven’t actually found the term that works for us yet. We’re both female (I’m trans, she is cis) and asexual. I think partner is the least objectionable politically, but we don’t feel comfortable with it somehow. As we’re having our relationship for our benefit, rather than as a public performance, we refer to each other as friends. After all, we are!

  3. This is a purely theoretical question for me at this point, but I would default to “partner”.

  4. I’m married but I don’t like to refer to my person as my husband. I call him my partner, and if I want to emphasize that we’re married, I’ll call him my spouse. I feel like using the word “husband” makes people more likely to assume my relationship to him is romantic, and it also invites them to refer to me as his husband. I don’t like using gendered nouns in relation to myself because it feels misgendering. When I refer to my partner when speaking to other people, it’s most often as his name, and not as “my partner.”

  5. Rachel Jackson says:

    I have a weird relationship right now, in which the two of us are really just having fun and playing everything by ear, so we don’t even know what we are. Not too many people know we’re “together” anyway, but I dread the day I have to explain it. I suppose I’ll just say what I just said, that we’re “together,” and they can interpret that however they want. I don’t mind “partner” too much, so that would work, too, but I’m definitely not a fan of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”

  6. Pegasus says:

    I’m not entirely comfortable using most relationship terms, as when people hear them, they often conjure up images of conventional styles of relationships. Which isn’t particularly accurate for the my ‘ships. What terms I use generally depends on the context.

    Girlfriend I’ll use sometimes if I’m wanting to come out to somebody as queer, without going into an explanation of my gender/sexuality. Girlfriend/boyfriend/partner are all useful when I want somebody to know that I’m “not available” for exclusive relationships – girlfriend is doubly helpful when being hit on by straight men (usually…)! But “friend” or the person’s name are what I use most often.

    When talking to people who are somewhat informed about non-conventional relationships, then romantic friend or queerplatonic partner are probably my preferred terms.

  7. Talia says:

    I also prefer the term partner because I don’t want to link to all of the cultural associations with marriage. My partner also doesn’t identify along the gender binary, so it’s a nice gender neutral term for us.

    Sometimes I think about what partner does as a term when you use it. Just last night I was playing online games and I referred to my partner as my ‘partner’ and the person I was talking to said “wait… like your arena partner in the game?” and I was like “no… my partner partner…” which explained absolutely nothing. They managed to catch on while I fumbled sorting out how to explain my relationship. The ambiguity of partner works for me, and I like the confusion it opens up, but I also wonder if this same ambiguity might be a detriment to others.

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