Advice + Discussions

Discuss: A Rose By Any Other Name

After almost four-years together, Kyle and I are definitely coupled.  We live together.  We have two dogs.  We share expenses, insurance, and a mortgage.  But the longer our relationship goes on, the more I chafe at how introducing him to people as my “boyfriend.”  What do I call him?

Boyfriend makes me feel old.  It’s also not descriptive of our commitment to one another.  I’ve had boyfriends; Kyle is not a boyfriend.

My former boss refers to him as “my gentleman.”  This always makes me feel like I live in Victorian England.  Plus, I’m not going to refer to him as a gentleman until he starts putting the toilet seat down.

The paperwork we signed for health insurance calls him my “committed, intimate domestic partner.”  A term with about as much charm as a drunken frat boy with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

A friend jokingly suggested that I call him my “lover” referencing Carrie Bradshaw.  I laughed so hard I choked on my cocktail.

The drop down menu on my emergency contact list selected “significant other.”   A term I’ve always felt was too clinical to be used to refer to someone you love.

I wholeheartedly reject “other half.”  I am not a half.  Being with Kyle does not make me whole.  I was already whole before he got here.

So that gives us the only term left: partner.  

This is apparently short for “life partner.”  I’ve always thought that it sounds a bit like we have a law firm together.  Plus, if the Internet thinks that what qualifies a man to make the jump from boyfriend to partner is that he will pick you up from the airport, this term isn’t strong enough.

Being unable to find a word that felt quite right, I decided to drop the titles all together and just call him by his name.  He is Kyle.  I’ve stopped clarifying who he is in relation to me.

It took about a week to break myself of calling Kyle ‘my boyfriend’ or ‘my partner.’  It’s harder for others.  But I’m slowly, gently cajoling co-workers, friends, and family into only using Kyle’s name.

As for strangers and acquaintances, if someone we just met can’t figure out we’re together by how we act around one another, we have bigger problems than what I call him.

Frankly, I like using his name with no clarifier.  In a way, I think it’s made me appreciate him more.  It’s like a reminder that we choose to link our separate lives together.  I don’t possess him.  He doesn’t possess me.  And our relationship doesn’t define us.

He is Kyle.  I am Abra.  We are Abra & Kyle.

What do you call the person you’re in a relationship with?  Does it change the longer the relationship goes on?  Do you ever feel weird (esp. you ladies over 35) using words like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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    91 comments

  1. Keilexandra says:

    I’m in my late 20s and have been dating my… partner… for 5 years. We got engaged recently due to family health circumstances and are planning a wedding in 2020. I have to say, I’m looking forward to just being able to say “spouse” or “husband” for convenience’s sake. Partner is the best fit term but still sounds intentionally vague; I still use “boyfriend” sometimes, because I’m young enough that it’s not flippant, but like you we have built up several avenues of shared financial responsibility in our life together so the commitment is a bit stronger than BF.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  2. Leslie says:

    I had the same concerns, being in my 30s and with my (insert term here) for nearly ten years. I switched between boyfriend and partner, but partner always felt more tilted toward same-sex relationships, from my experience. I did use his name with people who knew us, rather than “my boyfriend/partner,” though that sometimes led to the awkward “is that your husband?” moment. The only relief from the awkward title mess was to get married (not just for that reason, of course).

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Hannah says:

      I use(d) partner when referring to my now-husband, but I agree that it opened the door to more questions around the assumption that we were in a same-sex relationship. The fact that he has a relatively gender-neutral name didn’t help either. I still like partner, but found myself just referring to him by name once the questions were over and it was established who he was.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
  3. Jess says:

    Interesting. But of course the first thing that pops into my head is why not just get married if you are committed to this level? I know people say it doesn’t take a piece of paper to make a marriage, and I agree, but then, does it also not take a piece of paper to make a spouse?

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      We’ll get married eventually, I don’t think it gets accelerated just because I don’t know how to refer to him in a way that is meaningful to others.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
      • JEnNA says:

        Obviously the very last reason in the world to get married would be for the sake of blog content, but I have to say as a reader for 10+ years reading this kinda made my day.

        January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Lindsay says:

      Noooooo, don’t get married just for convenience’s sake. As someone currently separated, only get married if that feels right, regardless of the strong commitment level to each other.

      January 27, 2019/Reply
  4. Christine says:

    I said “boyfriend” while we were dating but that term never seemed to signify what we meant to each other. The two of us always told each other that we saw each other more as life partners – we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and that this was incredibly serious. “Life partner” just sounded too weird to use in casual conversations, and over time our family and friends had heard us talk about each other so much that we could just say “C this, J that” without needing to use the title. Now that we’re engaged I can just use the “fiance” label which makes everything a lot easier and does fit who we are and where we’re going!

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  5. Carolyn says:

    My now-husband and I started dating when I was 30, engaged at 32, married at 33 (he’s 5 years older). The entire time we were dating, I thought calling him my boyfriend was a bit juvenile and also downplayed the seriousness of our relationship. The jump from boyfriend to fiancé sounds huge, when in reality, it wasn’t – we were never casually dating. So yes, I called him my boyfriend, but it always felt strange. He called me his “better half” most of the time, especially for work events, and for the same reason – to him, “girlfriend” didn’t seem like enough.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  6. Amanda says:

    Anything has to be better than “man friend.” I think my friend started using it as a joke, but then it kind of stuck.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      A classmate called her husband ‘my Colin.’ It always felt a little weird. One of our professors once thought she was referring to her dog.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
      • Mallory says:

        I often call my husband “my [his name]” when speaking about him to my family, only because he shares a first name with my brother – who then becomes “brother [his name]”. Complicated? Maybe. Effective? Definitely.

        January 25, 2019/Reply
        • Belle says:

          Definitely effective.

          January 25, 2019/Reply
        • raq says:

          my best friend and I have partners with the same name, so we always call them either by their initials or, more often “My ___”

          January 28, 2019/Reply
          • Nellie says:

            I have both facetiously and seriously referred to my now-husband as “gentleman caller”. We dated long-distance before he was my “boyfriend” so I needed another term. He did, in fact, “call” on me so I thought it worked fine!

            January 30, 2019/Reply
  7. Aar1 says:

    Hahaha, been through this with so many friends! We’re in our late 20s, but boyfriend already feels immature. I joke with my man by calling him my companion. To third parties, though, I’ll usually just use his name. People can figure it out.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  8. Erin says:

    Although I am married (and recognize the privileges of the institution), I’m also critical of marriage in general. I call my spouse my partner most of the time; only around more conservative/older folks will I say “husband.” That’s because he is truly my partner in all of the senses of the word; husband does not quite capture it. This article was fantastic, especially its discussion of queer folks’ use (and skepticism) of the word “partner”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/01/21/forget-boyfriend-or-girlfriend-why-millennials-are-using-word-partner/?utm_term=.0e576f8d9a8c

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  9. Anna says:

    I’m 33 and have been with my boyfriend for seven years (though a lot of it long distance so don’t have the live-in + expenses stuff yet). I usually say boyfriend and feel silly about it, and when I’m talking to an older stranger will say partner. He’s definitely more than a boyfriend, but partner still feels weird. I also think it’s still associated with same sex couples, and I don’t want to add another layer of confusion. My mom calls him “my friend,” and that’s definitely a no-go.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      My Mom accidentally introduces Kyle as “Abra’s friend Kyle” sometimes. We just laugh about it.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
      • K says:

        Think there’s something to it though. If you say it in a certain way you can give friend a weight that conveys a more serious relationship. I’m married and it took a long time not to feel odd referring to my husband as husband

        January 26, 2019/Reply
      • Em says:

        Relieved to see it’s not only my mom who uses ‘friend’ in this context! I pointed it out to her as it totally weirds me out but she’s committed! Is it a generational thing?

        January 28, 2019/Reply
    • Nadine Fladd says:

      Ditto. 36 and have been in a committed relationship for almost 8 years, but we live in different cities, don’t plan to get married, etc. “Boyfriend” sounds juvenile to me, but “partner” or “spouse” seems to suggest a more domestically intertwined relationship than ours is. I tend to switch the term I use depending on my interlocutor: boyfriend, partner, gentleman caller (tongue-in-cheek), his first name, or a nickname for him.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
  10. Em says:

    I used boyfriend until we moved in together, then mostly partner (sometimes boyfriend) until we got engaged. It did feel a little silly to call him my boyfriend when I was 38… but now husband feels weird!! I’m still getting used to it!! I feel too young, somehow, even though there are people my age who’ve had husbands for more than half our lives.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • anna says:

      Haha, I feel too young for so many things, yet most of my friends are married and having kids (and even they are doing these things relatively late).

      January 25, 2019/Reply
  11. Lily says:

    Hi Abra, interesting post. Is there a reason you and Kyle have not gotten married? Is that something you want or plan on?

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  12. Saskia says:

    Our family term for this is an old Peanuts joke: Sally refers to Linus as her “Sweet Baboo”. My dad’s personal identification with Charlie Brown made it all stick. It’s not the most adult answer, but it does identify an Peanuts fans in the room.

    On a more serious note, I’m a bi woman married to a man with a gender-neutral name and I am pretty uncomfortable with the word “husband.” I have stuck resolutely with “spouse” and just accepted the consequences. The point is that you should do you and let other people clutch at pearls.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • anna says:

      For me, it’s more about not causing more confusion than necessary. Like, if I say partner and someone assumes I use partner because I’m dating a woman and the person uses a female pronoun. Then, I have to correct them, and they feel awkward and think I think they’ve assumed I’m gay or bi and that they’ve offended me.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
  13. kathleen says:

    I don’t know. I rather think you should go for boyfriend or partner. Even though you think it’s not the perfect description it still helps a new acquaintance out. I’m the kind of person who hates to get things wrong. So if I meet you and “Kyle”, particularly at a work function where I assume you’re not all over each other, I’ll be watching you carefully to try to figure out “Are these two a couple or just close friends/colleagues?” Saying “boyfriend” at the beginning just takes the uncertainty away, and I -as the new acquaintance- then wouldn’t put any thought into “dating for 2 weeks or living together for 10 years??” It’s not something I need to know.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Diane says:

      I agree. I don’t think of an age or duration of relationship when I think of “boyfriend,” I just think unmarried male romantic partner. It’s a good point that the depth of the relationship doesn’t always need to be conveyed. And if it does become necessary, it could be a short follow-up sentence of explanation. I feel like we are the first generation who really has had a need for a word for this type of relationship since many of us didn’t follow the boyfriend-fiance-husband path in rapid succession.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
      • Kay says:

        I agree with this, too. I am in my 30s and have dated my SO for 3 years; I refer to him as my boyfriend. If I’m chatting with someone, they’ll often ask how long we’be been dating and the fact that we live together might come up in the comversation. These facts demonstrate that I’m in a serious relationship with my boyfriend. In other settings, it doesn’t matter if the other person knows the level of our commitment.

        Also, I personally like the term “partner” to describe my boyfriend. We often say to each other that we are partners because, to us, that literally describes our relationship. We are partners in life and in running our home together. Even after we (likely) marry, I think we will still refer to ourselves as partners. In a way, that means much more to me than calling someone my husband.

        January 26, 2019/Reply
  14. Katie says:

    Interestingly, my mom could never bring herself to say “boyfriend.” She called my husband my “friend” until we were married. We all gave her grief for it, but she admitted she called my dad her “friend” until they were married too. Even though it was silly, in the end, it is the truest moniker–he’s my friend before anything else.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  15. Brett says:

    I was in my mid thirties when I started dating my now-fiancé. Before we got engaged, I used to call him my person. It seemed to encapsulate what he was to me, like my reference point in the world, and it made me smile.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  16. Alisha says:

    My spouse, Tim, and I were together for 7 years before we got married. After a while boyfriend felt weird. I switched to partner around the 3 or 4 year point. It never seemed like the right fit though.
    We moved to a new city after getting engaged so I started referring to him as my fiance. I must’ve been overdoing it because one of my coworkers asked if his name was fiance. Point taken, I referred to him by his name since and do the same most of the time now that we’re married.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  17. Siri says:

    Sweden has a word for this: “sambo” (basically, the romantic partner you live with – see https://www.thecut.com/2016/10/english-could-use-swedishs-words-for-relationships.html). It’s very useful. I think the US still places more importance on marriage, but that’s shifting.

    Weirdly, I found fiancé the most uncomfortable to say – I don’t entirely know why. I think it just seemed so transitional, and that didn’t really fit how I saw our relationship.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Leslie says:

      Agreed. I hated fiancee. Whenever I said fiancee, I had to have the “congratulations! When’s the wedding?” type conversation. Among strangers, I just started calling him my husband early.

      January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Hh says:

      Of course the Swedes have a word for this. 😁

      January 25, 2019/Reply
      • Kathleen A Robertson says:

        Not a good word for it though amongst English speakers! I would not literally use that Swedish word.

        January 29, 2019/Reply
  18. Kate says:

    After my grandpa died, my 80 year old grandma started dating a new “boyfriend” and they were together but unmarried for 15 years… she called him her “honey,” which was sweet. The rest of us sort of defaulted to calling him her boyfriend when explaining the relationship, but it definitely felt off to use that term for an 80+ year old!

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  19. RR says:

    I’ve been married for a long time but I actually prefer to refer to my husband as my partner. I think it signifies a strong connection, more equality and that we are in this together. I have witnessed a lot of marriages where this is not true.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Kay says:

      +1

      There are lots of marriages where the spouses are not acting as partners. Calling someone your partner signifies that you are supporting each other through all aspects of life – emotional, spiritual, family, home care, etc.

      January 26, 2019/Reply
      • Pam says:

        I’m confused. Are you advocating that people use the word partner in a qualitative sense? To signfiy that their marriage is better than other peoples?

        January 29, 2019/Reply
  20. Jules says:

    Sometimes I tell people my husband is my “weird roommate.” 🙂 (we’ve been married 7yrs)

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  21. TheLOOP says:

    I suggest calling him your consort. Or royal consort if you are feeling particularly queenly that day.

    Joking. I am no help here. Before marriage, I hated saying “boyfriend” and after 11 years of marriage, I still stumble at saying “my husband” – feels like I am reducing his identity to just his relationship with me.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  22. Liv says:

    I’ve never seen the problem with using partner. Is it really so terrifying that someone might, for a moment, think you aren’t straight? I guess you could always follow it up quickly with another sentence using a pronoun to avoid confusion; ‘My partner and I went to the Kentucky Derby. HE spilt HIS mint julep on me and the drycleaning bill was just atrocious!’

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      The possible LGBTQ confusion isn’t an issue for me, I just don’t care for the word.

      But on that topic, unfortunately, even a minor concern about confusing others about your sexuality by using the term partner, shows how deep societal bias still runs. It’s not necessarily that the person herself is biased, it’s that she knows others might be, and she doesn’t want to be afflicted with their prejudice. (Which is certainly a privilege.) I don’t think they’re “terrified” by it as much as they are just aware of it.

      This is something I dealt with when I was still single by choice and showing no interest in men who showed an interest in me. Long story short, my then boss came to me one day and told me he heard a rumor that I was gay. He was in a half-panic, not because he thought I was gay, but because others might believe it. He told me how he “defended me” and made sure they knew this was a “vicious” lie. And he asked me if I knew some people thought that I was gay.

      I told him that I knew this rumor was out there, but I’d never done anything to clear it up, and he couldn’t understand why. I explained that, while I appreciated that he was trying to help me, he didn’t need to “defend me” in the future. That he could just tell people that he didn’t get involved in the private lives of his co-workers. I explained that I didn’t want to contribute to the notion that being gay was a source for gossip and people could assume what they wanted. He was truly perplexed by this and didn’t get it, mostly because he thought it would hurt my dating prospects.

      I’m not going to run out to contradict a rumor like it’s a slur. But if I used the word partner, and someone was confused, I’d simply clear up their confusion. Just like I had to clear it up when I would tell people Kyle was my partner, and they would ask what kind of law we practiced together.

      January 26, 2019/Reply
      • Allison says:

        Well said. Anyone reading this queer and can give us an opinion? Maybe the privileged group (straight) can be an advocate to the not privileged group (LGBTQ) by using a term that is just specific to the relationship, not the gender or gender identify of the people in it. For example, wouldn’t it be nice at work that you could just use partner and wouldn’t be outing yourself, if you don’t want to out yourself? Or maybe we can taking a term away from the LGBTQ group? Personally I’m straight and I love the term partner, that’s what I used for my guy before we got married for all the reasons you’ve highlighted.

        January 28, 2019/Reply
        • E says:

          Hi! Queer woman here, married to a woman. Speaking personally (not for all LGBT people obviously), I do not have any issue with hetero couples using the word partner- if anything I think it sort of reduces LBGT stigma/bias against that word.

          Anyway,its funny because even after my wife and I were married (yes, I prefer wife– the fact that I am allowed to use that word makes me want to!), my mom (who is incredibly supportive)had a hard time figuring out when to say “my daughter’s wife” (unfortunately, lots of people still judge and you have to be safe), and she would just refer to us by our first names. For example, “This is my daughter Ann, and this is Jane.” (Not our names).

          I think this is a great convo!

          January 28, 2019/Reply
          • Belle says:

            I would use the hell out of that word if I was in your position.

            January 28, 2019/Reply
  23. irmck says:

    I now live in SF, where my people (both personally and professionally) refer to my husband as my “partner”. At first it was weird, but it’s actually grown on me. I don’t always know the gender of the person’s +1, whether or not they have gotten married, and I don’t actually have to care anymore. It’s delightfully vague in a way that makes social interactions a lot less likely to go accidentally wrong.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  24. BeTsy says:

    I got married in my late 30s after years of dating several people including my now husband. I found the easiest was, “This is {insert name}. We’re together.” That’s what I wanted to convey, no matter the name – we’re together.’ Even after 10 years of marriage I usually gesture towards his spouse and say we’re together.

    January 25, 2019/Reply
  25. mANDY says:

    Interesting topic. Thank you for sharing. What does Kyle call you?

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      When he introduces me to people, I’ve only ever heard him use my name. But in conversation, I think it’s girlfriend.

      January 26, 2019/Reply
  26. Colleen says:

    Your lobster?

    January 25, 2019/Reply
    • Clara says:

      Well played

      January 26, 2019/Reply
  27. Laura T. says:

    This! Oh my gosh, this! I am 34 nearly 35 and describing Andrew as “my boyfriend” makes me cringe and feel like a child all at the same time. He is more than that but also not “my fiancé” or “my husband,” so it’s so heartening to learn that I’m not the only one in this situation.

    January 26, 2019/Reply
  28. Dee says:

    Admittedly old-fashioned and traditional. Age 40. I’ve liked “my sweetheart” or even yes “your sweetheart” for decades. People tested me about it in college. But it makes romantic love clear and sounds optimistic and happy.

    January 26, 2019/Reply
    • Kate says:

      It’s more southern, but Miss Manner’s (who’s wittier and more modern than her name implies!) recommend “beau” for situations like this. Similar to sweetheart!

      January 27, 2019/Reply
      • Belle says:

        I would feel like Marilla Cuthbert, from Anne of Green Gables, talking about my “beau.” But that’s a new one.

        January 28, 2019/Reply
      • Pretty Primadonna says:

        I used “beau” to describe my now-husband. I’m Southern, though, so that might not work for everyone. He’s now “my husband” or I call him by his first name.

        January 28, 2019/Reply
  29. Jthompson says:

    Bravo! This is a topic that I have struggled with for years. I enjoy your writing style!

    January 26, 2019/Reply
  30. Jennifer says:

    Like a lot of other commenters, I switched to partner after about 3 years. Boyfriend felt too juvenile and for a couple doing most of the traditional married things without the actual marriage, it seemed to downplay our relationship. I wanted a clear differentiation for the seriousness of our commitment and the degree to which our lives are intertwined. Now that we are engaged, I still find myself saying “my partner” (then his name) when he comes up in conversation.

    I do recognize that this is super common in Seattle, and perhaps would have more associations with lgtbqia+ relationships in other parts of the country. I always felt like it was a title for our relationship that emphasized both our commitment and our individuality, and felt very safe in doing so. I imagine there are communities where this would not be the case.

    January 26, 2019/Reply
  31. Laura says:

    Wonderful post. I had to write as a middle aged person in the same situation. My “partner/significant other/boyfriend/friend”and Ihave been together 12 years, were married before and have grown children. Our generation is mostly married, so using one of these terms often invites additional questions. I can’t believe how many people ask whether we’re going to get married or why we haven’t married. At least as Millenials you ought to avoid those assumptions!

    January 26, 2019/Reply
  32. Paula says:

    Love this! Boyfriend can sound so immature. Just curious why you two have decided not to marry? I know there are plenty of valid reasons to not believe in marriage, would just love to get your take!

    January 26, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      We haven’t decided not to marry. We’re just not getting married right now.

      January 26, 2019/Reply
  33. LAURA says:

    Seriously..why is it so hard to put the toilet seat down?

    January 26, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I have no idea.

      January 27, 2019/Reply
  34. Anna says:

    Despite dating my husband for 9 years before getting married, I called him my boyfriend until he became my fiance. That’s likely largely because we started dating at 16, so we were still quite young for those 9 years. While we were quite committed, we didn’t have anything shared other than a living space and rent, and even that was only occasionally until we got engaged as much of our time after college was long distance.

    January 26, 2019/Reply
  35. Blondie says:

    I don’t know if this reinforces your feelings about the term “partner” or not, but I am a part owner in an insurance agency. There is one male owner, and one other female. We have to introduce each other as “my business partner” in professional or social settings because if we just say partner it is assumed we’re in a relationship. This is in Michigan, we’re all different generations, and it happens whether it’s two females or a male and a female.

    January 26, 2019/Reply
  36. Deb says:

    42 years of marriage, and I introduce my husband by his
    Name. “This is ———“

    January 26, 2019/Reply
  37. Jo says:

    I tend to dislike “partner” myself because of the ambiguity as to whether the partnership is personal or professional. I know a lot of double-lawyer couples, and I know of multiple occasions in which introducing the significant other as “partner” created very reasonable confusion for the audience. I also don’t think it’s a surefire way of indicating greater seriousness; any term can be coopted by those with different standards, and I actually have some friends who like the term “partner” and use it to apply to any flavor of the month romantic interest, so at this point I don’t think of it as adding any extra weight compared to “boyfriend.” (To be fair, you could make that latter point about any term – boyfriend, husband, whatever!)

    Prior to engagement, I never had a problem using boyfriend, nor do I think anything of it when I hear other people, no matter their age, use boyfriend/girlfriend.

    January 26, 2019/Reply
    • diane says:

      I go to a lot of conferences with my female law partner. We have introduced each other as “partner” a couple times and have had people assume we were in a personal relationship even though we were at a large law conference with lots of lawyers where everyone has numerous law partners. We’ve had to resort to specifying “law partner.” For me, “partner” just creates a lot of unnecessary ambiguity even if it is technically accurate by definition. At that point, why use an adjective that doesn’t provide additional useful information to the conversation? Introducing the person by their first name is pretty much equally useful.

      January 27, 2019/Reply
  38. Sarah says:

    Isn’t Man Friend the obvious solution here.

    I kid…I kid.

    (I got married a few months ago at 37. It all sounds weird to me. Maybe I will go with Man Friend, come to think of it. Neither of us bought into the whole wedding trapping stuff either. And half the time or or the other of us forgets to wear our wedding ring so I always think when we are out together it looks like one of us is having an affair.)

    January 27, 2019/Reply
  39. Heather says:

    I heard the term conviviant several years ago and thought it was lovely.

    January 27, 2019/Reply
  40. Kathleen H Lisson says:

    I like dropping the descriptor for relationships. It’s really only used for introductions to strangers. I tell people Arun is my husband once and then it’s never mentioned again.

    January 27, 2019/Reply
  41. jP says:

    I dated my now husband for 11 years before we got married. I always felt a bit uncomfortable using the term boyfriend, because it definitely didn’t feel significant enough for our relationship. But I’ve worked with people twice my age that used that term because that’s what the person was to them.

    I think partner is a great word to describe what your signincant other really is—someone you share your life with and partner with in this crazy journey. I now use the term
    husband frequently, but I honestly feel like partner conjures up more positive feelings of what our commitment represents. Anyway, this is all to say that you should use what term makes you feel comfortable. If that’s boyfriend, Kyle, partner, whatever. We still sign an all our holiday cards Joy & Kevin because 7 years into marriage I still haven’t changed my name (although I always intended to) and I don’t know that I ever will now. Although I love my husband dearly, and I love being his wife, becoming a mrs. will never define who I am.

    January 27, 2019/Reply
  42. Jessica says:

    I hated introducing my, now husband, as my boyfriend. It didn’t make me feel old but, to me, it did lessen the significance and weight of our relationship. Boyfriend can sound so flippant sometimes. We were together for 3 years before getting married and had been through SO much during that time, both personally, together, and with family, that boyfriend didn’t adequately describe him.

    Now that we are married, I will introduce him as my husband and then from there on refer to him by name.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  43. MCW says:

    I’m 41 and stated dating my now fiance a couple of years ago. I couldn’t call him my boyfriend either. Felt so weird and childish. I usually said “the guy I’m dating.” Then when we got engaged, it felt/feels weird at 41 to be saying my “fiance” like I’m a 20 something who’s been waiting for her high school sweetheart to propose. We aren’t married yet, but I usually just say my husband. So much easier.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  44. Margaret Peterson says:

    My boyfriend is 50. I still call him my boyfriend. It’s not weird, I have no need to prove the depth of my relationship to anyone, least of all someone I’m just introducing him to.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I think part of my heartburn is that because I look a little younger than I am, people don’t make the same allowances to include Kyle in post-work events that they make for people’s spouses. And I’m like, “Hi, we’ve been together longer than that married couple over there, thanks.”

      January 28, 2019/Reply
  45. Katherine says:

    I’ve been with my guy for 14 years and we have two children (ages 2 and 4) together, but we’re not married. I feel like the best word for us is “spouse,” though I don’t actually call him that very often. Sometimes I call him my husband but that feels dishonest because it definitely connotes that we’re formally married. I sometimes use “partner” but that feels super weird because I have other “partners”, my law firm partners. Boyfriend is definitely out at this stage! Usually I just call him by his first name or “the boys’ dad” and people figure out from the context of the conversation who he is in my life. But, I used boyfriend for the first 8 years without it feeling weird for me!

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  46. Emily says:

    My mother gifted me a Miss Manners book for Christmas. She suggests, when introducing yourselves to say something along the lines of “I’m Abra, this is Kyle, we are a couple.” It’s direct, and avoids labeling altogether.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I agree it’s direct and skips the label, but why does that sound weird when I say it in my head?

      January 28, 2019/Reply
  47. Shelley says:

    After my mom died, my dad met someone and he lives with her. He never wants to get married again so at first he called her by her name, Jasmine, then when they moved in together he started calling her “my common law spouse.” Which my sister and I told him to stop doing that- it’s weird!

    He now just calls her his wife. This is my wife he says.

    I don’t know, I guess it is whatever works for you, but my sister and I both told him, why can’t you just say, this is Jasmine. Period. People don’t need to know what she is to you, and she doesn’t need a title.

    So I like your way. Makes sense.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  48. MK says:

    48 years old and I’m still calling my boyfriend of 10+ years my “boyfriend.” We have purchased two homes together and we have two dogs. He refers to me as his wife, but since he doesn’t want to get married, he doesn’t get the privilege to call me his wife.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  49. Cole says:

    Sending a note from D.C.-I find with my [insert chosen upon title], we’re just old enough now that people don’t really ask, nor pry?

    Same boat-in our 30’s, mortgage together, life together. If I’m meeting someone cold, and it comes up (as small talk often leads), I just say ‘Oh yes, I have someone.’ No further explanation needed in that moment.

    Wonderful thread though, and it brought me back to my 20’s of over-analyzing ‘What.are.WE’ with relationships. Viva la 30’s!

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  50. Katie says:

    Male companion. Easy. Does the trick. Sort of goofy but better than boyfriend.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  51. Nancy says:

    Before marriage, I referred to him as my boyfriend. Now, after 17 years of marriage and two kids, he is the work from home spouse and when I am teasing, he is ‘the cabana boy’. Otherwise, he is my ‘dear hubby’.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  52. Sof says:

    After 3 years together, I shifted from ‘boyfriend’ to ‘partner’. We shared so much of life that partner better described our relationship. We got married after year 3 so now it’s ‘spouse’, a welcome change.

    January 28, 2019/Reply
  53. Tess says:

    Thank you for this post! I especially have a hard time introducing my boyfriend (of 6 years) as my “boyfriend” in a professional setting. We share a dog, bought a house together, and share expenses. I’m 29 and honestly “boyfriend” sounds incredibly immature.

    Any ideas how on to broach the fact that you share a household with a “partner” outside of marriage in a professional setting?

    January 30, 2019/Reply
  54. AMS says:

    Read this article today that reminded me of your predicament:-
    )
    https://www.independent.ie/style/celebrity/celebrity-news/courteney-cox-on-how-her-relationship-with-johnny-mcdaid-improved-after-ending-their-engagement-37764622.html

    January 30, 2019/Reply
  55. Sherry @ save. Spend. Splurge. says:

    I am Anonymous online so my only option is to say partner as we are not married.

    In Québec they say: mon conjoint (another word for partner) or mon chum (means boyfriend in slang, not “friend” as you would think)

    January 30, 2019/Reply