On Using the Word “Partner”

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When we first started dating, we couldn’t wait to start using the word boyfriend to describe ourselves, especially Thomas. After going years with never having one, he finally had a boyfriend. Not just a boy who was a friend, but a real, live boy who wanted to be MORE than friends. An actual boyfriend, people!

For the next four years until we were engaged, we referred to each other as boyfriends. When introducing one another, it was always “Hi, this is my boyfriend, PJ” and it always felt so good because we finally got to experience what everyone else got to do for years. It was almost like playing catch up, you know? 

After we got engaged, we started referring to each other as fiancé. And okay to be honest it did sound somewhat pretentious to call each other that every time we introduced ourselves but there was a certain elegance and seriousness about it, maybe even a sense of importance to us. It was taking our relationship to the next level and with that comes a new defining term.  Even though it was only 10 months, we enjoyed that short period in our relationship where we went from just boyfriends to fiancés, and then after we got married, we happily refer to each other as husbands.

But what about the word “partner”? It seems when other people talk to us, if they don’t know what our relationship status is (or they’re too embarrassed to say husband because we live in the south and that honestly happens ALL THE TIME) they will refer to us as partners. We have never called each other partners in our entire relationship, and we don’t have one definite reason why, it’s just never been how we describe ourselves. A part of us feels like that term is a “safe word” or a cover up word used to describe gay couples, mostly by straight people, either because they feel shame calling us husbands or they’re embarrassed. Who knows?

At the same time, we know there are a lot of gay couples who refer to themselves as partners. Maybe they’ve been together forever but aren’t married, so they’re life partners, or maybe they ARE married but don’t like the word husbands. We are curious about this word and it’s usage, though. It’s interesting don’t you think? Is it an age thing? Do younger or older people use it more than the other? Maybe it’s a generation thing? Or a region thing? We’d be interested in studying more about those topics to dive into this further.

When we were researching for this post, we came across this article written by a married gay man who prefers to use the term partner instead of husband. It’s an interesting read and he makes a couple of good points. Still, it isn’t enough to sway our vocabulary just yet :). And ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to! Doing whatever works for the two of you and your relationship. What other people think doesn’t and shouldn’t matter, so you do you! 

We came across a lot of articles that make a case for both words, but we are curious: which do you prefer? Do you use the term partner or husband/wife?

PS- more interesting articles on the topic:

 (Above photo by Cameron Hinkle)