We’re losing the semantic battle when it comes to describing the relationships we have with people we’re sleeping with/seeing/talking to/cuddling with/dating/living with. Relationships with significant others are consistently defined in terms of points along a time line, with the ultimate goal being marriage. It’s pretty simplistic: boyfriend/girlfriend, fiances, husband or wife.
This isn’t the most nuanced way to define intimate relationships, given that there are an infinite number of possibilities. I would say we’ve made some headway in terms non-exclusive nomenclature: we have “person I’m hooking up with” or “fuck buddy,” which are fairly descriptive and are vague enough to allow for the intricacies of your situation.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a trend towards trying to find better words for when boyfriend or girlfriend seem too juvenile to describe committed couples. These long term couples are possibly cohabitating, but aren’t heading towards marriage any time soon. I understand the desire for this—I can especially see how older couples might feel silly calling each other boyfriend or girlfriend. However, we really need to up our game on the new terms.
Here’s the top five worst things to call your long term significant other:
Okay, I don’t have a good reason to hate this, but I do. At best, it feels unoffensive but clinical and distant, and at worst seems to scream “I’m so evolved! I even have gay friends!” I suppose this is the best option we have right now, which is why we must keep fighting.
Nausea Rating: Slight queasiness.
Oh good lord. This just makes me picture two people undergoing a three-legged race, heading towards a finish line marked “Newlyweds!” Their families stand on the sides, holding signs that say “You’re almost there! You’re nearly-weds!” Pretty gross, but it’s too silly to inspire any real offense.
Nausea rating: Mild discomfort, going to have some ginger tea.
I shouldn’t have to explain this to you. It’s horrifying.
Nausea rating: Need to get some fresh air. Don’t anybody touch me.
I first heard this in the context of one male friend referring to another male friend as having “wifey-ed up,” after moving in with his long term girlfriend. I dislike everything about it, especially that it’s a diminutive form of wife, like their relationship is a diminutive form of marriage! Marriage, junior!
Nausea rating: Car sickness after sitting in the backseat.
This is pronounced like it rhymes with fiance, and like nearly-weds, denotes that a couple is getting close to a ring. It describes the relationship in terms of how it relates to the ultimate goal of marriage, which is pretty useless if you choose not to define your relationship in terms of when you’ll walk down the aisle. It’s overly cutesy, dumb, and more infantile than boyfriend/girlfriend. This is the worst, ever. I hate it.
Nausea rating: I am currently vomiting.