The Sound of Silence

— I hope you've enjoyed my experiment in meditative blog silence. If you thought I was inactive, you must have succumbed to my well-wrought illusion of stasis. More discerning readers will have noticed how each new day, my apparently unchanging page was commenting subtly–passively protesting the hectic, frantic hurly burly of the world at large. The silence takes on new overtones as its steady note interweaves with the symphony of human endeavor creating ever-shifting harmonies and dissonances. You missed it, didn't you? Next time, listen harder.

  • Joe Strummer

    I like my partner too, but unfortunately in certain parts of the country – the southeast, for instance – it signals that you are a counter-culturalist, and while that battle is worth fighting sometimes, it isn’t worth fighting all the time. So I defaulted to “wife” in certain settings, and partner where I didn’t think I was going to get the wrong kind of reputation.

  • mac

    I haven’t lived in Sweden very long, but in my Swedish class I learned about the term “samboende” which means an unmarried cohabiting partner. Very very very common here. Of course…in english sambo is an ethnic slur…

  • JD

    Why not get married? It’s not the English language’s fault that you guys want to have all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage but for some reason have balked at making it official.

  • Todd

    Why don’t you just get married? I tried searching through the archives, but couldn’t seem to find where you articulated your opposition to marriage. It would provide an easy solution to your current dilemma.

  • I’m not going to presume that you should get married. If you don’t want to, then don’t.

    On the other hand, if you and Kerry consider yourselves to be in a lifelong and devoted relationship, then by all means refer to yourselves as married, even if you have had neither the ceremony nor the permission slip from the state. Marriage by consent has a fine long historical pedigree, even if it’s not legally recognized anymore.

    And two side notes: First, I had a professor in college, heterosexual and married, who always referred to his wife as his partner. I liked that. Second, I’ve very often run into trouble using the word “partner,” since it’s presumed that I mean a business partner. Particularly since in my case it’s a man.

  • I prefer “significant other”. I like the term because it annoys people, and I enjoy annoying people.

  • As an European in the US living with my (European) partner, I have also yet to find a good way to refer to the relationship.

    I say any of wife/fiancée/girlfriend/Rita(hoping that it is obvious who Rita is). Partner always seems more appropriate for a business or tennis partner.

  • dgm

    What Jason Kuznicki said.

    Short of defrauding your insurance company or the taxing authorities or anyone else with whom you’d be committing a crime if you claimed you were “married” [by which they would think you mean “licensed as married”] and received some benefit in return to which you might otherwise not be entitled, why not refer to Kerry as your wife?

    I’ve always thought “partner” sounds too businesslike (regardless of whether it refers to the same or opposite sex); “POSSLQ” is too cutesy and draws attention to the “opposite sex” part–who cares? “Girlfriend” seems frivolous, yes, but I have to say that I enjoy still thinking of my husband as “my boyfriend,” because it reminds me of how our commitment started in the first place. It’s important to keep the spark alive.

  • will

    Get over yourself, get a life and call her your wife. Just a friendly suggestion…

  • Jason Malloy

    “This phrase presents something of a communication problem, especially with Kerry’s androgynous name.”

    So what? You lost me at the beginning. There are no drawbacks to ‘Partner’.

  • Jason Malloy

    And will is correct, ‘wife’ is the gender specific term for the concept:

    “A wife is a female spouse, or participant in a marriage, or civil union or civil partnership.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife

  • She’s your boo, of course.

    sweetest term of endearment ever.

  • Mike R

    Significant other is not bad. But “my long term girlfriend” seems to meet your requirements.

  • jones

    Seems like it would be harmlessly amusing to have people that don’t know you assume that you are gay until they meet your “partner.”

    The fact that there is no consensus in this might reflect the relatively common position of young people who feel the need to combat social convention. People try to fit you into their mental categories, typically they will not be interested in making a special category for you as this increases rather than decreases complexity. The purpose of these simplifications is to move on to more interesting things to think about. By combating this you impose the fact that your arrangement is unique. Ironically, after a bit longer you will be “common law” and the husband – wife simplification will kick in.

  • This is rather a tired old discussion, one that Safire has been beating his spoon on the highchair about forever.

    (i.e. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9906E3DA163BF93BA35751C1A9649C8B63)

    I’m still voting for my personal coinage: “sig”

    (As in significant other.) It has the virtue of brevity, and imparts the seriousness of the relationship without sharing Too Much Information.

    It’s hardly mellifuous, but for those of us with business partners, it’s nice to avoid the multiword explanations that “partner” imposes.

    Steve
    http://trueconservative.typepad.com

  • James

    IMO the best term is “covivant” (or “co-vivant” if you prefer). It rather literally means “the one I live together with”, but connotes much more than roommate or housemate.

  • linguist

    Here’s a moment to learn from the French. Notice they really don’t have words at all for boyfriend, girlfriend, date. There’s just that ambiguous “petit ami” or more colloquial “copain.”

    Yet they are considered the country of romance, specifically by keeping these boundaries fluid.

    Since it seems you want to stress both the seriousness and voluntary element of the relationship, I would suggest you start testing out a fine old French word, “paramour.”

    “par-” for; “amour” love’s sake

    While in English it used to have a sense of “secret,” I think it stresses the free will aspect of the relationship, that it is chosen primarily in liberty and natural dignity out of real love.

    Unlike girlfriend, which does sound trivial, or wife, which is a legal status, paramour is not only incredibly romantic but expresses the woman’s noble heart.

  • jocie

    call her your cocaptain. i think then that any confusion would at least have few negative consequences.

  • Michael

    I vote for cocaptain. Excellent.

  • JimS

    FWIW, I assumed based on your partner’s name you were gay. I guess that illustrates the problem

  • “POSSLQ” is a non-starter since it excludes gays.

    “Partner” has the opposite problem: when heterosexuals use this to describe themselves, I imagine someone who’s really pleased with how PC and inclusive they are.

    “Partner” is just too clinical, business-like, unsexy.

    “Significant other” is a mouthful and sounds academic, or like a martian observing human life forms.

    I don’t see the problem with “girlfriend” / “boyfriend.” “It’s trivial and silly!” No it’s not — it’s utterly normal and serious. “It sounds too young!” Come on — I hear people of all ages using these words to describe each other. You’re not literally calling the person a “girl” or “boy” — the words have their own special meanings that are understood by everyone. In contrast, calling her your “partner” raises the question of whether she’s your business partner or what.

    I’m afraid that if you’re not married, “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” are the only acceptable terms.

  • Greg N.

    I’m not so presumptuous to tell you to go get married (Don’t do it, Will! Just kidding, Ryan, if you’re reading this (my wife’s name is beyond androgynous, btw, so “partner” is out of the question for me)), but anyway, aren’t “spouse/husband/wife” the “terms that communicate this status”?

    In one way, isn’t “communicating this status” the whole point of becoming a “spouse/husband/wife” instead of a “boyfriend/girlfriend”?

  • alan

    I have a friend at work with a similar problem. We have coined the following:

    HLP – Heterosexual Life Partner

  • jocie

    lover

    bedroommate

    monogomate

    TWIMLAH (The woman in my life and home)

  • mbr

    Oh stop boring us with this sentimental twat about your personal life — just get married already!

  • Deb

    Since you want to buck the norm — not officially married–but committed to a live in partnership, how about these pithy terms?—“LIVE IN LOVER! ” or, try my ” SEX MATE” that’ll stop them dead in their tracks–from asking, I mean. I like the somewhat verbose, “female room-mate lover…” Or, just say, “soul mate,” and leave it at that?

    I think I twisted several ideas in the wind one time when I was living with someone. He dissed me one time, introducing me as just plain “Deb.” to some former childhood playmate, all grown up, sparkly and pert. I wanted to be more than, “just Deb,” like I was the prize he chose instead of sparkle woman.

    And, while I like my name, his lack of addressing all that we were to each other—to the population at large, somewhat miffed me. After all, Hell-OOOhhhh!!!we WERE engaged…! I wanted Miss Sparkle Perky to understand that Chuckie was off her radar, for good.

    Ahhhh…men and their built in brevity of thought. Not that he didn’t love me. But on the flip side of that one time, I decided to clarify things at our next soiree where I found myself introducing HIM to someone this way, “Oh, this is RODOLPHO, whom I met hiking in the Andes last semester. But, I like to call him Mr. BIG,–wink-wink—my sex-crazed, live-in lover boyfriend whom I intend to marry soon as I finish school. See? we’re ENGAGED!”

    After he forgave me, he got the picture and never forgot to introduce me as his FIANCEE after that — up until we were married. All that it ever came down to was a quasi-explanation anyhow, of our status, depending on the situation. Most of the time he was just simply introduced as “my sweetie,” and I let the mystery hang in the air.

    I say, be creative by all means, but if you love the girl, don’t sweat the naming of the relationship. I quite liked being called, “my girl,” to those of Charlie’s friends who wondered.

  • As long as SHE knows hes TAKEN

    A lot of confusion gets cleared up in the way you introduce her to others, not strictly by which term you refer to her. We’re not [yet] engaged, but although “boyfriend/girlfriend” does sound too light on paper, we still introduce each other as such [with the occasional “my girl/boy” to old friends]. When he says “this is my girlfriend,” he doesn’t say it lightly, and you can tell it’s a serious relationship… and if you are talking about her to people who have not yet met her, referring to her as “my girlfriend” and [not necessarily all at once] mentioning the length / the fact that you live together [not that she lives with you or you with her- that infers a less serious arrangement] would also be acceptable in some venues.

    But…

    The absolutely best way is to ask Kerry. It’s a lot harder to screw up and offend her if you introduce her how SHE wants to be introduced [tip: this can apply to pretty much everything in a relationship]