Until 2015, not all queer* couples could marry legally (in the USA). Due to limited rights, queer folks often called their significant others “domestic partners” to signal the seriousness of their relationships. Because of past circumstances, using the term “partner” continues to be commonly used by the queer community. Now, even though this community’s visibility has increased, using the term “partner” has gone beyond such a community in recent years. Some may be protective of how and who uses the term, but they’re probably going to have to eventually get over it because my older sisters use the term “partner” sometimes when they refer to their “husbands”…and I just freaking love it. I don’t know if they know that but there it is. Anyway, there shouldn’t be a census for who can use what terms. The term “partner” is now being normalized and that is a good thing. Here’s why.
The term “partner” represents neutrality. For starters, many of you have long ago lived the teenage years. Most of you are no longer “boys” and “girls”. So don’t you think its about time to toss the “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” business at 29 (or 35…43) years old? Using the term “partner” allows for adults to be adults. It’s as though you give yourself permission to be taken seriously when addressing your significant other(s) in the dating world.
Tradition has evolved. More women are going to work. More men are staying at home with the kids. We’re taking turns doing the driving, the shopping, and the cooking. When speaking of heterosexual relationships, gender roles throughout history have been largely disportionate. Especially when it comes to balancing out responsibilities and rights in society and within a relationship. Just 100 years ago, women didn’t work outside their home and men never cooked a meal for their family. In most cases today, if there is an imbalance in a relationship, it is frowned upon. Now, if traditional roles is what floats your relationship’s boat, by all means, have at it. Otherwise, past and personal preferences set aside, relationships are a two-way street. Referring to one another as “partner” encourages that culture between you two. Relationships grow and flourish beyond origins of “husband” and “wife”. They have evolved into a “partnership”.
Using the term “partner” is a lovely mystery. A mystery sacred to those who choose to use it. If I’m honest, I have fun with this one from time to time. Whenever I’m annoyed with someone else’s intentions or priorities, I use the mystery card. Here’s an example. The other night, I was at an event chatting with a stranger. I used the term “partner” and the gal gave subtle hints of curiosity about whether I was talking about a male or female partner. I decided not to give it away because why should I? My question to them is, “Why do you want to know the gender of my partner above every thing else? Inquire about something more interesting and useful to both of us. Besides that, all you need to know is that I love the literal guts out of my partner and couldn’t be prouder to be able to talk about them with whomever, whenever, wherever I go”. Nice meeting you, bye. Now, that may be a bit nit-picky but you have to admit, I’m making a valid point here.
You are teammates and equals. I think this is one of the most important pieces to live and breathe in your relationship; therefore, it may be the most important reason to convince you why it’s admirable to address your significant other as “partner”. You’re here to make one another feel special. Tell them…no, show them why they’re special. Cheer on one another. To strive and do better. And when they’ve done their best even if it wasn’t quite enough. Be a reliable constant for fun and games. Don’t hesitate to carry their burden, whenever they are weary. And don’t allow yourself to be left out of the equation, both of you. Advocate for yourself, for the other. Give. Receive. Reciprocate. You’re a partnered team not just through love but friendship too.
*This term is modernly used as an umbrella term to identify sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual and cisgender.