Since first I heard it, I have had trouble with the word “partner” when used to refer to a significant other.
However, my apprehensions about the word kinda just stayed in the back of my mind because not many people I knew used it. Yet for whatever reason (likely the crowd I have immersed myself in as of late), I am hearing it more and more often. So let’s explore it.
Now first off, I get why someone would use it. At the most superficial level, it adds a veneer of maturity to a relationship:
Fig.1: A “girlfriend” and “boyfriend”
Fig. 2: Two “partners” doing exciting partner stuff
While young love may typically be more exciting, mature love bespeaks steadiness; a kind of slow burn which endures. And if there’s one thing people in our society generally prefer, its security over excitement, hence the desire for a reliable, steady mate (even if in name only).
But like I said, this is just a superficial aspect of the word. On a more substantial level, I think the term partner gained traction sometime in the last twenty years as same-sex relationships became more normalized. During that transition, loaded words like girlfriend and boyfriend which presuppose a significant other of the opposite sex, naturally became problematic. I don’t even need to go into the complications implied by same-sex marriage (“I now pronounce you man and husband”). God forbid! 😛 In a show of solidarity with their gay/lesBros, straight people have adopted the term to be a more politically correct, gender-neutral way of saying who they’re boning. Kind of like women calling themselves Ms.
*As an aside, a gay male friend of mine matter-of-factly referred to his “boyfriend” the other night which was refreshing, although admittedly it caught me off guard.
Unless there is some egregious oversight on my part (wouldn’t be the first time) I think I have covered all two (2) reasons why someone would refer to their romantic relationship as a partnership.*
So how do I feel about it? Not too bad I suppose. Certainly I am no fan of labels,
so “partner,” being a little less specific than bf or gf works a little better for me, although it is a label nonetheless. And that is really the problem; if you’re going to label someone with a term based on their relationship to you, why half-ass it? In my eyes its better to go all the way. For me personally, I enjoy calling my partner “woman” (If used as a formal address, it’s “Woman” with a capital W). I never thought too much of this until I sat down to write this sentence you are reading right now, but in its own way, the term “Woman,” when used as an address, is an indictment of labels in general by taking our obsession with categorization to its absurd extreme. Its certainly a greater statement against gender categorization than a contrived term like “partner.”
So for all you people out there who use “partner” (a word completely devoid of any emotive or descriptive power) when referring to that special someone in your life, ask yourself why you use it. If its to escape the tyranny of loaded words and labels like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” consider using more crude terms like “my man/woman” (or if those are a little too plain for you, try funstick or ovary-box) to illustrate just how absurd defining people based on relationships actually is.
*Going back to my first image pulled from the
movie film, American Beauty, I do take issue with commercial connotations of the word “partner.” One of my problems with marriage for example, as alluded to in an earlier post, is that as well as being a religious union, it is also a legal/financial one. I don’t think people bear this in mind when they use the word partner, especially when they are simply dating and not married, but I feel we must be very particular about the words we use. For example:,
From “The Law Dictionary” app
I don’t think people are aware of just what they mean on a legal level when they use the word partner. It is a legal/commercial term and all statutes/regulations/codes are applicable only to commercial/legal entities such as persons. corporations, and partnerships. Heads up, nigga!