We need new words for relationships

As rich as the English language is, it seems unable to keep up with modern dating norms. It annoys me that the only words in common use to describe a couple who are dating are “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” When my father and stepmother were dating, for example, it seemed odd to refer to two people in their 50s as boyfriend and girlfriend. Neither do the terms seem to fit my step-sister and her boyfriend, who have been living together for three years now, or any number of other devoted couples who simply aren’t married. Finally, I accidently threw my ex into a tizzy a few weeks after we’d started dating by calling him my boyfriend. “Well, what else am I supposed to call the guy I’m dating?” I huffed, but my brother said that he’d be a bit scared off, too, if a girl he’d only been on a few dates with called him her boyfriend. So now I don’t know what to call the guy I recently started seeing, other than “the guy I’m dating,” which makes it awkward to introduce him. “Hi, this is Sam, the-guy-I’m-dating.” I introduced him as “my friend Sam” on Monday, but it seemed transparent and disengenous.

So the way I see it, we need six new words, at least. Two for coulples just starting to casually date, two for couples who are living together but not married, and two for middle-aged and older couples. Although I suppose we could just bring back “beau” and “lady-friend” to cover the last category. I’m not very good at coining terms, so I ask you, the Dope, to help me in my hour of need.

I don’t think I can help you coin new terms, but I’ll be watching this thread with interest. I was just thinking about this the other night. My husband’s manager is a lady in her mid-50s, who has been living with a man (who is about 70) for some number of years now. To call him her “boyfriend” just sounds silly. SO sounds contrived and not specific enough, and “commonlaw husband” sounds too old-fashioned. We definitely need a term for this.

On a related subject, for a couple of years before we were legally married, my husband and I were married in every other important way. For the sake of simplicity, whenever the need for a term came up, we just used “husband” or “wife”. Hell, we had everything but the piece of paper and the big party.


SWMBO’s family has a generic word: Urrum.

Used to introduce someone like me. We’re not married but we live together and we are obviously much more than boyfriend/girlfriend, so the introductions at first were along the lines of:

“And this is Clothahump, SWMBO’s…err…ummmm…”

Works a treat.

In Swedish, we use “sambo” for cohabitating nonmarried couples. The word is a portmanteau of “bo” (live in the sense of “inhabit”) and “samman” (together) and has given rise to a plethora of related words such as “kombo” (someone who cohabitates nonamorously) and “särbo” (half of a couple that doesn’t live together).

I so agree. I’ve been together with him for over 8 years. He is not my boyfriend any more, he is my life partner, but that’s an unwieldy term.

He would be called your “Spose”…as in “S’pose they’ll ever get married?”

This has become an issue for my family recently too. My Mom has been in and out of the hospital quite a lot and her significant other is forever having to answer the question, “And what relation are YOU to the patient?” And you know what? It’s really awkward for him to answer “I’m her boyfriend” when he’s talking about whether or not to sign a DNR order.

Well, if we leave out the gender-specific words and combine Committed, LIve-in, loNG-term, we get . . . CLING. Eh? Eh?

I’ll keep working on it.

For a while I referred to my mother-in-law’s boyfriend as “my future father-in-law” but several people asked “Aren’t you and CubHubby married?” so I dropped it as being confusing. Now they are finally married so the problem is solved for me.

I also think we need words to describe a few other relationships, too. For example, my daughter-in-law’s mother: I would like a word to describe her relationship to me. After all, we adore two grandchildren in common, that needs a name. In fact, all those “in-law” relationships can get confusing without a scorecard.

My mother-in-law always has little complaints about her children’s spouses. Nothing serious and mostly just kidding around. We now refer to ourselves as the Outlaws.

Oh, yes! F’instance, my stepsister is, technically, not going to be my stepsister much longer, because her father and my mother are divorcing. But we don’t plan on reverting, since we’re certainly more like sisters than friends. My father has essentially welcomed her as a part of his family as well, so what’s their relationship called? I’m very close to my stepsister’s boyfriend’s mother, but there’s no word that’s even close to describing my relationship to her. Ugh. I wonder if other cultures have words we could borrow?

Priceguy, I’m glad to hear that other languages are on top of this. I’m afraid we can’t borrow your words, though, as “Sambo” has negative connotations in the United States.

The more I think about it, the more I like lady-friend and beau for all-grown-up-type couples. Sounds classy.

How 'bout shortening live-in-girlfriend and live-in-boyfriend to glin and blin, respectively?


Too pretentious? Damn… :cool:

Miss Manners has a whole section on this in her book “Guide for the Turn of the Millenium” but she can’t come up with the definitive answer, either. It is hard to find a term that isn’t overly cutesy nor too sexually graphic.
Also, the description shouldn use another existing term like " friend" " boyfriend" or " roommate" as those are already taken.

A few readers suggestions were:

  • committed partner
  • householdmate… They referred to each others family as " un-laws" .
  • leman
  • amourge (from amour and merge)
  • common-law wife or -husband.
  • sweetmates, freemates (from the Marion Zimmer Bradley novels)

…or just fiancé(e).

Sounds like my Dad. When he & my stepmom came to visit, they met Himself for the first time (they live in Texas, we live in Indiana, they don’t travel much & we didn’t want to bring Himself to visit there before they’d met him.) Later, before they left, my Dad told me, “I approve of your…ummmm…errr…whatever he is.”

Himself & I go back and forth between boyfriend/girlfriend & S.O. (significant other) depending on the audience & our mood at the time. Since he hasn’t proposed yet (says he will one of these days but wants to surprise me) I can’t call him my fiance.

It all works out. :wink:

The everyday Dutch word for it is “partner”.
“I’m Henk and this is my partner, Michel”. Partner implies a steady romantic relationship, can applie to married and unmarried people, living together or not, and to same-sex relationships as well. The word is commonly used on invitations, including chic ones. But then again, we had to come up with a term; most people in the Netherlands don’t marry anymore, and get insulted when somebody would have the audacity to assume their common-law marriage is any less worthy then an ondinary marriage.

Businesspartners, who used to hold the word " partner" are nowadays referred to as “businesspartners”, the full word.

Isn’t this what the term “significant other” denotes?

Partner’s the one everyone I know uses to refer to very committed though unmarried relationships. It often suggests a homosexual relationship and could thus lead to some confusion. I’m surprised that the US doesn’t seem to use it.

Many years back (late 70s perhaps), some governmental form had a category “Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters (POSSLQ)” and in subsequent text just used the appreviation POSSLQ, so we went around saying “possel-queue” for awhile.

Unwieldy, too. I use it all the time, but I want a quick, easy term. I want one word. I want a common word.

He would be called your “Spose”…as in “S’pose they’ll ever get married?”[/quote
We *are * married. We just don’t have that little piece of paper, and frankly, consider it unimportant and secondary.

I don’t know, I don’t see any problem with boyfriend/girlfriend. We’ve been saying it long enough and everyone knows what it means. All the hesitation just seems to be a few individuals who are reading things into it that aren’t there.

Weird One, the guy you were dating didn’t freak out because you used the wrong word for your relationship. He freaked out because he was not ready to acknowledge that there was any relationship. No matter what word you come up with for it, a declaration of “This is Sam; he’s my NEWWORD” was going to cause him to freak out. I should expect that at that point, he didn’t want to be introduced as Weid One’s anything, whether friend or boyfriend or NEWWORD. “This is Sam” would have worked just nice. Upon further questioning, if such was forthcoming, you might add, “we’ve dated a few times.”