I am divorced. I’m one of those people who insist I am happily divorced – that it was the best decision I ever made – but I may be one of only a handful who really mean it. My relationship with my ex is even better now than it was when we were newlyweds. He’s getting remarried in December, and I’ll send a lovely gift.
Meanwhile (I’ll keep this revolting bit to a minimum), I’m going on three years with a man who makes me weak in the knees every single day. I still get nervous talking to him and I still do dumb shit to try to impress him. I miss him when he walks out to the mailbox, and I long to be closer, even when we are actively pressing as many body parts together as possible. I wake up each morning convinced the universe has made a colossal accounting mistake in my favor.
Here’s the problem. I am 38 and I do not plan to marry again, but I do intend to be with this man for as long as he will charitably have me. What do I call him? How do I introduce him to others? If we do indeed stay together until the great hereafter, you can see how this might present a persistent, considerable problem.
When we are, say, renting a car or arguing with Comcast, I refer to him as my husband. This alone, according to the State of Colorado, means we are common-law married and would require an actual court divorce, should we choose to part ways (the hell?!). Yup, you are married in the eyes of the law simply by “presenting” yourself as such. Sent out a joint holiday card? Married. Opened a bank account together? Married. Ever put his name in the “husband” blank on a form? Married. (By the way, if common-law is a little too unceremonious for you, you can officiate your own wedding in this state. Skip the preacher/ minister/judge and DIY that bad boy. Colorado is bananas.)
When we are at community functions, I introduce him only by first name and let people naturally assume he is my husband and my children’s father. This is pretty effortless, especially when we meet new people. I’ll admit it’s nice sometimes to feel all Stepfordy simply by virtue of omission.
In a setting of loose acquaintanceship, I call him my other half – it’s a familiar phrase for most folks and deflects any questions, but somehow it never sounds sweet enough. On the other hand, better half is contrived and grosses me out. (You know those couples who fawn all over each other on Facebook? A thousand ews.)
Within my inner circle of friends, I refer to him as my boyfrusband. It’s weak, but it’s the best I’ve come up with, and I think he likes it okay.
All of these are awkward, and none of them convey the seriousness of the relationship. Boyfriend is out of the question because we are not 17, and partner is ridiculous for a number of reasons. We’ve joked about exclusively using the word lover with the express intent of making every person in our wake tremendously uncomfortable, but I fear that would lose its luster quickly, and we would (understandably) be left with no friends.
So please, those of you out there over the age of 30 and facing Life 2.0 with a serious romantic playmate of your own: What do you say? “This is my beau”? “This is my significant other”? “This is my demi-spouse”? “This is my… Mike”?
As an aside: the kids refer to my manperson – who is also their stepdaddish – as The Yanker, which amuses me to no end. (It’s because he’s exceptionally adept at pulling their loose teeth – one of those parental duties that makes me squirm – but I definitely derive a certain sick pleasure from not explaining that to people.)
Obviously I want our relationship to be taken as seriously as any marriage. I resent the fact that now that I’m older, arguably wiser, know what I want, searched for it, found it, and committed myself wholly to it – but remain conscientiously unwed – I must trade in the gravity of “husband” for the idiocy of “boyfriend.”
Boyfriends really think their bands will make it. Boyfriends play Call of Duty until sunrise. Boyfriends spend more on car audio systems than they made last year. They have moron friends who wear baseball caps sideways and you can guaranfuckingtee boyfriends have slapped a Monster Energy Drink logo on something. There is probably poker, maybe street racing, some smelly smokeable or other, and unwashed sheets.
Fellow grown-ups, your opinion of my life choices deserves better than that. I’ve earned better than that.
Like all of you, I slog to work each day, conjure up 21 relatively balanced meals a week, I do my taxes, sort through my junk mail, tsk-tsk at the global unrest, fix shit that breaks around the house, recycle, get intersection-camera tickets for stoplights that were nowhere goddam near red … ALL ADULT STUFF. Why can’t I be afforded the dignity of reasonable relationship nomenclature?
This is the 20th century. Much to the chagrin of Mormons and hopeful grandparents everywhere, the number of couples married in 2010 dropped a startling 5 percent from the previous year, and the overall number of married couples has declined by more than 20 percentage points since 1960. I understand how there may have been setbacks with my hoverboard, glitches with my full-time virtual reality visor, and delays with my self-driving car. I can wait patiently for my jetpack, robot butler, and colony on Mars, but for the love of Christ, can I just get a word that means what I want it to mean? A word (and its opposite-sex counterpart, natch) that would apply to so many throngs of committed, belittled lifemates?
Derp, selfie, and gaydar are no-shit recent additions to the Oxford English Dictionary. Fine. (Retarded, but fine.) I’ll accept these as the necessary antitheses to cakepop, truthiness, and illiterati, which I think we can all agree are fucking awesome. Clearly we have the power to influence this irrational language of ours and to forever alter our collective lexicon.
Let’s use our powers for good, shall we? Please comment with your suggestions, or email firstname.lastname@example.org . The Yanker and I would be much obliged.