He's My Husband, Not My Partner

One of the things that really annoys me about modern society is how it devalues marriage by putting it on the same footing as any number of other types of relationships.

When I was in university, especially in the sociology department, it was especially acute. People knew I was married, yet they insisted on asking, “how is your partner doing at medical school?”. If the department was having a social, they would say, “you’re welcome to bring your partner.”

I so wanted to say, “he’s not my partner, he’s my husband,” but I didn’t. These were my professors, after all. But I stood in front of a minister and all my friends and family and before God and pledged to love him and be faithful to him for the rest of my life. Doesn’t that somehow distinguish our relationship from one where two people are just living together?

I know all that stuff about how “a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything”, but the statistics don’t bear that out. If you live together, you’re far more likely to split up. And if you life together before you’re married, your marriage is far less likely to succeed, too. I think it’s due to two factors:

1. When you live together, the relationship is under scrutiny. You’re always asking: is this the one for me? Is he/she making me happy? It’s hard to turn that voice in your head off when you get married.

2. Our threshold for choosing someone to live with is lower than it is for choosing someone to marry. So we may start living with someone, be with them for several years, and then fall into marriage because it’s easy and it’s the next logical step. But if we hadn’t lived together, we likely wouldn’t have chosen this person to marry.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t understand this. They think that the best way to prepare for marriage, a lifelong commitment, is by having numerous relationships in which one commits and then breaks off. It makes no sense!

Marriage is unique. On university campuses and when we worked in downtown Toronto the culture was such that it wasn’t polite to even acknowledge that people were married, so we were always talking about “partners”. In the small town I live in now, it is mostly marriage. But every now and then I come across someone who still says partner. Now I could understand it if they were homosexual, or if they were living with someone. But often it’s married people. I had someone introduce themselves to me as “such-and-such’s partner” recently. They’re married! And they know I’m married! So there’s no possible offense to be caused anywhere. But even married people have adopted the language, and I think in so doing we’re denigrating the institution.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I’d love to know what you think!

 

Comments

  1. >We have couples/partners living all around us in our neighborhood..most not married and even a lesbian couple.
    The thought of married couple calling each other their Partner is foreign to me. I had no idea it was such a prevalent occurrence.
    "partner" has such a "detachment" undertone to it.

    When I joined in a union with my man, he instantly and forever became my husband. The word

  2. >Personally, I dislike the word 'partner' a lot. I'm married! Not de facto! I don't want anyone to assume that I am de facto just because I am young and living with a man. My Husband.
    I do find it awkward sometimes: what is the best way to word an invitation etc, will people think I am being judgemental if I say "husband"? I hate political correctedness!

  3. Terry @ Breathing Grace says:

    >I didn't reaie that married people actually referred to their spouses as partners. That's just wierd.

  4. Terry @ Breathing Grace says:

    >I meant "realize".a

  5. >Eek! This drives me crazy as well. There's SO much more to marriage than just paperwork and for people to put married couples, especially those married for years upon years, on the same "page" as partners, well, it just doesn't seem right. BUT, that's tolerance for ya. Our society lives and breathes tolerance and if you're not tolerant of others' lifestyles (need I mention the Miss USA issue?), you're unreasonable and the odd-ball. Not that I believe we are definately living in end times or anything (I leave that up to God…I simply live day by day), but I see this especially becoming evident as we move closer and closer to those end times. Pretty soon, beastiology will become legal and we'll have to start calling someone's pet pig their "partner". Imagine that!

  6. >I'm not married, but if I was I'd probably still call him my partner. I don't like the term "husband". it has too much of a hierarchy associated with it. partner means we are split, 50/50. Which is exactly how it is. in our relationship, in our home, with our kids. We are partners.

  7. >I love being able to say 'my husband' and hate it when anyone refers to him as my 'partner'. I'm married and I'm proud of it and our relationship is based on commitment – and I'm not ashamed for anyone to know that. Interestingly I work with a lady who often when talking to someone will refer to their partner as 'your husband'. She's rarely corrected even when the couple are not married.

    My son has recently announced his engagement and his workmates can't understand that he's marrying someone he's never lived with (actually they've never kissed yet either but he didn't tell them that). They keep asking him if he finds it scary to be marrying someone he's not lived with. Scary? No it's exciting! But the world doesn't understand that.

  8. BarbaraLee says:

    >Your right. Hubby & I work together, self employed, and I always heard "I could never work w/my husband or wife." My reply was always the same.
    "If your married you work with them already."
    It is all in the faith.

  9. Kate :-) says:

    >Great post, Sheila, as always.

    I never refer to my husband as "my partner". I always thought "partner" was for homosexual couples.

  10. >I agree with you, Sheila. I love the sound of "my husband." :) Partner sounds like a business relationship, or just so detached (and part of the whole "tolerant" thing as Kelli said. Good post!

  11. A happy heart at home says:

    >I love the words 'husband' and 'wife,' and I'm glad to use them.

    ~Susan

  12. CardDolphin says:

    >As a woman who will be getting married sometime within the next year, I'll be glad to refer to him as husband! God created and designed marriage; partnerships are a by-product of something else entirely. You can have several partners but only one husband or wife.

  13. heidi jo says:

    >WHAT? to me, calling my husband my 'partner' – as in introducing him as such – would be totally and completey weird! now, if i'm describing our relationship as in we are friends, lovers, partners in life, side-by-side, cheering one another on, committed, faithful, etc… it could fit… but DEFINITELY NOT AS A TITLE. strange.

    as to how to word an invitation as asked by kathy… i would simply invite whomever and say that they are welcome to bring a guest/date or something of that nature.

    and… husband sounds no weirder to me than male – nor wife any weirder than female. he's the husband, i'm the wife…the terms don't imply inequality to me in any way shape or form. he's a man, i'm a woman… nothing wrong with that! heck – I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE THE HUSBAND! :) we are equally loved and valued by God and should love one another with everything… not even 50/50 – but 100%/100%.

    i know in some countries they refer to a roomate as a partner or flatmate. but in the good old usa, partner DEFINITELY implies homosexual relationship.

  14. - k o R i - says:

    >The title gave me the impression that this article is going to be about how married women view their husbands but I was completely wrong.

    Anyway, the term partner seems very formal and business-like so I've never quite used it outside these contexts. The title "partner" sounds like what you would use for your "partner in crime" or "business partner" but a "marriage partner" just doesn't seem right. It's just awkwardly rigid for something that also represents intimacy. When I hear others use this term, it's usually enunciated as though in quotes. So yes, I find it awkward; and I'm not married.

    Then again, in Asia, it's quite common to see false humility when women go around telling everyone "this is my husband" or men saying "this is my wife". This is a really interesting topic depending on community. Especially if seen in most traditional Asian communities where being married is still considered an achievement. I doubt you will hear many referring to their spouses as "partners" then.

  15. lisabirch says:

    >GREAT POST. i didn't get to read all the comments, so someone may have responded in this same way…or if you hit on this and i missed it, forgive me…but i think it's just becoming the "politically correct" thing to do, since many folks are pushing for gay marriages to be more widely legal. Nobody want's to "slip up" God forbid, and refer to someone's significant other as a "husband" or "wife" if that person is gay and not known. I say I'm sick of this. My man is my husband! yes, he is my partner in laughter, love and life, but he is my husband, and in speaking to others, I will refer to him as such no matter what another person refers to him as. I haven't heard the "partner" reference much. I'm in the south, ATL, but i'm in the burbies, far north, so that may be why. not sure what they're doing in ATL, but I know what I'm doing no matter where I live. My sweetheart is my "husband". Period.

  16. Makasha Dorsey says:

    >When I found out I was pregnant with son #2, the doctor asked if my partner would be excited about the pregnancy. She was new in the group so I corrected her saying, "I don't have a partner, I have a husband and he will be excited." She disregarded my statement and referred to hubs as partner again. Since I had been with the same practice for years, I asked her to leave and finished my appointment with another doctor in the practice.

    That was a customer service issue so I responded like a customer. Its all about respecting others.

  17. >Makasha–

    I have never even HEARD of anyone discussing "customer service" and physicians in the same sentence. I'm in Canada, and we have such a shortage of family docs that you take what you can get. In our town about 33% have no family doc, so no way of seeing a specialist unless they want to go sit for 8 hours in emerg with a non-emergency!

    So instead, we put up with family physicians who may be rude (mine's great, but I know many who aren't), chronically late, or not even that good, just to get the referral to someone else. It's sad.

  18. Mélanie says:

    >I hear ya, he's my husband! And as for living together before marriage (or in lieu of), I have witnessed amongst my family and friends exactly what you're talking about… the questions, mindgames and insecurities due to lack of complete commitment with the option to run left much more open… Marriage is so much more, we made a vow before God and our friends and family, and we take that commitment very seriously!

  19. >I waited a long time to be able to introduce someone as my "husband." Why would I want to call him anything else? We own a business together, and he is still my "husband." What's more … he refers to me as his "bride." We've been married for 8 1/2 years, and I'm still a "bride." Kinda makes me giggly all over again. :) (of course, the guys look at him funny when he does it!)

  20. But I object to gendered pronouns, as they are too firmly linked to gendered roles (like, the man does the wood-chopping and the woman does the housework). What other word is there to describe my relationship to my 100% equal, opposite-sex, married partner?

    • We may be equal, but that doesn’t mean that we’re the same. Men and women are really very different. Biologically we’re different. We have different sex drives. We have different instincts regarding risk, relationships, conflict resolution, and more. You may share household tasks (we do), but that doesn’t mean that you’re the same, so calling someone husband isn’t a stereotype; it’s just a statement of fact!

  21. Too many partners are not married and too many married people are not partners.

  22. Great article, and I side with you, Sheila! While not married, I prefer husband over partner in the same way I prefer spouse over mate. When you marry someone before God, you join your LIVES together. It’s not merely intellectual or only physical- you share the spiritual, physical, emotional, and everything. To break the whole of marriage into parts tears the unity of husband and wife. You are one before God. It should show in the way you talk.

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