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15 Other Words For...

15 Other Words For Your Significant Other And Why They All Suck

If you've been seeing someone for a while, chances are you've run into the problem of what to call your significant other. Boyfriend? Partner? Lover? Gross. Turns out all of the options are a little awkward for one reason or another.

For better or for worse, the internet has changed modern dating. We're slower to label our significant other and quicker to jump into bed with them. Cohabitation before marriage is more common while marriage itself is less. The line between boy friend and boyfriend and friend with benefits gets hazier every year and the language simply can't keep up.

What do you call someone with whom you're in a long-term relationship but have no plans to get married? What do you call the man you just started seeing but is over the age of 25? What do you call the woman you love but are not in a relationship with because she lives 16 hours away and the timing just never worked out but maybe it could some day? Dating in 2017 is complicated!

Here are 14 common alternatives and why they don't exactly work.

1. Significant Other
Ugh. "Significant other" may be the most P.C. term out on the market, but it comes off as long, clunky, and a little chilly. Plus, "other" leaves room for anything! Cheese is my significant other. West Wing is my significant other. Most days, my cat qualifies as my significant other. Surely, this person is more than just significant.

2. My Boyfriend/Girlfriend
Of course, "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" are relationship classics, but there's a reason we're trying to replace them. It's unlikely that you'd ever call your 37-year-old, live-in partner "a boy" or "a friend," and the combination is only slightly better. Beyond that, the term severely diminishes the investment that a long-term couple makes in a relationship. This might suit a new partnership or a younger couple, but it isn't getting the job done anymore.

3. The Boyfriend/Girlfriend
Subtlely different from "my boyfriend" or "my girlfriend," "the girlfriend" is even less significant, bordering on dismissive. It's reminiscent of "the wife" or "the old ball-and-chain." So I think it's time we do better.

4. My Lady Friend/Man Friend
The obvious answer to fixing "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" is to age up the language a little bit, but something about "lady friend" and "man friend" sounds more like Tarzan-speak than a title for a person you supposedly love. "Me Rachel. You man friend."

5. Partner
"Partner" is picking up speed in countries like Canada and England as a gender-neutral term for boyfriend or girlfriend. It has the benefit of working for both hetero- and homosexul couples and it comes off as more committed than other options. It expresses investment and hope for a united future, but it also comes off as... business professional. Until we can differentiate between partners in law and partners in love, this word will continue to fall short.

6. Lover
I can't be the only one who is singularly grossed out by referring to another person as a "lover." It reads as purely sexual and forces listeners to picture it as such. "Lover" calls to mind the infamous rich woman-pool boy relationship, or maybe that couple who is always using way too much tongue when they make out at a bar.

7. Companion
Is this person your dog? Are they your manservant? Or lady-in-waiting? This word seems entirely wrong for a person you treat as your equal.

8. Boo
In some contexts, "boo" works perfectly. It's cute, not gender-specific, and implies more than a teaspoon of affection for this person, but it doesn't exactly feel appropriate at a work party, for example. Something tells me, your company's CFO isn't interested in meeting your sweet baby boo and your boo probably will feel weird about being called that in a professional setting.

9. Bae
While we love "bae" for online purposes, we cringe at it's use in the real world. Not only does it sound like you fell short of pronouncing the second "b" in "babe," it makes the user come off as juvenile and trend-following. Something tells us that it won't be easy for your father to take your "bae" very seriously.

10. Beau
We like "beau" as a slightly more formal alternative to modern versions like "boo" and "bae," but "beau" doesn't have the benefit of being gender-neutral or all that serious-sounding. If you're looking for something fun to call a new guy that isn't exactly your boyfriend, consider "beau." Otherwise, keep looking.

11. My Man/Woman
Oof. Talk about possessive. "My woman" reads dangerously similarly to "my dog" or "my coat rack," while "my man" always seems to weirdly accentuate the "man." As in, "Look at this big, hunky man that I trapped." I guess, if that's what you're going for, fire away.

12. My Person
"My person" has the potential to come off as affectionate and committed, but it also puts out a bit of a "I keep him locked up in my basement and trot him out at parties" vibe. Your person is hopefully their own person that you get to be a person with together.

13. My Honey
Okay. "Honey" may work as a pet name between two people, but it gets sickeningly sweet as soon as you start using it to refer to them outside of that. "This is my honey, Paul," is gross. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Reminder: Honey is bee vomit.

14. Other Half
We have real problem with both "other half" and "better half." Say it with me, "I am a whole person. I am both halves of myself. This is a cool person that I like a lot and want to spend a lot of time with, but they are not a part of my being and they certainly aren't the better half of my being."

15. Gentleman/Lady Caller
While I'm all for jokingly out-dated terms like "gentleman caller" or even "suitor," it is absolutely going to get creepy if you keep using it all the time.

Rachel Weeks

I'm originally from the Chicagoland area, but I recently moved from beautiful Des Moines, IA to the equally beautiful Denver, CO. I spend my days reading, binge-watching TV shows, performing and listening to comedy and, of course, writing.

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