What would be the best substitute word for "girlfriend"?

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brighthope

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi,
I live with my girlfriend for more than 4 years and we are virtually married.
(In Canada we have the same right as a married couple.)

But we are not married so my girlfriend is not my "wife", though technically
she is my "common-law wife" in Canada.

When I talk with people, I refer to her as my girlfriend, but it gives an impression that we are not as stable as a married couple. (Please don't argure that married couples are not necessarily stable :) ) Also I have to explain that she and I live together. (Well, though I know not all married couple live together...) I tried calling her "my wife", then often I had to explain that actually we were not married, in the course of conversations.

For a while I used "my common-law wife" or "my common-law partner" but it is kind of pain in the neck to say these words everytime because they are a bit too long.

Are there any other words best describe the relationship?

Also, I hear that in Australia or New Zealand, it is natural to use the word "partner", but in North America it gives an impression that you have a gay relationship. Is that true?

Thanks a lot in advance.
 
  • In the UK "partner" is used in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

    It is used on its own, unless their is a risk in the context that it might be interpreted as a business partner, in which case usually one would say "domestic partner" or "partner at home".
     

    KayDeeAy

    Member
    American English
    I can't think of another word for you to use besides girlfriend. Probably in the course of conversation the person will figure out that you are living with her. However, I definitely think when you use the word "partner" it is likely to be assumed that it is a gay relationship.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    I assume your close friends know about your relationship, so I don't quite understand why you need to give out so much information to casual acquaintances! However, if you feel the need to be more precise, how about, "This is X, my best friend and room mate"?
     

    Nymeria

    Senior Member
    English - Barbadian/British/educated in US universities blend
    I assume your close friends know about your relationship, so I don't quite understand why you need to give out so much information to casual acquaintances! However, if you feel the need to be more precise, how about, "This is X, my best friend and room mate"?
    Isn't that much less precise? If I heard that a person was someone's best friend and room mate, I would assume that they were exactly that, best friend and room mate, not girlfriend at all.

    There are lots of terms to describe a relationship, but I can't really say that any one of them is "stronger" than girlfriend. In fact, I think the world girlfriend can be a pretty strong word. People understand that there are degrees of "girlfriend". Some people started out as a couple just recently and some are on their way to the altar. I don't believe that the term girlfriend makes the relationship appear any less stable. It's not like you're calling her you're "latest fling" Plus, if you insist on describing the seriousness of the relationship you can always do that with a few additional sentences.

    The other option is for you call her your fiancee...but then you'd need to propose and make sure she said yes...
     

    BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    Could you introduce her as your girlfriend and then say you two cohabit? Or simply your cohabiter.

    Hi,
    I live with my girlfriend for more than 4 years and we are virtually married.
    (In Canada we have the same right as a married couple.)

    But we are not married so my girlfriend is not my "wife", though technically
    she is my "common-law wife" in Canada.

    When I talk with people, I refer to her as my girlfriend, but it gives an impression that we are not as stable as a married couple. (Please don't argure that married couples are not necessarily stable :) ) Also I have to explain that she and I live together. (Well, though I know not all married couple live together...) I tried calling her "my wife", then often I had to explain that actually we were not married, in the course of conversations.

    For a while I used "my common-law wife" or "my common-law partner" but it is kind of pain in the neck to say these words everytime because they are a bit too long.

    Are there any other words best describe the relationship?

    Also, I hear that in Australia or New Zealand, it is natural to use the word "partner", but in North America it gives an impression that you have a gay relationship. Is that true?

    Thanks a lot in advance.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I presume 'partner' won't evoke the sense of 'gay relationship,' as you deliver further conversation or writing, or with your foregoing context that tells you are a man, and your 'partner' is a woman. The same thing is true with your 'signifcant other.'

    I thought about 'your life partner,' but this would even make others think you will never get married to her.

    'Significant other,' maybe gives out a sense of 'seriousness' and 'stability' ....

    Best.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    In my experience, heterosexual couples do refer to their partners as "partners". They also introduce each other as "my partner." People assume that they are committed to each other as you describe.

    A reference to a "partner" could suggest a gay relationship only if the person you are speaking to doesn't know that your partner is a woman. If she is there, or if her name is clearly a woman's name, there will not be any ambiguity.

    If you are talking about her, and her name doesn't make it clear that she is a woman, you can say both words together the first time. You might say something like: "Chris, my girlfriend, - or rather, my partner - and I are going to Europe...." It's a bit clumsy, but if call her your partner after that, people will assume that you are a couple, at least the people I spend time with would do that.
     

    mommyteacher

    Member
    English - United States
    When I talk with people, I refer to her as my girlfriend, but it gives an impression that we are not as stable as a married couple. (Please don't argure that married couples are not necessarily stable :) ) Also I have to explain that she and I live together. (Well, though I know not all married couple live together...) I tried calling her "my wife", then often I had to explain that actually we were not married, in the course of conversations.


    I think referring to her as your girlfriend is unambiguous and perfectly acceptable. If people make a judgment about the stability of the relationship based on that, then shame on them. If you feel it is necessary to explain your living arrangements, you can simply say, "we share a home." A casual acquaintance probably doesn't have any business knowing more than that.
     

    brighthope

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Hi all,
    Thanks for all your opinions, advice, etc.

    The reason why I think about this a lot is people treat me differently when I use the word "wife" or "common-law wife" and "girlfriend". When I used the word "wife" or "common-law wife", it seems people tend to think "Oh, he has a family". It's not that significant, but there is a difference!

    Thanks again!:)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The reason why I think about this a lot is people treat me differently when I use the word "wife" or "common-law wife" and "girlfriend". When I used the word "wife" or "common-law wife", it seems people tend to think "Oh, he has a family". It's not that significant, but there is a difference!
    I can imagine that this is true. Where I live, having a "partner" would give people the same sense that you are a settled person. "Common-law-wife" would seem a little legalistic, and old-fashioned. But this must vary a lot from place to place.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I am not sure I understand what the distinction is between your relationship and marriage, or between your relationship and the usual boyfriend-and-girlfriend.

    Are you saying your relationship is stable but not exclusive? Stable but not committed? In either case, "steady (girlfriend)" might fit best.
     

    Categenesis

    Member
    English
    I tried calling her "my wife", then often I had to explain that actually we were not married, in the course of conversations.

    For a while I used "my common-law wife" or "my common-law partner" but it is kind of pain in the neck to say these words everytime because they are a bit too long.
    Depends on how you want to present your relationship, to whom, and in how much detail. I can only guess that "the course of conversations" must get around to where the wedding was held for you to have to explain in any depth.

    My advice: If she feels like your wife and Canada says she is legally your wife, then I would introduce her as my wife (ok, your wife). :)

    If the going gets tough and the crowd starts asking who caught the bouquet, I would follow up with, "We're common-law partners."

    Have a good life.

    Don
     

    brighthope

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Wow, I'm glad I asked about it here!
    There are more interesting ways to call her than I thought! :)

    Anyway, thanks again for your help. There are very helpful.
     
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