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I've been together with my boyfriend for around 9 years now. There are times when I want to communicate that I am referring to someone who plays a major role in my life, like that of a husband, and "boyfriend" does not seem adequate.

To me, "boyfriend" seems to signify a newer relationship, one that is still in the experimental phase.

I've tried out a couple of other words, but they don't seem to carry the meaning I want.

"Partner" seems too detached, and makes me think of business partners.

"Companion" makes me think of a dog.

"Lover" seems too casual and is not really something I'd want to use in the workplace or when I'm trying to appear professional.

"Significant other" is what I would like to say, but I dislike using the term because there are so many syllables and it seems so wordy.

Is there a shorter term to use to describe a long term boyfriend/girlfriend that fills the role of a husband/wife?

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"Partner," detached as it sounds, is gaining currency, certainly in Canada. Its connotation is steadily shifting too, I think, in the public consciousness from detached to, let's say, attached. –  JAM Jul 26 '12 at 17:51
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Why not get engaged? Then it's simply, my fiancé! –  Gary Willoughby Jul 26 '12 at 18:02
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@GaryWilloughby I thought of that, but I'd rather find a term to use that doesn't involve getting engaged. If we do get married, I want to don't want it to be because "fiancé is easier to say than significant other". Perhaps someday we'll get married, but right now it's not high on my list of priorities :) –  Rachel Jul 26 '12 at 18:29
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@JAM is right, and not just in Canada. The term partner nowadays usually denotes a member of a serious, long-term romantic relationship, up to and including marriage. This is becoming so prevalent that you need to say business partner if you mean business partner, lest you come across as implying a romantic relationship that isn't there. (And this is the case regardless of the respective ages or genders of the business partners, because there are more and more romantic relationships of all shapes and colors these days.) –  John Y Jul 26 '12 at 21:24
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We took the term "fiancé" from the french and it works well for our purposes. Maybe it is time to adopt another word for this kind of relationship. Japanese use "koibito" and in Spanish I understand it is "novio". Some comedian or movie needs to get this thing solved! Where is Seinfeld when you need him... –  BillyNair Jul 27 '12 at 5:33
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9 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

There's not really one that I'm aware of-- or one that at least, as you said, doesn't carry other strange connotations with it or isn't long/awkward/wordy.

Honestly, I would just recommend 'boyfriend' for everyday use. I know it sounds a little juvenile (I've been with my girlfriend for much less time than you and it already feels a little insufficient), but it's a quick, easy term that people will immediately understand, and it doesn't always have to apply to less serious couples.

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I think you're right, "boyfriend" might just be the way to go. Times have changed and I think the term is not viewed in quite the same light as it once was. I was hoping there was a better term I wasn't aware of, but that does not sound like the case. –  Rachel Jul 26 '12 at 18:33
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I have encountered some people who just say SO ("ess oh") as short for significant other. You might have to expand it the first time, but sooner or later people will catch on.

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A more intimate and more meaningful word than partner could be, soulmate, sometimes spelled as two words, soul mate.

A soulmate is a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity. This may involve similarity, love, intimacy, sexuality, sexual activity, spirituality, or compatibility and trust.

I think, it tells the listener that you have found "the one", the person who completes you. It also suggests that the relationship between you and your boyfriend is solid and stable.

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That gives the idea that we get along really well, however. . . ;-) –  Jack Ryan Jan 9 at 0:33
    
@JackRyan Well, soulmates does imply compatibility. :) –  Mari-Lou A Jan 9 at 0:41
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I work in a professional services firm run by partners, so we tend to use "spouse," also for the unmarried, when "guest" doesn't work.

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A common self-deprecating idiom from the UK is referring to your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife as your better half.

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Further to jwpat's mention of "my man," in the 70's (?? I'm not sure), there were the terms "Main Man" for boyfriend and "Main Squeeze" for either boyfriend or girlfriend. (Although I remember being told by someone older that "Main Squeeze" was specifically for girlfriend.)

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Steady is sometimes used as a noun meaning "long term boyfriend/girlfriend", but I don't recall any "fills the role of a husband/wife" connotation to that term.
Live-in sometimes is used that way, but of course may be confused with a live-in household employee.
My man is perhaps the most concise phrase that connotes a long-term relationship like you describe, whether connubial or not.
Common-law or common-law marriage ("A marriage based on the duration of cohabitation rather than formal ceremony") may apply.
Domestic legal union is a term sometimes used (admittedly less compact than significant other), but as noted at mcgrathspielberger.com,

The term “domestic legal union” is a made-up one with no definition or useful history, but by the words themselves would seem to describe any committed relationship other than traditional marriage.

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+1 for "My man" (or "my guy", as I'm more likely to say). It's something I can easily see using in casual conversation, although I probably wouldn't use it when I'm trying to be more formal or professional. –  Rachel Jul 26 '12 at 18:32
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You can simply qualify the generic partner to life partner.

I think life partner carries the connotations of commitment and longevity that you're looking for.

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I think life partner might mean you are in a gay relationship. –  Tom Sep 18 '13 at 20:14
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In Britain, it is normally partner.

However, other half is common too. It connotes being half of a couple, which may be just what you want.

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I like this one. 'Partner' is nice and concise, and 'other half' is maybe a little poetic for normal use, but workable. I suppose I should add that, at least where I live, 'partner' is often used by couples who are not allowed to get married (e.g. homosexual couples), but that are more serious than simple boyfriend/girlfriend (i.e. at a point that they likely would get married if allowed). –  Jesse M Jul 26 '12 at 17:59
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Comment from U.S. I've heard partner used fairly frequently, often by homosexual couples but also by couples in exactly in Rachel's situation (and I've occasionally heard it used to describe married couples). –  psr Jul 26 '12 at 19:35
    
'partner' is so frequently used in Italy that that is considered an Italian word nowadays. +1 –  user19148 Jul 26 '12 at 21:52
    
Term is used in Australasia too. The term can be ambiguous at business meetings if you also work with the person. –  marabutt Jul 27 '12 at 2:40
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+1 Partner is the normal/best word. OP is simply mistaken in assuming this word is "more detached" (and if she thinks it's only applicable to business partners, she needs to get out more after work! :) –  FumbleFingers Oct 4 '12 at 17:29
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