First, some background. My wife and I dated for 9 years before we got married. We've been married 19 years, so we've been together for a total of 28 years.

I am running for my local school board and needed to come up with a candidate statement to be printed in the voter guide. There is a strict limit of 200 words for the statement, so brevity is critical. I listed my quantitative qualifications as bullet points, including my relationaship with my wife, a 25-year veteran public school teacher.

When I have the luxury of being more loquacious, I would write/say something like

My wife — we've been together for 28 years — is a 25-year veteran public school teacher.

which indicates we're married (my wife) but also specifies the total length of the relationship (the use of together implies that it is not 28 years of marriage alone). If we had been married the whole time, I could have simply referred to her as my wife of 28 years, but that is not the case.

For the more taciturn statement, however, I need something shorter.

Now, the whole being married thing is not significant to me, but there are voters, even here in San Francisco, who view unmarried couples as less valid or even immoral, so when running for office, since we did actually get married, I might as well include that. But I also wanted to highlight that we had been together for the whole of her career and even before she went into the classroom.

So, is there a word or very short phrase that implies being married but also includes the time of the relationship prior to getting married (both dating and engagement)?

I checked for synonyms of married, but they all refer strictly to the post-marriage period. I also tried the synonyms of together, but didn't find any that really applied well to a relationship, let alone specifying the period before and after marriage.

I ended up leaving out the pre-marriage time in favor of specifying that we're married:

  • 19 years married to a 25-year public school teacher

What I would have liked to have said was:

  • 28 years _____ with/to a 25-year public school teacher

where the missing word would have included the notion of being married but not exculively so.

Any thoughts? I would also be open to rewording the statement as long as the word count is basically the same.

While this might be mostly curiosity on my part at this point, I will need to do another candidate statement in four (if I'm elected) or two (if I'm not elected) years.

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    Having a teacher for wife/romantic partner is not a qualification. Wouldn't it be stronger to simply say you have assisted a teacher for 25 years? – jxh Aug 20 at 21:14
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    @jxh -- you've never been married to a teacher. 8^) Teachers only work about 8-10 hours at school; they work from home the other 14-16 hours a day. But it speaks to my experience with and understanding of what teachers do for the district and their students. – Roger Sinasohn Aug 20 at 21:19
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    It's still a stronger qualification to speak to 25 years of your own experience than of your wife's. You only need to talk about your wife if explicitly asked how you acquired your experience. – jxh Aug 20 at 21:23
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    My wife of 19 years (together 28)... – Jim Aug 21 at 2:37
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    @jxh in some places a teaching assistant is a job title, saying you have assisted a teacher for 25 years might confuse the issue have you been a teaching assistant for 25 years? – Sarriesfan Aug 21 at 9:30
up vote 37 down vote accepted

As specified, the phrase

  • 28 years with my spouse, a 25-year public school teacher.

succinctly notifies the reader that (1) you're married and (2) you've been in a relationship with your current spouse for 28 years.

  • 1
    I like this solution, as it fulfills all the OP's requests. Notifies that you've been in a relationship with the spouse for 28 years, that you're married to them, that they've been working for 25 years, all without misrepresenting the length of your marriage nor your relationship. – Doc Aug 21 at 2:49
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    Come to think of it, you could probably say "28 years with my wife" for the same effect. You don't need a word, you just needed a better phrasing :) – Doc Aug 21 at 3:12
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    You could even omit the "25-year" part. "28 years with my wife/spouse, a public school teacher". None of that is wrong, and the reader isn't caught up with odd technicalities. – Mirror318 Aug 21 at 4:51
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    I read this as if he had a relationship of 28 years, with a 25yr old teacher (which is impossible in this specific example). Even while I know what is intended. (I'm dutch) – Martijn Aug 21 at 7:09
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    I made the same mistake as Martijn (I'm American); I would recommend changing "a 25-year public school teacher" to "a public school teacher for 25 years" or something similar. It's not grammatically incorrect, but you remove the ambiguity phrasing it this way. – Nic Hartley Aug 21 at 20:36

Just say married for 19 years to a public school teacher. Otherwise, you’re drawing attention to a completely irrelevant part of your life story, and you can count on it coming up in the ugliest and most unfair way. Everything in political life must be simple first and nuanced later, if at all.

This isn’t about word choice. It’s about how you structure your narrative.

  • 6
    Except that it was in the time prior to getting married that I assisted her in getting her classroom set up, bought thousands of dollars of supplies and materials for her classroom each year, traveled all around the western US and Canada visiting teacher stores, helping her with her master's thesis, etc. For the entirety of her career, I've been there experiencing it with her so, even though I'm not a teacher myself, I understand what they go through. – Roger Sinasohn Aug 20 at 19:44
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    @RogerSinasohn Everything you say is perfectly reasonable. What you are forgetting is the comprehension level of the voters, including those for whom English is not their first language. You and your wife are educated people. If you need help finding a word, it's likely that your readers will need help in understanding it. Remember that you have to appeal from the 99th percentile all the way down to the 1st. – Global Charm Aug 21 at 1:40

I think you could say

My wife and life partner of 28 years ...

Formally it could be misinterpreted by logically bracketing "wife and life partner" as a pleonasm, inferring a 28 year marriage, but that seems unlikely. If anything, this juxtaposition of "marriage" with "life partner" indicates something more substantial and committed than an arbitrary relationship which carries over into the marriage, an accent which I like.

The order is essential: "life partner" comes after wife so that the "28 years" refer to it, even though the temporal order is reversed.

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    I wonder how many people would misinterpret this as a notion of polygamy :P – M.Herzkamp Aug 21 at 9:20
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    I was going to suggest the same thing but without the word life. I'm not sure which is better but I think it can be omitted. – R.. Aug 21 at 20:08
  • @M.Herzkamp my social circles consist of a very large number of polygamous, highly progressive (read: super anal about labels) folk and the word “partner” has never implied polygamy. It’s specifically used because it indicates a person you are in a relationship with and can work for any structure, without implying what the greater relationship structure actually is (and does not imply a gender either, as an added bonus). Fwiw. – Jason C Aug 21 at 23:48
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    @Jason C: My comment was meant as a joke, implying that "wife" and "life partner" in the suggested sentence are not necessarily one and the same person due to grammatical ambiguity. I did not want to imply that people who call their spouses "partner" could be conceived as polygamous. – M.Herzkamp Aug 22 at 8:55
  • @R.. I wondered about that as well and almost wrote [partner] in square brackets but didn't want to overcomplicate things. One reason I opted to include life was the otherwise occurring ambiguity with business partner or similar. But perhaps life partner is too stilted or unnatural. On the other hand it is a pretty heavy term (not all partners are for life) befitting this relationship, from what I can gather from the OP. – Peter A. Schneider Aug 22 at 9:51

I'm not aware of any word that explicitly means married or living together.

The term common-law implies living together without actually being married. But you can't use that because it would include only the pre-marriage state and you'd be no better off.

If you don't care about mentioning marriage specifically, you could just say:

28-year relationship with a 25-year public school teacher.

Almost everybody would assume it was a romantic relationship. And while it doesn't only mean common-law or marriage, it's a common assumption. (It could also be qualified with committed.)

However, it sounds like you do want to mention marriage for the sake of the voters, so your original version may be the best you can get in the short amount of space.

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    But they do care about mentioning marriage specifically, as discussed halfway through the question. – Chemomechanics Aug 20 at 21:14

The OP might want to try the following version the next time he is running for election.

The emphasis is on the cohabitation with a school teacher, which hints he is all too familiar with the day-to-day problems a veteran teacher faces.

For 25 years I've lived with a public school teacher (my wife)

Twelve words, two more than the OP's final draft version

19 years married to a 25-year public school teacher

you did say this was in San Francisco - why not the obvious:

"28 years life partnered with a 25-year public school teacher"

Should work - would work well here in LA.

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    I suspect this would be confusing for elderly voters – Azor Ahai Aug 21 at 0:59
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    Unfortunately there are people who would respond negatively to others who are in a homosexual (or otherwise non-heterosexual) relationship; and people would likely assume that if you're using "life partner" you are either unmarried or in such a relationship. Both could lead to controversy and loss of votes, which OP is trying to avoid. – Doc Aug 21 at 2:52
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    That result is quite unlikely in SF. – GerardFalla Aug 21 at 14:43
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    While there are folks, even in SF, who are misguided enough to have an issue with the LGBTQ+ community, they are probably unlikely to vote for me anyway, given that I am (and have been for a long time) quite vocal about my support for the LGBTQ+ community. – Roger Sinasohn Aug 21 at 17:46
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    @VinceO'Sullivan -- true, but if they look at my campaign website (or do a google search even), they'd have a hard time missing it. I've been very vocal. 8^) – Roger Sinasohn Aug 21 at 17:55

As a native speaker of North American English, two words came to mind almost simultaneously.

Attached - adjective - married, engaged, or associated in an exclusive sexual relationship.

Source


Involved - adjective - having a romantic or sexual relationship.

Source

Either of these words would be understandable and grammatical in your example sentence, but I prefer a third option:

In Love

While this option is less formal than the others, I think it sends the right kind of message for the context you have suggested.

"28 years in love with a 25-year public school teacher."

Saying you have been in love for 28 years will have the perfect connotation for the voters you are appealing to. Not only do you love your wife, but one might also conclude that you have grown to love the public school system.

  • While I like in love, and do agree that it sends a very positive message, I think it might distract from the point of the comment. – Roger Sinasohn Aug 21 at 17:47
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    I would understand "28 years in love" as meaning "in love - but NOT married". – TrevorD Aug 21 at 22:49
  • @TrevorD interesting! Would you likewise feel that any word that doesn't explicitly state marriage is subtly stating that the couple is not in fact married? – Lumberjack Aug 21 at 22:52
  • @Lumberjack It could refer to marriage implicitly (e.g. reference to "spouse", etc.) rather than explicitly, but other than that, yet I would - primarily because, when referring to a partner, people do usually (at least in my UK experience) default to using 'marriage terminology' (e.g. wife, husband) unless they are not married. This may just be 'unconscious' usage, but nevertheless can be a 'giveaway'. – TrevorD Aug 22 at 22:44

Chemomechanics is close, but it doesn't sound right to me.

I would say:

28 years with my spouse, a public school teacher with 25 years experience.

This eliminates the possibility of the school teacher being 25 years old, whom you've had an impossibly long 28 year relationship with.

It also avoids someone thinking that 28 is a typo of 23, so now they think you've have a "relationship" with a 25 year old for 23 years.

Just saw “23 years in love” as a construction being actively used by Facebook in an auto generated graphic, so it’s definitely been tested as commonly understood if they’re using it, fwiw.

protected by tchrist Aug 20 at 19:35

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