I was looking at the Wikipedia article about Julian Assange, and was confused about this particular information:

  • Spouse(s): Teresa Doe
    (married 1989; divorced 1999)
  • Partner(s): Sarah Harrison
    (espoused 2009; separated 2012)

What exactly is an "espoused partner"? I understand "to espouse" as "to become a spouse", but if that were true Sarah Harrison would have been listed as a spouse.

What is the difference between the nature of a spouse relationship and a partner relationship? Does "partner" essentially mean "girlfriend" here, or does it have a more official significance? Is it typical to use the word "espoused" to refer to the beginning of a relationship as a "partner"?

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    Yeah I don't what that means either. Maybe it's a neologism for 'not officially married but X' where X could be 'sharing living space', 'sharing a bed', 'have a child together', 'share a bank account' or something else that once specified would say to everyone, 'they're like married but not like registered with the government'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 19:44
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    Perhaps it means something in Swedish law. If so, then this is the wrong forum to ask.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 19:59
  • I think @GEdgar is right. Sweden (unlike most countries) recognises "common law" marriages. So I would guess this is the date they started cohabiting (or were recognised as such).
    – user323578
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 20:22
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    Biblically, "espoused" means "engaged". Luke 2:5: “To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” (KJV). According to doctrine, Mary was a virgin and Mary and Joseph were not married at the time of Jesus' birth.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 12:53
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    I always understood espoused to mean engaged to be married, as is born out by this definition: "be espoused to (of a woman): be engaged to (a particular man)" from Oxford Dictionary. I understand the reference as meaning that Sarah Harrison & Assange agreed in 2009 to marry at a future date, but they separated in 2012 without formally becoming married.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 18:19

1 Answer 1


This was likely just an inadvertent error by an editor. The link provided no longer shows (espoused 2009; separated 2012) but dated 2009 - 2012 as of April 27, 2019.

Determining the start of a common law marriage varies significantly by jurisdiction. But it is something that often occurs retrospectively after a specified period of cohabitation, and the period required may be shorter in some places if there is a child.

So an unmarried domestic partner may become an espoused partner after a few years. While for legal reasons the marriage may be held to have commenced when they moved in together, it is not accurate at that point to say they married on the date they moved in. So it would be awkward, if not inaccurate, to use the listing form of married 2009, divorced 2012 for a cohabitation during this period that eventually met the relevant jurisdiction's criteria for common law marriage.

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