Inadequate Language for Play Partners

I really struggle with what to call the people I'm dating when I'm referring to them in conversation. I really dislike the terms "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" because they imply all kind of things about commitment levels and monogamy. I don't want someone I'm talking to (or dating!) to think that I'm unavailable because I'm referring to someone else as my boyfriend. It just comes with too many expectations and connotations.

Calling someone I'm wildly attracted to and dating and fucking regularly my friend, though, is a little ridiculous. And the linguistic contortions that I've tried so far all have a bit of a silly note. "Partner" sounds like a business acquaintance. "Sweetheart" sounds sappy and old-fashioned. "Fuckbuddy" is too crude and doesn't give enough credit to the friendship/intimacy part. "Special friend" is way too euphemistic. "Lover" is the one I'm most inclined to use, but even that sounds pretentious and a little goofy.

There's also the issue of being in that space where you've started dating someone but don't have commitments yet. . . But you might be moving towards that. . . But you don't want to jump the gun or give people wrong ideas before you're ready to embrace a relationship. Kind of like how people don't announce a pregnancy in the first month because it's likely to miscarry. Silly in a way not to tell anyone, and it doesn't give enough credit to how sad and how common it is to have a miscarriage, but you don't want to have to repeatedly explain what's happened to everyone if it doesn't work out.

One of my coworkers calls her most important partner her "jellybean," which is pretty cute. I suppose that could be the answer: an otherwise meaningless word that you can then explain to mean whatever your relationship status happens to be. I wish there was something easier in our language, but I guess that's what poly pioneers and rapid progress are for! Anyone else have any great ideas?


R. said...

One friend of mine uses "emotionally significant sex friend." It's kind of unwieldy, but it gets the point across.

The Suburbinate Housewife said...

I really have no helpful thoughts, other than to say you are exactly right!
I've always struggled with what to call others who I am romantically involved with because boyfriend or girlfrinds sounds so 'teenagish' and referring to someone as a lover just makes me giggle.

Paradox said...

Hm, emotionally significant sex friend is at least specific enough to work, especially for secondary partner-type relationships. Those are exactly the kinds of "other" men and women I like to have around when I'm in a primary relationship. Unwieldy, yes, but at least descriptive.

And yeah, I definitely want to reduce the giggle factor, cuz sometimes it's serious!

Jordan said...

Though I've been a part of polyamorous relationships, my immediate family and close friends are a querulous sort, and aren't particularly inclined to question normative pair bonding practices -- so I have to be covert. In addition, I have the same problems with the usual titles you mentioned: they're limiting.

"Significant other" works well for me: it's about as honest as I can be, since it gives nothing away without being dishonest. It lacks the baggage of "partner" (which can imply homosexuality -- and there are times and places it would be disadvantageous to do imply such), and it is neither as crass as "fuck buddy" or as saccharine as "special friend." It is 100% truthful: the "other" I'm with is significant to me -- if only people knew how much!

When I'm questioned about my significant other (I only have one, at the moment), I find it's easiest to list a few things we do together in vague terms: we hang out, we discuss the world's problems, we swoon over pictures of small fuzzy creatures, we curl up together and fall asleep. That generally deflects any inquiries ("See? We're not doing anything inappropriate"), but if not, I drop the hammer: "I see no reason to limit her and she sees no reason to limit me. You got a problem with that?"

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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