What’s in a name? Does it really matter how you refer to the person with whom you’re having sex and creating a life together? In the English language we don’t have any adequate words. They all fall short, even the ubiquitous word partner.
Husband has the connotation of animal husbandry, chattel, and ownership. Wife’s etymology comes from woman. While some languages call their partner, my man or my woman, these certainly are not terms of endearment. They seem retro, harking back to the era of the Stone Age. The modern S.O. (significant other) is equally unsatisfactory since it connotes distance rather than closeness. Can’t we find a word that properly names the one we love?
The only term that I’ve discovered that really fits the bill is spouse. It’s neutral, not gender specific. It comes from Latin, meaning that a person has expressed a solemn oath or vow to another. If you’ve made a commitment, you’re a spouse, legally married or not.
What’s difficult is implementing that term when I introduce my husband, aka my spouse. I’ve tried and it feels awkward and artificial. But that is how all new terms evolve and become integrated into the vernacular. At first, they don’t sound right. Then after usage over time, they become the only words that truly honor the humanity and dignity of the person. Here are some examples: Indian became Native American, Negro became African American, Fag became Gay, etc. Our culture has tried to clean up language of pejorative name-calling and it’s been necessary, not just politically correct.
Is how we call the person we love just as important?
Here’s another aspect in the what’s-in-a-name exploration. Do you demean or honor your spouse by calling him or her honey, babe, mon chou-chou, little apple dumpling, darling, sweetheart, or beloved? Does it really matter so long as you and your spouse are okay with using these names for each other? Maybe you’d prefer that your spouse call you by your special birth name and only use the generic names behind closed doors, not in public? Maybe it just doesn’t matter and maybe it does. This is a private matter that each couple can decide for themselves so long as they’re aware of what they are doing. Beware, however, that childlike names might be negatively impacting your relationship, in subtle yet profound ways. (There are books written on this topic!)
Regardless of what you and your spouse call each other in private and in public, it’s important to be conscious of how you feel and think about what you call yourself and what you call the one you love.
Once you decide on a name or names for yourself and your spouse, see if it makes a difference in how you treat each other. It’s worthwhile conducting an experiment to see if your relationship is enhanced or not.
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