Howdy Partner: Six Reasons We Prefer The Term “Life Partners” Over “Husband And Wife”

One of the most frequent questions I receive from people pertains to why Rene and I prefer to be regarded as “Life Partners” as opposed to husband and wife.  If you want a quick correction from me, just call Rene’ my “wife.” I’ll show you. The label makes me cringe.
Whenever I tell people about my “Life Partner,” Rene’, they automatically assume I am hooking up with a gay Spanish dude.
I do find it ironic that as gay people are fighting for their right to call their same sex partner husband or wife, I prefer we all call our significant other a “Life Partner” as it rings more genuine, authentic, and is an accurate description of what most of us really are, or perhaps, should be.
However, I am not out to change anyone or to convince one that “Life Partner” is the superior term, cause who am I? I believe two people should call themselves whatever they would like to call themselves according to their belief system. Do you like the terms husband and wife? Awesome. Have at it.
So why do Rene’ and I prefer the term Life Partners?
This is a very reasonable question.
I have done some light research (read: a google first page search with shitty key words) into the origins of the terms husband and wife and the findings were ambiguous.  No matter, I hold a fairly strong opinion that finding out the origin of terms (which is nearly an impossible task, by the way) is essentially irrelevant as words are constantly evolving and changing. Does it really matter how it once was used? I suppose at some level it could be interesting, but for no other reason than for brain candy, and for some bullshit perceived credibility.
What follows are the six basic reasons we prefer the term “Life Partner.”
The terms “husband” and “wife” reek of unevolved, centuries-old notions of people ownership.  Just as they used to pronounce a couple “man and wife,” giving the man his identity and leaving the woman to be known only in terms of her relation to the man, justifies that language must constantly evolve as humans constantly evolve.  We no longer have bondservants, spinsters, or bastards, in the same sense we used to have them. Let’s move forward and evolve our language choices in step with our social changes. I am unsure why the gay community fights for the “right” to be referred to in such an archaic term. As stated, I like their term much better.
The term “Life Partner” identifies us first and foremost in terms of our individual self and not the other. Please do not get me wrong—to share your life with somebody and to share it lovingly and honestly is a joy unparalleled in life. Yet we enter the world alone and we leave the world alone. It is our individual self that we must deal with first and foremost; we are “selfs” that come into a sort of union with another—which part should we identify as? That is a personal decision. We would rather see ourselves as Jimmy first and Rene’ first versus what we have together first. She is Rene’, she is not MY wife. When one says “my husband” or “my wife,” they are suggesting, in essence, that the other is a possession. At least when one uses the term, “my Life Partner” it carries a connotation of complete egalitarianism. Think about it, if someone called the other “my life husband” or “my life wife” it would seem rather odd; because most of the time it is not for life. “Life Partner” dares to proclaim that you are in this for the long haul. A lot of “life husbands” or “life wives” are now referred to in a different term, “my ex.”
If we are to create labels that are going to define us, that label should reflect the nature of the arrangement.  Rene’ and I have a partnership…that is precisely what it is. Just as in any partnership, business or otherwise, you have an agreement and each accepts certain roles in said partnership. Since our arrangement does not include many of the conventional roles of husband and wife, we use a term that more accurately defines who and what we are. I am off to teach in London for the Fall of 2014. Is Rene’ going with me? No. She intends to visit, yet our partnership allows for extended periods away from one another. Like, if you love someone set them free man. Peace. Dude.
Marriage is a failing institution as most end up in divorce. Why label two people coming together in a committed relationship something after failure? If we labeled other things after failure, we would call our cars “Edsels,”movies can now be known as “Ishtars,” and our presidents can be labeled, “Jimmy Carters.”
We both question all cultural conventions and do not want to carry on traditions for the sake, of, uhm, well, tradition. Culture is a man-created (and I do mean primarily people with penises, yes) construct that is as viable to error, prejudice and bullshit as any existing ideology.  In fact, culture is one vast ideology that constantly needs to be reexamined and questioned. We were both very young in the 1960’s and barely of elementary school age, yet we both possess very strong “hippie like” sensibilities. We question everything and do not accept cultural convention because that is what “the man” says to accept. So, in a sense, we use the term to convey our overall disposition towards life in general.  So, yeah, part of us does it just to be rebellious assholes.
“Life Partner” does not recognize the gender of the individuals. In a show of solidarity with the gay community, why use a term that identifies the gender of the individuals choosing to do life together? I love it when I call Rene’ my Life Partner and people assume I am gay. To break century old traditions, changing language is a good start. It will be a beautiful day when one says they have a Life Partner and one will not know the gender of the other…or even care. We are all humans in need of each other. One planet, one people, bitches.
The term “Life Partner” implies a tacit understanding that partnerships are flexible and negotiable whereas husbands and wives have to live up to rigid expectations.  I have heard it said that the country of Mexico was considering enacting “marriage contracts” in which participants agreed to specific terms. After a period of time, they could contractually sign an extension or opt out. I like this idea…though I am not sure the Catholic Church in Mexico is too hot on it. If we see ourselves as partners first and foremost, it relieves one of the traditional burdens of husband and wife. When one says, “I need to go home to the wife,” versus, “I need to go home to my Life Partner,” I hear something very different.  The former implies this is a burden placed upon him by a demanding bitch, while the latter carries a connotation of mutual respect.
At least that is how I hear it.
Hey, call yourselves what you want to call yourselves.  I am just relieved because from now on when I get the question, I can answer with, “read all about it at jimmysintension.com.”

jimmysintension

30 Comments

  1. freedom is allowing people to decide their own condition. Im more central asian in my out look and id like a wife. but thats for my life. you cant have a one sized fits all nation, we all have to have our own preferences. I dont like the notion that one group gets to pick what “marriage” is. You can be life partners if i can have my four wives. If were going to get all biblical and gays cant be married i want my concubines!

  2. If you think about it and look at our society it’s all sexualized by the media, giving everyone outrageous fantasies. Not only that but the media it also making divorce the “it” thing to do. I think that people now-a-days just get married to say they did it. Most of them know or have a strong doubt that it’s going to work out anyways so they think that if they call that person their life partner it will scare them away even faster. Most people think of marriage for what it is, they don’t step back and think and they have the capability to change the tradition into something more modern or something that they could actually handle; like a partnership. A lot of people, men and women, when it comes to being in a relationship like having that sense of ownership because they think that’s how it would actually last. But I think that kind of goes back to human nature, we think so highly of ourself that we must own someone else to prove that we are better than the rest.

    We all just needa be hippies and not give a fuck and just let ourselves be free!

    • Nice! Though hippies with a conscience would be nice. Very wise Kiianna.

  3. Yeah I was think more along the lines for a modner day hippy, strong morals and drive but still know how to be free, spiritual and intouch with ones self and others.

  4. So when I first met your life parter, Rene, I notice how she introduced her self with a big hesitation “hi I’m Rene, Jimmy’s… Wi… Life partner.” I also noticed how she wears a wedding ring. To me the ring alone is just giving in to conformity. The whole purpose of a wedding ring is to show that you are locked down, that no one has a chance, but then you say you’re life partners and your relationship is “flexible and negotiable” but the ring to shows that she does not want it to be negotiable that she wants you and only you. Big deal you’re going to London with out her that doesn’t mean you’re separating, I bet you’d still call or FaceTime/skype every night. So my question to you is are you pushing this on her? Does she feel the same way? Or does she love you so much that she’ll agree with what you want. Is she just going along with it because it’s what you want and she doesn’t have a choice. I’m not saying I don’t agree that marriage is a big pile of horse shit. But every time I hear this topic of someone not wanting to get married and just be “life partners” forever I picture the male in the relationship out with everyone he can get his hands on while the female is at home clinging to the hopes of this “life partnership” turning into a marriage. Yes I could be completely wrong about your life partner. I’m just telling you my impression of Rene when I met her. She seemed like she considered it a marriage but just went along with what you wanted because she didn’t have a choice. But hey what the hell do I know. I only met her for about an hour

    Ohh and I love your reference to the Edsel’s!

    • Robert, thank you for the honest feedback…I love it. Though, alas, you could not be more wrong. It all was her idea. She introduced the concept to me as I was quite content at one time being a “husband.” However, just because she instigated it does not mean I would not eventually come to the same conclusion on my own. We need to sit down and crack a cold one and I can tell you the entire story. And I am glad some “young un” understood the Edsel reference!

      • I was thinking the same thing Robert was thinking at first. Whenever I have heard something like this from a guy it makes me feel like they don’t want to commit, but after reading through this it seems to me that “Life Partner” is even more of a commitment then even getting married. I like how you mentioned that marriage statistically has a high divorce rate so why use terms that have failed so many? I do however see myself, if ever in this situation, wanting to wear a ring of some sort on my wedding finger. Not to say I am owned or locked down by someone, but to simply show someone if they are talking to me about something that I am not available in a romantic way…. So teacher, did you guys ever have a hippy wedding, ya know… just a little ceremony for the kids and loved ones to celebrate your life partnership and love for one another?

        • Thank you so much for your post Yvette. 30 years ago this February 1 we snuck off and had a very traditional wedding ceremony with just family – after 4 years of dating. Over time we realized (perhaps by seeing all the weddings we attended in our 20’s turning into a slew of divorce courts) that this traditional marriage thing does not work; in fact, it fails miserably. So, I suppose it was about 10 years or so ago, we decided to make this change and we renewed our vows to transform into a partnership. Rene’ believes strongly -and I really do not care so I just go along for the ride- that celebrating relationships is silly for anyone other than the people involved in the relationship. So we do not celebrate anyone else relationship and do not expect anyone to celebrate ours. So, as much as I would like to have a hippie party for ANY reason, that is never has or ever will happen. Regarding the ring thing, in MY economy that symbolizes a type of ownership. I have not worn a ring in 25 years. If you want others to know you are not available, there are many behaviors that can indicate such. BTW…some people like the challenge of seeking a person with a ring…just sayin.

          • Yes, that sentence you last stated is true. I suppose there are also other people that see it as an even more challenge if someone has a life partner. But hopefully less, and this is why. When someone says wife or is wearing a ring that doesn’t necessarily mean they are “true” to what that ring represents. (Gotta get home to the wife” which was mentioned earlier comes to mind. sounds more like something that is tying them down) . When you hear someone say my life partner, you get a sense of commitment in an equal way. You are taking the power away from ownership. You are together because this is your partner in crime, life and love… There is no chance of divorce when having a life partner. You aren’t calling each other husband and wife with a %50 chance of calling each other ex husband and wife. You are going above and beyond all that Hallmark stuff. You are living a commitment. you are taking the pressure off love and away from expectations and living your life… I personally have always been a girl that if a ring is on someone then I don’t have little hopes that maybe this could be someone I can get to know more intimately. I did notice that you weren’t wearing one but soon after class, you started talking about your life partner ( which I did think at first was a Spanish man) and I thought to myself, now there is a man who loves a woman.. . When I say hippie party I picture kids, garden, dog, favorite songs, love and vows… Did you guess say vows when you transformed into a partnership, or did you just talk about it?

          • We wrote them down. I will find them and post them. I actually forgot what we wrote!

          • Reading this post has definitely changed my outlook on things for the better. It was actually something I have been pondering and wanting to talk about so thank you. I would love to see the vows if that isn’t to intimate of a thing to share with us. Thanks!

  5. When Terry say’s I’m going home to my “wife” It means to him …. I want to be with her, she’s my best friend and I’m going home to get lucky !!!!! 🙂

  6. I love the term Life Partner. I love that we aren’t married folks who might still some day divorce. LP is all encompassing because Jimmy is my best friend, strongest advocate, business helpmate, co-parent, spiritual guide and sexy bedfellow. I really like the term, I’m just not really consistent about using it sometimes because I don’t like to ruffle feathers or rock the boat.

  7. I remember when I had asked you this question Jimmy, we were walking through the breezeway, and while I did not think you were shacked up with a Spanish guy name Rene (aka you never set off my gaydar, 🙂 ), I really only had heard it in reference to same sex couples, and was curious for its use. After reading a more thorough response here, than the conversation we had back then it made me think back to one of my speeches in your class about being against all marriages.

    It reminded me of it because I did and still believe that the government should be out of the game of who can marry who, their role in the who process is merely logistical and record keeping and therefore just record the info they need for two people on a piece of paper and let them go about their business.

    It is up to those two souls to determine how their marriage is defined and how they want to go about living it. And if that means not using conventional terms than more power to the couple. Most folks do not get married or form partnerships for other people, so I don’t see why adhering to titles that you do not identify you for the sake of others would be needed.

    Nice Post Jimmy

  8. As denigrating and demoting those words may be, no one should ever take that right away from you to say or embody them. *ahem, gay rights wink, wink ;)*

    I completely agree with your position however, and use them regularly myself with my own partner(although we tend to use significant other, which has the same effect and similar connotation…and incites far less prying inquiries into your sexuality). There are other terms as well that convey the same meaning, but the important thing is that they are not gender-inclusive. When gender is made a primary aspect of a relationship, words take on a possessive undertone, which in itself echoes years of gender bias and people ownership.

    Gender neutral terms eliminate the preconceived notions of gender roles in a relationship and it’s subsequent possessiveness. My life partner as opposed to my wife or my significant other as opposed to my husband.

    As they say in the article, take gender out of the equation:
    you are a person dating another person.

    2 humans in a committed, meaningful relationship. Isn’t that what love is REALLY all about?

    Here’s some more on it if you’d like 🙂
    http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/01/partner-not-girlfriend/
    http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/12/gender-neutral-alternatives/

  9. I understand when you say that “Life Partner” does not recognize the gender of the individual, but it is still heavily associated with same sex relationships. When you said in class “my partner”, a majority of the class made the assumption that you were in a same sex relationship. Today in class we talked about stereotypes, and this association is one of them. But how are you going to change language if a majority of the gay community uses “Life partner” themselves? From your blog, I get that you want to make “life partner” a universal term, but how will you do this if a majority of a vocal community is associating it with something else?

    • I do not care if people assume it is a gay relationship. Kind of makes it all the more intriguing to use the term for me. Thanks for commenting!!

  10. Even though life partner should not be limited to same sex partners, calling your loved one a partner makes it light in weight because business partners are also life partners as far as they end up hooking together in business for life. I know many people get along in business because they find it profitable when they work together rather than separate. they benefit fulfilling each others’ weaknesses. If one partner is good in communicating with customers and attracting people, the other one might be good in financial management. so, even though I agree with you in referring your wife or husband depends on the couple, I feel calling your loved one life partner is making her/him someone who has part in your life but not part of you. the bible says, ” once they are married, they are not two, but one,” (The New Testament).

  11. As you know I’ve been married a long time and though I appreciate the term Life Partner for me and my husband/life partner, our definitions of husband and wife do not include ownership. I have yet to read any evidence that husband and wife implies such a perspective and maybe your, what I see as a perverse interpretation, is because you and your partner transitioned into a new kind of relationship. As relationships evolve over time maybe redefining is necessary. I disagree with you that this verbiage somehow is an enlightened or an evolved description. Life partner is just as easily divorced as a husband and wife and becomes your ex-Life Partner which is just as silly. Brian is my life partner and I value this honored position with a term that defines our mutual connection to one another. Though many aspects of our marriage is not in the traditional sense, in respect I refer to him as my husband and in respect I am referred to as his wife. We are not possessions but in a well defined partnership which includes legal process to break which contributes to the gravity of our commitment. Life partner to me can be compared with business partner. From the counterculture perspective these titles should be completely eliminated since as you stated we enter and leave this world alone making such titles irrelevant. Whether you say husband and wife, life partner, significant other, better half etc.. the greater meaning is defined by our actions and commitment to that partner no matter how the lovers chose to express their connectedness. In my experience when one is poly amorous the value of the primary relationship must be paramount and acknowledged, though I love the idea of free love because I believe this is a huge part of the human experience. Since we don’t live in Black Bear Ranch Commune, when raising children these defined titles create a sense of stability and structure. I appreciate your idea that the term life partner should not equal any other meaning then life partner. “It will be a beautiful day when one says they have a Life Partner and one will not know the gender of the other…or even care.” In an evolved society one would hope these cultural definitions and titles do not completely define the individual. I think it’s great that you and Rene have chosen your titles with the intention of egalitarianism. You can call your relationship one with the universe, life partner, husband and wife, no matter…. It is all equally man made. I agree that we all should define our relationships and how we title them without discrimination. For me this includes traditional terms like husband and wife.

  12. Shanagolden you ignorant slut. (I really hoped you watch SNL in the 70’s to get that reference!). Thank you SO MUCH for the exhaustive comment. However, you mention it does not really matter what you call yourself ultimately…ok, I get that. Though I would rather not use terms that have a lot of shitty historical baggage to them and represent a 53% failure rate. Life Partners cannot get divorced. When we say Life Partners, we mean Life Partners (click next scene, right?) Thank you so much again!!

  13. Hahaha! I had to look up SNL episodes since I was born in 77.I have faint memories of these reruns . You’re a funny fucker;-) I get your point and to each his own, but I argued with you:-P

  14. Okay I see what you meant now about Life Partners. I really respect your position and definition about your relationship/life partners and it was very eye opening.

    My only gripe is….when was the last time these statistics were updated? Do you know how reliable these statistics are and can we trust these numbers? Actually aside from that if the statistics are higher or lower why focus so much on how much people are failing and why not acknowledge how many people are succeeding no matter if they are life partners or married couples?!

    Serious if I had a penny for every time someone said to me “you know more than half of marriages end up in divorce” I would be insanely rich! We all get it! A lot of people get divorced and many of us know many people who have been divorced, getting a divorce, or should get one (I myself am divorced) BUT how about the other 50% or 47% of marriages who stay married and working their ass off to stay committed. We all know relationship/marriage is hard work and takes love, effort and dedication. I think no matter what way you choose to acknowledge your relationship status or not can we just say. BRAVO to the ones who are doing the good fight, whether your married or not! Why does the word marriage have to be so toxic now? Really it just a word right?

    You asked me last night how many people do I know who are happily married? Well I have two brothers and two sisters who are all older than me (I’m 31) and they are happy and married. They also have never told me some lame ass story about how easy it is either. I respect anyone who can make a commitment to someone regardless of sex, whether it is a marriage or partnership, and succeed and not give up.

    Guess you can say I am just an annoying positive person looking at the glass half full? Wait, what do I know I’m full of shit and part of the 53% rate. 🙂

  15. I wish you were in my afternoon Commst 125 Critical Thinking class…I lectured on this very topic. But we can get to it eventually.

  16. When I heard you say the term Life Partner in class, I was very excited to read your blog about it. Why?, well, I’m understand the difference of being “husband and wife” and having a life partner. I totally get it. I was confused about it for the longest time until just recently. How exciting!
    I got married because of a tradition that was instilled in me since I was a child. Don’t get me wrong I love him but as I matured and began gaining knowledge academically and in life in general, I began questioning everything that I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to question as a child. The label of being “the wife” came with a sense of ownership and overall a bitchy rep that I didn’t like.

    I have always been strong and independent but that sense of ownership was more of a contract that bounded us whether we liked it or not. (as years go by thoughts, feelings and the hunger changes people) Surprise surprise we ended up in a divorce after many years. (adding to the divorce rate like expected by statistics) Once you have kids you cant completely erase everything and or maybe you really don’t want to.

    We have been trying this change of tradition (my dad hates me for it) of you all “belong to each other and have to care for each other like if you’re both children that need to be cared for.” I mean c’mon! We are both mature adults, have a lot of similarities as well as differences. So he introduced this topic of becoming life partners. Let me tell you, it is a different feeling we have towards each other. Its actually a better relationship now than it was when we signed official papers stating that we were married. We look back and think about all the stupid things we were conned into thinking due to tradition and culture and what the parents thought or what the church demanded.. all that.

    I won’t quote the bible, but that we are not two, but one quote; nahh. We are two individuals capable of respecting each others individuality, have a happy life together, raise happy children, and enjoy each other accomplishments and as well as our own. We both hustle, we both clean, we both cook, we party together, we party separate, we both pay and we spoil eachother.

    Hooray for the successful divorces! lol (seriously, one we were officially divorced we went out for a drink together) lol

    It just works for me man. When there’s a thunderstorm coming you can’t do anything to stop it. What a ridiculous amazing feeling when one ..can see clearly now the rain gone! (Jonny Nash)

    • “I can see all obstacles in my way…” Thank you Zuri. This is one of the most poignant, insightful comments ever uttered on this blog. I am working on turning this blog into a hardcover book and your sentiments as a comment are sure to be included. I live and breathe to challenge tradition and culture for the sake of moving humanity forward. I so appreciate you sharing your experience. It thrills me that you both are so cool with each other.

  17. Just yesterday I joined your class and asked if your life partner has your last name, you said yes. After reading this, I find it very contradicting to your label as “life partners” because you are life partners to establish “equality”. Her keeping your last name gives a sense of possession on your behalf. Your last name runs through your blood, not hers; therefor, she is not truly being her own individual, but a part of you. While you were renewing your vows, why not change her last name back or make a new one for both of you to change?

    • Why not? Due to practical and legal reasons….in other words, it would be a major pain in the ass. TOFTS. So you know, when we were married 31 years ago I offered to take her last name (Domingo) though she refused. Might that be a bit hypocritical on our behalf? Maybe…but we have life to live and bills to pay…and we have been called far worse! 🙂

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