My knight in shining armour.

I have a dilemma. The man who I am now ‘in a relationship with’ or perhaps more accurately, ‘mutually exclusive’ with is nearly 11 years older than me. The age gap is not the problem – he claims that 10 years is the perfect age gap between a woman and an older man. I’m not sure I agree entirely, but so far this has not presented any major complications.

The problem is that I don’t know what to call him. Well, between the two of us we have many soppy and slightly bizarre terms of endearments which would probably make you retch if I listed them here, but it is when I have to refer to him that I’m left desperately fumbling for an appropriate label.

Boyfriend sounds wrong as this conjures up images of lanky, socially inept, adolescent boys who buy you flowers from the petrol station and take you to Burger King for lunch, and he certainly is not like that, being the very grown up, sophisticated man that he is.

The other option is partner, which I absolutely can’t stand. How can you refer to someone, who you love and share your most intimate moments with, as your partner, a term which implies corporate relationships or a co-worker? Very unromantic.

So what am I left with? I thesaurused the word boyfriend and was offered the following alternatives: beau, confidant, suitor, flame, steady, darling, wooer, and even more bizarrely: hound, buff, nut, rooter, freak. Can you imagine introducing the man in your life to your boss at the office Christmas party using any of those terms? “Oh Mr Johnson, I’d like you to meet my rooter, Clive.”

Due to the logistics of our relationship at the moment – he lives in France and we have been doing the long-distance thing for a while – I have often been spared the awkwardness of having to introduce him at social gatherings. The occasions when I have referred to him in conversation I normally revert to using the term boyfriend as I refuse to use the word partner, but I just can’t imagine introducing him in person as my boyfriend.

It’s like that scene in Sex and the City when Carrie and Big are viewing that incredible apartment and the estate agent calls Big her husband by mistake:

Carrie: “He’s not my husband, he’s my boyfriend.”

Big: “Aren’t I a little old to be introduced as your boyfriend?”

Carrie: “Point taken, from now on you’ll be my man-friend.”

Big: “That sounds like a dog.”

Now I’ve always liked the term lover, but this unfortunately stirs up even more vivid images of steamy affairs, infidelity and lewdness. But why should it? He is someone that I love and that loves me, therefore he is my lover. I suppose, many, many years ago the only options were boyfriend or husband. You dated or courted someone and shortly after got married. A lover was usually someone you were having an adulterous affair with and most sexual relationships outside of marriage were talked about in hushed tones and regarded as taboo. This is where the term lover came about.

But these days there are so many grey areas and anomalies when it comes to modern relationships. Perhaps we need to come up with a new term for mature people in committed relationships that simply are not married.

I then told my flat mate about my dilemma. She is from Romania and rather annoyingly informed me that they have a word for that kind of relationship in Romania. The word is ‘iubit’ and it roughly translates as lover. So if I lived in Romania I would not have this problem. This further suggests that lover might be the right word. It’s just unfortunate that it has rather lewd connotations in this country.

I finally decided to ask my mother for some other alternatives, forgetting that she is not known for her tact. Without hesitation she answered saying “Oh, just call him your bitch.” Thanks Mom, but I think I’ll try lover and endure any disapproving looks I get.

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13 responses to “My knight in shining armour.

  • rubbercupcake

    how about, “other half” ? the euphemism kinda implies marriage, but it might be a more proper alternative and doesn’t have the lewd connotations you are trying to avoid when introducing him to others ?

  • Kirsten Fisher

    Love this post! I found myself relating to it (and to the scene from Sex and the City). My boyfriend/partner/? is not older than I am by more than a couple of years, but being in our 30s and having dated (albeit long-distance) for long enough, I feel that referring to him as my boyfriend seems to minimize the maturity and commitment we and our relationship have. I’ve usually opted for ‘partner’ but I never considered the lack of romance it suggests.

    • Emeritus

      Yeah, its a tricky one. I’ve used the term ‘lover’ a few times since I wrote this piece, but, as expected, got some very strange looks! Let me know if you think of any other options please!

  • Kirsten Fisher

    Hahhaha. My ‘guy’ has used ‘lover’ a few times, not publicly, just at home between the two of us, and even in that context it sounds odd to me. To my ears, it refers to sex only – so, not only would I want to convey that there is more to our relationship than simply sex, I also wouldn’t want to use the term in an introduction for fear of my colleagues, family members, or even friends conjuring up images of my sex life in any way. So, I stay clear of that one.

    Yes, I’ll let you know if I come up with, or hear of, a solution to this silly yet significant problem.

  • Annie Brokaw

    I use manfriend – totally stole it from Sex and the City!

  • Aurian

    Haha! Your mother makes me laugh!

    I had this problem with my now-husband too, but not because he was older. The relationship seemed too important for boyfriend, but anything else was inappropriate. He used partner , but sometimes got mistaken as gay since my name isn’t immediately distinguishable as female (and in N. America ‘partner’ sometimes has different connotations than in Oz).

    I resorted to “other half,” since this implies seriousness, but not legal, conjugal or any other unwanted imagery.

  • Michi

    Hahaha, I think I love your mother!! 🙂
    Is beau odd to use? We use it fairly often in the States.
    One of the odd things in Spain is that couples casually call each other “marido” and “mujer,” or husband and wife. Families will loosely use “cuñada,” “nüera,” (sister-in-law, daughter-in-law) etc, etc, etc. Even if the couple in question isn’t even married.
    I have a friend that is currently dating someone 14 years older. She usually introduces him using his first name, or as her “better half.”

  • Lucky

    How about…. soul mate or mate or your one and only or your companion or your true love ( you only need to look into his eyes and smile while you say that for anyone to understand that you both are perfect for each other:))

  • Seashu

    Haha, I loved this post! You could try “significant other”. The phrase itself is neutral, not many bad connotations of that sort I believe…

  • thegirlwiththeredsuitcase

    LOL! Your mom is rather cool.

    I just use his first name. When I talk about other people I always refer to them as “a friend of mine” or “this guy I know”… but when I talk about him for the first time to someone, I just use his first name and assume it will automatically imply his importance in my life. If they don’t get it and ask “Who is _______?” I’ll glare and reply “MY BOYFRIEND”… you can give a pathetic answer to a pathetic question, no? 😉

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