What Do You Call The Person You're With? 16 Bustle Readers Share Their Favorite Label


We’ve all had that moment. You’re talking about that person you’re dating, and suddenly a descriptor pops out of your mouth that sounds a bit off. Or alternately, someone asks you about your “boyfriend” or “partner" ... and it just sounds wrong and you bristle.

Regardless of whether you have a word that you love to use for the people you date or you have a short list of tolerable options, the reality is there are some options out there from which to choose. Each has its own specific connotation — for instance, some people choose “partner” over “boyfriend” to convey a sense of equality and maybe not immediately tell the world the gender of your lover. (There's also a dearth of words for when you’re dating genderqueer people, because so many of the options are gendered.) Other people like to keep it light and funny with cutesy names like “doodlebug” or “dumpling” (hey I don’t make this stuff up, you do).

Regardless of what you choose, everyone’s got an opinion on what they like to be called, and what they like to hear themselves called. So we asked 16 Bustle readers to weigh in on what words they like to use to address and describe the person they're with— and which ones make them want to run screaming from the conversation.

1. Stella, 28

2. Russell, 33

3. E, 29

4. Terra, 26

5. Bridget, 27

"I am a married gay lady who is between a lot of words. I live in a very liberal area, so saying "partner" just makes me sound like a really sensitive/hip straight person. I like that "girlfriend" and "wife" confirm that my partner is female, confirming that I am gay. For that reason, I wasn't really into "fiancee" because I didn't want to have to correct people when they asked about "him". Wife sounds too serious and girlfriend doesn't sound serious enough so I've taken the Dan Savage approach (he calls his husband his HUSSSband) and I call my wife my VIFE. It allows me to not take myself too seriously/feel too much like an adult while still acknowledging that we are serious enough to be married. And that when I am forced to move for work soon, she will move with me.

My friends and I all refer to our SO's as our "slam piece" because it is hilarious, fun, and sex positive. Or at least the way we use it, it is."

6. Consuela, 32

7. George, 32

8. Jessica, 28

9. Moth, 27

"We live together, we are not married, and I constantly struggle to find the word that reflects the depth of our connection without the possession that I feel goes along with 'boyfriend' 'girlfriend' or even 'partner'. (Confession: whenever someone tells me about their 'partner' I actually see a cartoon image of two laughing cowboys in an old Western flipping and firing their guns and shouting 'howdy partner!'). I use 'honey' or 'boo,' occasionally 'significant' or even 'S.O.' I often introduce him as my friend. For me, that's the most special kind of human relationship. Other favorites include 'gentleman caller' and 'gorgeous hunk'.

When we first started dating, I actually felt physical revulsion when someone would refer to me as his 'girlfriend'. The revulsion has subsided over time, but the term still makes me squirm. The one thing I could never countenance, no matter my marital status, is for anyone to ever call me their 'wife'. No f*cking way."

10. Zoe, 39

11. Hannah, 23

13. Johanna, 32

14. Olivia, 26

15. Nicole, 32

16. Alexis, 26

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