I hate using the word “boyfriend.” Something about it is just so… Infantilizing. I mean, we’re both over 30 and we’ve been together for four years. He’s not a boy; I’m not a girl; and there’s a part of me that feels like referring to each other as “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” makes our relationship seem less serious. Sure, we’re not married yet but that doesn’t mean we’re not in a long-term relationship with joint credit cards and lease agreements and all that other grown-up stuff. It just seems weird to use the same word to describe this partner that I used to describe my high school boyfriend, you know?
But what are the other options? Face-to-face, we have plenty of pet names (I probably call him “babe” more than I call him by his name) but I’m not about to refer to him as “my babe” in reference to other people because that’s just obnoxious. (And there’s also too much room for confusion with that one.) However, it’s only fairly recent in our history that long term, non-married relationships are common enough that they need a word of their own.
Creating that word, however, is a job for the linguists and, personally, I’m excited for that evolution of language to happen. Plus, these days the internet is a great source for spreading all kinds of new words, so maybe one of you will come up with something super awesome and we’ll all be using it next year! But in the meantime, here are 16 alternatives to “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” for when you feel like taking things a little more seriously.
One of my personal faves, although my partner doesn’t like because he says it’s too vague. But that’s also kind of why it’s great! It works for so many genders, sexualities, and romantic entanglements.
Cuuuuuuuuuute. Call your person your “boo” to other people and they might make vomiting motions but whatevs.
Same same. Bae, which short for "babe" or stands for “before anyone else”, is another option. Most grown-ups I know aren’t fans (including my bae) but I love it. It just rolls off the tongue so nicely!
4. Significant Other
Or SO. It’s clear, to the point, and also works with all genders, sexualities, and types of romantic relationships. Only problem is that it does feel a bit clinical, you know?
5. My Love
Schmaltzy AF but we all go through that infatuation phase. Just don’t be too surprised if your friends stop talking to you about your relationship.
6. My Old Man
I like this one because it’s kind of old school. Like I can imagine a badass woman in the West say it, you know?
7. My Man
I mean, it’s nothing if not accurate.
This one is old school and sweet. Pronounced “bow” (more or less), you could imagine a Victorian lady referring to her gentleman caller this way.
This one just makes me laugh but, again, totally accurate. Like boyfriend, but for grown-ups!
10. The Mister
I like this one when it’s used by people who aren’t actually married but may as well be. (Looking at you, my sister-in-everything-but-law.)
11. My Guy
I think this one is sweet, at any age. He’s your guy!
12. My Girl
Same. You can just picture Frank Sinatra when someone says it.
13. My Lady
But you can only say this one if you’re a gentleman — or a lady yourself.
Doesn’t roll of the tongue but just like manfriend, it’s accurate. Girlfriend, but for grown-ups.
15. The Missus
Best if paired with “the mister,” the missus is the de-facto wife who’s not actually married.
Wifey can be applied not only to a person you’re romantically involved with, but also to say, your best friend or your roommate who you spend too much time with. But, yeah, also to your wifey.
So, we have options when it comes to describing our love interests, even if there’s no one that we all agree on yet. Hey internet, can you get working on that, please? I think it’s way past time we had a standard.