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Can you call your wife a partner?

In today’s modern world, the roles and dynamics within marriages and long-term relationships are rapidly evolving. Where traditionally the terms “husband” and “wife” were used, now more gender-neutral terms like “spouse” or “partner” are becoming increasingly common. This reflects shifting societal attitudes towards gender roles and equality within romantic relationships.

However, making a switch from calling your wife your “wife” to calling her your “partner” can seem daunting or even inappropriate to some. There are certainly arguments on both sides of this debate. Ultimately, whether or not you can or should refer to your wife as your partner comes down to personal choice – there is no right or wrong answer.

This article will explore the debate around referring to your wife as your partner. We’ll analyze the reasoning behind using the term partner rather than wife, examine potential drawbacks, and provide tips for having a constructive discussion with your wife if you’re considering making the switch.

Why Refer to Your Wife as Your Partner?

There are several reasons why someone may prefer to call their wife their partner rather than using terms like wife or even spouse:

Promotes Equality

The term partner evokes a sense of equality between two people in a relationship. It diminishes outdated implications that the husband is the dominant “head of the household” while the wife plays a subordinate role. Partner feels more equitable and progressive for modern couples who view each other as equals.

Gender Neutral

Using partner is also gender-neutral. As societal constructs around gender and sexuality evolve, some couples may prefer language that doesn’t impose heteronormative assumptions.

Relationship Status Ambiguous

Unlike wife or spouse, partner can also be ambiguous about the legal status of a relationship. This may appeal to couples who are committed life partners but aren’t legally married, such as if they cannot or choose not to marry formally.

Honors Commitment

Committed couples who are not married, such as due to legal, financial, or personal reasons, may use partner to honor the depth of their relationship. Partner reflects devotion without needing marriage.

Institution of Marriage

Some consider the term partner more fitting than wife or husband because it focuses on the relationship itself rather than the institution of marriage. The emphasis is on the connection between two people.

Common Law Relationship

Those in common law relationships may prefer partner over wife or even girlfriend/boyfriend. Partner better conveys the seriousness of a common law union.

Social Change

For younger generations less focused on the tradition of marriage, partner may feel like a modern, relevant term for their progressive views on relationships.

Separation of Church & State

Given marriage’s religious roots, those who support the separation of church and state philosophically may use partner intentionally.

Feminist Statement

Some feminists or gender equality advocates appreciate partner because it challenges traditional patriarchal marital dynamics. Avoiding terms like wife and husband subverts outdated gender roles.

Potential Issues with Using Partner

However, there are also some risks, drawbacks, or issues to consider regarding referring to your wife as your partner instead:

Ambiguity Causes Confusion

The ambiguity of the term partner leaves the relationship open to interpretation. This can lead to confusion or misrepresentations.

Assumptions & Judgements

Others may make inaccurate assumptions about why a couple uses partner instead of wife. Some pass negative judgements about untraditional relationships.

Marital Status Questioned

Use of partner rather than wife or husband can cause others to question if you’re legally married. This may lead to awkward social situations.

Conveys Distance

In some contexts, partner can come across as more detached and distant emotionally compared to wife or husband. It may signal emotional distance in the relationship.

Undermines Commitment

Certain individuals believe partner trivializes the deep commitment signified by marriage. They feel it undermines the gravity of wife/husband.

Offends Traditionalists

Traditionalists may be offended or troubled by use of gender-neutral partner rather than gendered terms like wife and husband. It challenges their worldview.

In-Laws Rejection

Some in-laws cling to tradition and may be upset or reject the use of partner rather than wife. This can strain family dynamics.

Children Confused

For couples with children, referring to a wife as your partner rather than mom can be confusing for kids. Consistency is best.

Legally Questionable

In certain legal, medical, or other formal settings, partner may not hold the same weight as legal terms like spouse or wife.

Tips for Approaching This Change

If you’re considering referring to your wife as your partner, here are some tips for making this shift:

Discuss with Your Wife

First and foremost, have an open and honest discussion with your wife to explain your perspective and get her thoughts. Don’t force the change without her understanding.

Agree on Contexts

You may opt to use partner selectively in certain contexts, while using wife or her name in other situations. Make these distinctions clear.

Do a Trial Run

Try using partner first in low-stakes situations to see how it feels and flows. Gauge reactions from others.

Explain to Family/Friends

To preempt any confusion or judgement, proactively explain to close family and friends why you’re using partner.

Be Patient

Recognize that it may take time for a partner to feel natural for you, your wife, and others. Adjustment requires patience.

Commit to Your Decision

Once you decide to use partner, fully commit to this term with confidence. Inconsistency undermines the intent.

Check Legal Implications

Research if referring to your wife as your partner rather than spouse causes any legal issues where you live.

Remember Her Preference

If your wife expresses discomfort with partner, prioritize her preference. You want terms you both feel good about.

Stay Calm with Critics

If faced with criticism from traditionalists, politely stand firm in your decision without engaging negativity.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, whether referring to your wife as your partner feels right is a personal choice that depends on your relationship dynamic, values, and priorities:

  • If equality, progressiveness, and gender-neutrality resonate with you both, partner may be ideal.
  • If you prefer the traditional implications of wife/husband, those terms may be a better fit.
  • Factors like family, legal status, culture, and age can all impact which term feels most appropriate.

Rather than universally declaring partner right or wrong, it’s about aligning with your unique situation and honoring your wife’s perspective. If using partner fosters a sense of unity, equality and commitment in your marriage, it can certainly be a valid choice. But it also requires open spousal discussion and understanding how this language reflects your values as a couple.


Language evolves along with societal change. How we refer to spouses and committed partners is no exception. Exploring gender-neutral or progressive options like partner reflects society’s shifting mindsets about gender, equality, and relationships. However, change also necessitates thoughtful consideration of potential trade-offs. By making a joint decision with your wife based on your specific circumstances and values, you can determine if using partner feels right for your marriage. Just ensure you both feel respected, valued, and proud of the terms you use to describe your cherished union.