Yes, you’ve read correctly. I don’t like it.

The word “partner” is used very widely by people writing about relationships, including many of our own site contributors. And it’s perfectly understandable. After all, what better term do we have at our disposal to describe your opposite number in an intimate relationship? While dictionary definitions may differ, its simple meaning is one who shares or participates with you in a certain enterprise or activity. So it seems quite appropriate.

Yet, the word makes me uncomfortable. I’ll tell you why.

I touched on one reason in one of my early articles on the Web. I don’t think an ideal marriage relationship is a “partnership” in the same sense that we talk about business partnership, for example. When we think of a partnership, we usually think about a contract between two parties. A 50-50 sharing of responsibilities, or the like.

Yet marriage, as I explained, is no business arrangement - or it shouldn’t be. As I explained, if your mind is going to work along the lines of:

“You have needs and I have needs. Maybe, if I satisfy yours, you will satisfy mine. You wash the dishes and I’ll pay the rent. Sundays to Tuesdays I’ll take out the garbage, and for the remainder of the week you will. Other duties will be divided by mutual consent. For every suit I buy, you can buy two pairs of shoes…”

…you’re not very likely to end up with a happy marriage.

OK, now I can hear you say: “Hey Azriel, who’s talking about marriage? You can have an intimate relationship between a man and a woman without them necessarily being actually married. That’s why these relationship writers talk about your partner instead of your husband, wife or spouse. It’s a term that includes everybody.”

Aha, a good point! But, you know, that’s exactly MY point.

You see, I don’t really believe there can be an authentic, long-lasting, really happy, relationship of this type outside formal marriage. That, in a nutshell, is the second - and more important - reason why I shy away from the use of the term “partner” in the context of relationships.

We know that the number of couples “living together” has risen very dramatically over the past few decades. Often, the rationale is that by “trying each other out” before tying the knot, they can see how “compatible” they are. Strangely, some of these people seem to be motivated, at least in part, to take this “precaution” by the rising divorce rate.

This is quite ironic,for studies have shown conclusively that “living together” does not increase the chances of marital success. Quite the contrary, the likelihood of a durable and lasting union is diminished by this arrangement. If living together were a test of marital compatibility, the statistics should show that couples who have lived together first should have stronger marriages.

But the opposite is the case. Even though the myth persists!

What’s the problem? What’s lacking in the temporary arrangement, when a couple “shack up” together knowing that if things don’t work out as planned… well, no big deal. It may be a little painful for a day or two, but it’s just a question of packing one’s bags, walking out the door, shaking off the dust and getting on with one’s life.

In marriage, it’s not quite so simple. And that’s a jolly good thing.

If there’s one key word here, that word is commitment. Making a commitment right from Day One.

You see, a newly married couple will make a deliberate effort to accommodate each other and please each other, because they expect to be together for life. In other words, their goal is not to test compatibility, but to build it!

The word "spouse", somehow, is not a particularly attractive one. But, where necessary, I would prefer it to "partner" anytime.

Author's Bio: 

Azriel Winnett is creator of - Your Communication Skills Portal at This highly-acclaimed free website helps you improve your communication and relationship skills in your business or professional life, in the family unit and on the social scene.

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