What Endearing Terms Do You Call Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend?

Conventional phrases make your availability clear to careful listeners.

Posted Jun 02, 2020

Creative Commons
Words of romance?
Source: Creative Commons

Whether you have just met someone or are in a longtime relationship, terms of endearment can be a sticky point, and the question “Are the two of you dating?” can seem impossible to answer.

Being loved depends on how you play your cards

What to call those who are less than blood relations yet more connected than a mere acquaintance? The proper term matters if you don’t want to imply that things are more than they seem—especially when unequal affection on either side makes one of you smitten while the other wants to move on.

What you need is a phrase direct enough to suggest an early phase of courtship that tells competitors to keep their hands off. Yet such a phrase also needs to be vague enough to save face in case things don’t turn out as you hope. “We’re getting to know one another” will usually accomplish this. This public comment privately signals an interest in exploring possibilities without either side announcing—or expecting—any kind of commitment.

Well-chosen terms can equally signal your lack of attachment. You can introduce someone as “my neighbor,” or “an acquaintance” from work, church, or your book club as the case may be. As always, conventional phrases can make your availability tastefully clear to careful listeners.

Conventional phrases can work wonders

“Boyfriend,” “dating,” or “seeing each other” typically announce a shared degree of intimacy, although in a casual liaison your own needs always matter more than theirs. But once the other’s feelings begin to occupy your thoughts, you have entered the realm of romance in which the possibility of “me” becoming “we” starts to form.

Creative COmmons
Let me count the ways.
Source: Creative COmmons

The loaded word “date” means different things to different people. Trouble arises when one or both sides fail to communicate their expectations. When one side overthinks a situation, such as projecting a pleasant dinner together into a happily-ever-after scenario, a budding romance is bound for disappointment. After getting together a few times, you can assume that the other is interested in something, if only your stimulating conversation. Find out by revealing your own intentions. But don’t be so vague that the other has no idea what you’re talking about, or so forceful that they feel they’re being taken prisoner.

The old–fashioned word “beau” signals that the two of you are serious but haven’t gotten around to moving in yet. For men, a word other than fiancée isn’t available, while private endearments and diminutive pet names exist for both genders. Endearments may sound silly and regressive, but they are a normal stage in budding romance. Their purpose is to give voice to deep wishes whose expression will ultimately enlarge your personality.

Terms usually used by couples often feel unsatisfactory. “Partner” sounds like business, “lover” stresses sex, and “significant other” is faintly insulting. Aside from “husband” and “wife,” terms that have been picked up with gusto by same-sex couples, “spouse” and “companion” have the advantage of being both accurate and traditional. A rarely-heard term overdue for resurrection refers to the beloved as one’s “other half,” although the self-effacing “better half” can’t be beat for graciousness.

Melting into the “beloved”

No term makes the heartthrob more than “beloved,” representing the singular one who tugs at your strings. Aristophanes recounts a myth in which primordial man was round and had four hands and feet, and two faces on a single head. Love was unknown because each creature was complete unto itself. After Zeus punished mankind’s pride by cutting him in two, each half has yearned for the other. When one half finds its mate, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and intimacy.

The desire to melt in the beloved’s arms and become one rather than two is the very expression of this ancient need. The longing for wholeness and the pursuit of it is what we call love.

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