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.
"I really like the word "sweetie" or "lover" to talk about the people I'm involved with romantically.
"Partner" feels serious so I use it in situations where people don't take my partnerships seriously (like persons from former generations who don't get my ethically non-monogamous lifestyle) but it seems a bit too much like a legal designation to convey the totally free-wheeling, open, loving thing I’ve got going.
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).
I generally use 'sweetie' if I'm with people who get my lifestyle choices, 'partner' for people who don't, and 'lover' for people who really get me because I can't really say lover with a straight face." "There was a long period of time when my SO and I were clear that we wanted to spend our lives together but [were not yet] "officially" engaged.
Even now that we are spouses, I continue to like using "life buddy" because our legal/formal commitment to one another is less important to me than our emotional/spiritual one, which we had long before we got married.
I hated using "boyfriend/girlfriend" by then because (a) it sounded juvenile to me, (b) it connoted a lower level of commitment then what I felt at the time, and (c) I am not a big fan of having to declare my partner's gender when it's not directly relevant to the conversation.
I complained about this once to my dad, and together we came up with "life buddy" as a suitable, commitment-appropriate, gender-neutral term. My partner and I even ended up incorporating the term into our wedding vows (as well as "accountabilibuddy," which we lovingly appropriated from South Park).
I don't love "girlfriend" or "boyfriend" because I date adults damnit!My mom's always trying to get me to use "main squeeze" which I think is delightful and hilarious but has never quite caught on." "I notice that I tend to shift the way I talk about my significant other depending on the community I'm talking to and how serious or silly I'm feeling.