Yes, but what do I call him?

The other day I took the word “fiancé” out for a test run.  It felt… weird.

On the one hand, yay!  Marriage equality!  We get to use the same terms as everyone else!  Instead of the blandly palatable “partner,” soon enough I’ll get to refer to The Better Half as my “husband” and it will actually be freighted with legal meaning.  And since “fiancé” is the word one gets to use for the person one intends to marry, that’s the word I used to refer to him in passing on Facebook.  (Lots of friends “liked” the comment in which I did so, which I took to be a tacit endorsement of my laying claim to the word à la the argument above.)  Hooray!

Except “fiancé” seems like a weird demotion.

First of all, I’ve considered the Better Half my husband for the better part of a decade already, de facto if not de jure.  “Fiancé” has an implication of newness.  It seems too… jejune, maybe?  We aren’t giddily picking out china patterns.  Hell, when we finally get the arrangements for the Big Day nailed down, we plan to earnestly implore people who attend not to give us stuff.  Our house is too full of crap as it is.

Furthermore, we’ve already had a wedding.  Many years ago we exchanged vows in a religious ceremony in front of a whole heap of loved ones.  There was cake!  There was dancing!  There were rings!  (Our rings are similar to the one pictured, and there’s a whole story that goes along with getting them.  I am not sharing it because1] it is long, and 2] I come off looking kind of foolish.  The Better Half will gleefully tell it to you, should you ask.)

I hasten to say that I am not actually complaining about any of this.  This is the very definition of a high class problem.  It’s nice to be in a position where there’s some point in even wondering about it.

But no word seems quite right now: “fiancé” for the reasons stated above, “partner” because it feels outmoded and like it implies we don’t feel the need to lay claim to “husband,” and “husband” because we haven’t actually had the ceremony where we’ll be laying said claim.  Which is as good a reason as any to get cracking on scheduling it.  (Besides, y’know, the legal rights we fought so hard for and all.)

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I’d go with the old-fashioned “betrothed”, but maybe it’s only me that finds that word wrapped up in warm fuzzy hugs made of meaning. :->

  2. How about once and future husband? No, that’s not right either. How about husband-by-popular-vote?

  3. I once referred to a girlfriend as my “future ex-wife”. She did not like it. I do not recommend it, unless BH has a good sense of humor.

    • HA! I just told a friend of mine to go to a particular bar b/c it seemed like the kind of place where he could meet the “future ex-Mrs. Friend”

  4. Perhaps the LGBT community needs to come up with its own terms of art. Husband didn’t mean “married man” for many years, it arises from two words hus == house bondi == dweller, freeholder. Man of the house.

    There was a word in Old English for a married man, wer who was married to a wif.

    Ful oft of þam heape // full oft from that group
    hwinende fleag // whining in flight
    giellende gar // screamed the spear
    on grome þeode; // at ferocious people
    wræccan þær weoldan // forcing their rule
    wundnan golde // onto the gleaming gold
    werum ond wifum, // of husbands and wives

  5. Personally, I think “fiancé” is fine, despite the social reality of the marriage already existing.

    I also think that congratulations for having this problem are in order.

  6. You know, I wasn’t going to say anything, but I’ve actually kind of thought of the “fiance” term as a demotion in your case. Which is a knock against our marriage law as much as anything. There is no right thing.

    I like Elliot’s and Dhex’s ideas. Both mean the same thing as fiance, but it sort of feels like they’re on a different ladder?

  7. We aren’t giddily picking out china patterns.

    Of course not. Your inner spinster already knows the proper pattern for your class and station.

      • Ahh, the endless desire to put black boxes over the stuff think we want to see.

        Millicent must know that seeing unmentionables is actually rather boring, so cover them up so you can’t quite see them, and “Hey, hey, Baby.” Titillation.

        Perhaps I’ll design a line of clothes with oddly-placed black rectangles, and call it Millicent’s Titillations™, when the full monty just won’t do. What all the wedding guests will be wearing this spring.

        There will be a matching china pattern, rounded pieces that evoke the human body’s unmentionables, in a rainbow of red-carpet colors, with bright spots of the same color like the beading on a gown, all delicately sprinkled with hard-edged black rectangles.

  8. Since you’ve been long committed in he eyes of your belief, perhaps ‘husband,’ is the right term to use; and qualify it with a, ‘soon to be legal.’ Because right now, you’d have what might be considered a common-law marriage, anyway.

    My brother’s been busy planning his wedding. My mom says she’s heard him muttering happily under his breath as he putters and plans “Two grooms. Two grooms.”

    Favorite Christmas Carol in Maine this year: God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.

    Two grooms.

    Our family will rejoice at the end of March. And all my friends who are in the catering/flower/lodging/wedding band businesses claim schedules filling fast. Two friends have gotten licensed as Justice of the Peace so as to be able to perform wedding ceremonies.

    Much ado about happy things. I wish everyone could see such joy across the land. Damned states rights should not supplant equal rights.

      • Some stuff spontaneously combusts into big smiles; weddings, babies, rainbows, mermaids, sheep (I’m a Knitter), chocolate chip cookies, and the equality before the eyes of the law.

        • My son in kindergarten somehow manages to coerce many of the other boys into playing “mermaids” with him. I had no idea how he does this, but I guess the spontaneous-combustion-smiling theory will do.

          • Oh please, like you don’t know what most little boys like about mermaids.

            It’s not the mer- part, I’ll tell ya that much. :-p

    • I take back my earlier comment. “Husband, soon-to-be-legal,” is the right answer. Props to zic and congratulations also to her brother and his soon-to-be-legal husband too.

    • I agree with Zic.

      I’d be saying something along the lines of, “He’s been the husband of my heart for years – this is just a formality for us.”

      Seriously, congrats.

      Now for the important question – who’s going to wear the garter this time around? 😀

  9. I never liked fiance very much. It always made me think of Sinfeld:

    I would have kept the engagement at about 6 weeks if my wife and her parents didn’t feel the need to throw the Wedding of the Decade.

    For your situation I like, “Soon-to-Be-Legal Husband”. It’s a finger in the eye of The Man.

      • The ‘e’ on my work keyboard has struck again! It only works when it wants to.

    • In addition to being a finger in the eye of the man, “Soon-to-be-Legal Husband” also adds an air of… hmmm… illegality to your relationship. Gives you an edge that you are SORELY needing.

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