American culture needs to develop a new language to describe relationships of love and commitment. Husband and wife are too narrow. Partner too broad. Boyfriend and girlfriend focus on young unmarried people.
For gays and lesbians they have had to rely on the use of “partners” or if gay, “husband,” or if lesbian, “wife.” I feel these are temporary terms as we struggle to find more fitting terms.
This is not just an issue for same sex couples. It is also an issue for heterosexual couples in committed relationships that are not traditional marriages.
My sister-in-law Jacquie and Srulik are in a committed relationship. However they have not married in a religious ceremony or civil ceremony.
When my sister-in-law once referred to Srulik as her partner, she saw either puzzlement or astonishment in the reactions of others. Was Jacquie now a lesbian? To use husband and wife might confuse people who might respond, “So when was the wedding?” or “So why were we not invited to the wedding?” We need to do better.
“Partner” has never reflected the love and commitment that these relationships deserve.
I suggest that we turn to the Jewish tradition of Song of Songs.