Eva Bradley:How to define your relationship status


What's in a name? If you're Romeo and Juliet, rather a lot. But what about the rest of us? Does anyone care? And if we don't, should we?

Sometimes the big questions in life come to us during the small moments. These ones occurred to me while I was chatting on the phone to Jacob from the bank about a new Visa Gold credit card. Incidentally, Jacob was from India or thereabouts.

His name was unlikely to be his own, but rather some invention to anglicise the bank's offshore staffing arrangements.

But I digress. The real issue came when Jacob asked me if I wanted the Visa card to be held jointly with another person. With a husband, perhaps, or a partner? Or was I single?

The answer to these questions should have been simple and immediate. So why, then, did I pause for thought?

Over dinner with friends, I raised the issue and it seems I'm not the only one who is more than a little confused by how to define one's relationship status correctly in the modern vernacular.

There were four of us discussing it - more specifically, two couples.

But that's where the similarity ended. Although no one was married, it turned out on closer examination that we all had very different ways of defining and labelling who we were within our relationships.

While I was firmly in the camp of having a "boyfriend" and the said boyfriend was equally comfortable calling me his "girlfriend", our friends thought this sort of expression should have been left in the playground.

They preferred to refer to their "partner" - a common enough term these days and one used by many people who can't, won't or have yet to get married.

But to me, "partner" reeks of several odious connotations, not least of them that while you're prepared to share a bed, the mortgage and even the childcare, you're still ultimately not really sure if you want to commit.

On the other hand, being someone's girlfriend has an even less permanent ring about it, but at least there's every potential that rings might at some stage feature in the future.

The bigger question - and the more controversial - is whether, if you are unmarried, you are single.

This is one that divided the dinner table and traversed the normal inclination in such matters for women and men to stick together and debate an issue along a very clear gender divide.

In fact, for two years now the other couple had been picking at the scab of an argument that had refused to heal, ever since the bloke ticked "single" when they applied for a joint account for the flat they shared with others.

While she and my boyfriend thought that a little out of line, I agreed with our mate who was simply acknowledging his legal status as unmarried.

In fact, I've occasionally referred to myself in these column inches as "single" in much the same spirit.

On this admission, my boyfriend's eyes lit up as he realised the benefits of making a rare exception to the relationship rule and agreeing with me. This would facilitate a tidy little situation where he could have a girlfriend but then go out without her and in all good conscience still call himself a single man.

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He was right, but that was wrong. And to right it was to admit I was wrong.

It was enough to make me wish Jacob had never raised the issue of a joint Visa card.

Though perhaps not quite enough to make me acknowledge instead that I had partner. Or - worse still - tick that most hated of boxes: "In a de-facto relationship". That is a rant for another day.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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