In the 24 years of writing newspaper columns about age 50+ dating and relationships, there is a question for which I’ve never had a good answer. Until now. Perhaps.

The question: What do unwed, age 50+ couples call themselves?

I was reminded of that question by Mark, who emailed: “Donna and I have been together for eight and a half years. We were having lunch with Wally Horn and his partner of 30 years, Bobbi, and this question arose: ‘What do we call ourselves? Partners? Companions? Significant others? Boyfriend/girlfriend?’”

I can relate to Mark’s question. My partner, Greta, and I have been together for 20 years. We aren’t married. I still find myself wondering how to introduce her.

Often, “life partner” comes to mind. It’s an OK term, but I still get a puzzled look from people who seem to be wondering what the heck a life partner is, or they think it’s a lame explanation for why we aren’t married.

Greta and I enjoy taking cruises. We always opt for open seating in the dining room, which means we are usually seated with different people every night. Frequently, tablemates ask, “How long have you two been married?”

Greta and I look at each other and one of us responds, “We’ve been together for 20 years.”

Most couples accept that answer, thinking we’re married. It’s easier to leave it that way than try to explain that we are “significant others” or “life partners” or whatever we are calling ourselves at that moment.

When Greta and I would visit my mom in her retirement community a few years back and we were out socially with Mom’s friends, Mom would introduce Greta by saying, “This is Tom’s Greta.”

That was her way of saying we were living together and not married, which she probably wasn’t entirely thrilled about.

In his email, Mark added, “Donna and I are a LAT (living apart together) couple. She is 69, still working. I’m 71, retired, and live a few miles away. We go back and forth between the two cities a lot.”

Our friend Wally is 84 and Bobbi is 75. They are both retired and have been together for almost 30 years. When we were talking about what to call ourselves, I floated an idea I’ve had for some time: “semispouse.”

It received a favorable response from our foursome. It isn’t perfect, but it seems to have qualities the other labels lack.

At first, I thought the semispouse term a little bizarre, visualizing a semi-truck driver with his wife riding with him in the cab.

I looked up the term on the Urban Dictionary website. Its definition: “A significant other that plays the role of a spouse without being legally married.”

And then I decided, when written, the term semispouse would look better with a hyphen inserted: semi-spouse.

While semi-spouse for unwed, age 50+ couples will work for now, still, I’m all ears to hear suggestions from readers for what to call mature, unwed couples.

Just don’t call us, “Two old fogies living together.”


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