Today I want to briefly address a term that is so loosely thrown around, its worn a little thin. Recently a friend of mine referenced her “significant other”.
It’s no secret that marriage requires an optimum set of circumstances at best. Divorces are rampant–to say the least. The terms boyfriend, girlfriend, better half, just short of a marriage has been largely replaced by a safe term from anyone using it — make that issuing it to reference someone they are involved with romantically and otherwise. The reasons for the term are to avoid revealing any romantic or sexual entanglements. We adults know full well this might otherwise objectify, that is,shine a light on what is likely less than an authentic relationship — oops. See? My bad.
The narrative in this lopsy-loo for me is that the person using the term isn’t stating the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. What opens this term up to a less than desirable interpretation is the “friends with benefits” term that, while tawdry, avoids anyone’s feelings becoming hurt.
In a very negative and uncertain political climate, “significant other” carries with it a rather cold, callous and even corporate connotation of the noun. Would you want to be referenced as an “other”? What does that say about the person who assigns this valuation.
I believe a far healthier alternative is this: Whatever the truth is just say it. Boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance’, fiancée’, friend (particularly early in the dating game). But to marginalize a person as an object who meets their private and possibly selfish needs, whether social or sexual smacks of inauthentic meaning at best and relegates a human being used for such purpose as less than a fully valued person at its worst.
There are many articles on this subject. My point remains that honesty and yes, even the over-used “transparency” is missing here. Call whatever “it” really is, and then (if you dare) begin to ask why you feel the need to use this term, if you’re honest enough to be busted for using it. We now have automobile manufacturers stupid enough to attempt creating driver-less cars. The only person driving the “significant other” car is as the late psychiatrist Andrew Livingston M.D. observed is the person who loves less. Why? Because they have all of the power. Healthy relationships shouldn’t have a power structure at the core ahead of anything that transpires after the term “significant other”. I suggest that a “Truth Checkup” is required whenever this term is deployed. May all of your relationships be healthy ones.
(Author’s DVD Cover/Amblin Entertainment/Malpaso Productions)
A footnote is in order to be fair. In 1995, actor and director Clint Eastwood took one of he most daring risks of his career when he portrayed Tom Kincaid opposite Meryl Streep in “The Bridges of Madison County”. An utterly heartbreaking tale of love, it nonetheless is notable for avoiding the use of a “significant other”. Whether movie fans agreed with the story line or not, this uncommon, unpredictable and tender story was authentic. May it serve to cause us to question the humanity inherent in such limiting and even detached terms as “significant other”.