One of my favorite aspects of New Zealand culture is the fact that everyone (with very few exceptions) uses the word ‘partner’. No, not everyone in New Zealand is gay – they simply use the correct term to refer to their significant other. And it’s fabulous. In the United States, the term ‘partner’ is usually used when describing one’s homosexual lover. It’s a subtle marker of ‘gay-ness’, and so it’s still a taboo term for heterosexual relationships. If I said, “My partner is moving in with me,” most people would assume I was gay until I referred to them as a “he” or a “she.” My friends and family would probably be quite surprised if I showed up after a year in New Zealand with a “partner!”
But it’s been a refreshing and surprising thing to hear it used correctly here. After spending nearly 9 months in a culture that’s embraced the politically correct usage of the word, I don’t think I could go back to saying “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” very easily! Of course there’s nothing wrong with those words per say – it’s just that I prefer the term ‘partner’ to describe my significant other. It’s a term for someone who loves you, supports you, and assumes an equal role in your relationship (and plus, isn’t it a little more accurate than calling someone your boy/girl ‘friend’?). Every relationship is (or should be) a partnership at its core, and they deserve to be treated that way in our vernacular. I love the fact that Kiwis have adopted the politically and grammatically correct term for a person’s romantic interest, and that there’s little to no distinction between someone’s boy/girl friend, their fiance, husband, wife, or live-in partner. It’s a word that encompasses all relationships, and gives them all equal weight. If you’re in a committed, supportive, respectful, positive relationship, why do we need to distinguish between whether it’s with a boy or girl? It’s love and kindness that matter. After all, isn’t that what a relationship – a partnership – is all about?