In the world of monogamy, your labels are very straightforward. You’ve got one partner, you have your friends, your family, and that is it. In my world I have a whole myriad of different relationships that don’t fit easily into those labels. Obviously this is a very subjective topic, and each relationship has a different dynamic where different labels are more appropriate.
So what does it mean to be a partner? To me, the word partner is like how the monogamous world would label boyfriends and girlfriends, fiancés, husbands and wives. I like the word partner in particular because it is gender neutral, you can’t tell if we just met a few weeks ago or have been married for 20 years, and it also doesn’t seem to imply there is just one.
I consider us to be partners when I can happily walk down the street holding hands and feel comfortable about it. A public display like that indicates the natural feeling of being close to each other without inhibition or fear of judgement. I have plenty of relationships with people I’d fuck, lots of people I’d introduce to my parents, others who I wouldn’t, some who I’d be comfortable enough to pee in front of, and lots of other various stages on the relationship escalator. But I think the defining step on the relationship escalator where I become a partner is when we are comfortable displaying physical affection to each other without hindrance.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a talk about what you feel you are to one another. I love when it’s naturally progressing and one day turn to your lover and you say, “Hey, what is this thing we have going on?” and they respond with exactly how you feel as well.
There’s also the problematic idea of hierarchy. I don’t like ranking my partners because I feel like it devalues what we have with each other. I love different things about different people in different ways, but it’s certainly not “more” or “less” than each other. That’s a pretty awful way to look at things. I don’t like the idea of putting people I care about on shelves in order of importance. Plus, relationships are fluid, constantly changing based on experiences and time allowed and emotions. Certainly there are things that can be considered a “primary partner privilege” such as attending a family event together, or being on each other’s insurance policy, but wouldn’t you want everyone you loved to share in these things?