Elena LaVictoire takes a stand against substituting the word "partner" to mean "wife."
Language evolves and changes. There is a recording of a college professor reciting Beowulf in the original old English. If you didn’t know the story, it would be hard to pick it up from the words he was reciting! It sounded like a completely different language and nothing like the English we are so used to today. It’s not just that the pronunciations have changed, but the actual meanings of the words are different as well. Of course, some words have disappeared altogether, while thousands of others have come into use.
In recent years, many words relating to being feminine and female have started to change or be outright banned. It’s no longer acceptable in many places to use words like woman, mother, she/her, or breast-feeding. But the one that bothers me the most is loss of the word “wife,” which is being swapped out for “partner.”
I recently complained about that on an Instagram reel and was promptly told that only boomers still use words like husband and wife, or even marriage. I guess ageism is culturally accepted.
This year my husband, Pete, will have been married to me for 44 years. He has also had a business partner for 28 years. While I appreciate Pete’s partner, Jack, I see my role as wife as being much more all-encompassing than the word “partner” can describe.
A partner is someone you pair with for the purposes of completing a specific activity. For Pete and Jack, that has been building a business that provides great value for their customers and an income for their families. Eventually their partnership will end when they decide to end the business and retire.
But marriage is much more than pairing for a specific activity. It has been a lifetime of thousands of different activities and learning to merge those things into a loving and effective household. True, it has had a financial component. I have had to add to our income and help my husband with purchasing our home and providing for our children. But that has been the only similarity to that of a business partner.
Being husband and wife has included getting to know and love each other through the years, growing a family, and then launching our children into adulthood. It has been supporting each other in our roles as mother and father and being there in times of great happiness and great sadness. It has been an evolving role as well, which is becoming more evident as we grow older and must accept the changes that come from that—still loving and supporting each other, but in different and sometimes hilarious ways.
A couple of years ago I tore the meniscus in my right knee. When we came home from the doctor it evident that I wasn’t going to be able to just jump the four inches from the driveway onto the back porch. How was I going to get into the house? Being a natural problem solver, Pete braced his back against the wall bent his knee and said, “Sit down on me and I’ll swivel you in!” Quite a contrast to the young bride and groom, he laughed as he swept me over the threshold into our home! It’s good to have a good sense of humor to have a successful marriage. I’m not sure that’s always the rule in business.
As a wife, I have been the one that Pete turns to for good times and bad. I have been the lover and counselor, the queen and the manager of my home. I have been held and loved, cared for, called out, and called on.
On this day particularly, as we honor Mary’s life on earth, I reflect on her role as wife and mother for the Holy Family and am thankful for how her example blesses my vocation too and I’m grateful.
Imagine Mary as Blessed Partner, or Jesus’ birthing person. It doesn’t exactly evoke the same devotion, does it? Likewise, calling me a partner would be a downgrade for my vocation. I will never give up the title of wife for that of partner. So, in my own stubborn little way, I’ll correct and change that reference whenever it comes up in the language—written or spoken. I’ll promote the word "wife" as long as I can, so it never disappears from our language.
Copyright 2023 Elena LaVictoire
About the Author
Elena LaVictoire is a graduate of Baker College and a retired medical transcriptionist. She is married and homeschooled six children. Elena is a public speaker on the topics of marriage, homeschooling, and confirmation preparation. She was also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. Elena practices and performs with her flute and records with the Peace Together Choir. She blogs at MyDomesticChurch.com.