She’s not my girlfriend

This week I had surgery, it was successful I was well looked after and am incredibly thankful for the NHS and all their staff. I also had a few encounters with a lovely lady which got me thinking about the importance of titles.

Not titles we use for ourselves, but those we use for others. Girlfriend, fiancée, partner, civil partner, wife, spouse are all titles people have used when discussing Clara with me. To both Clara and I the transition of titles in our relationship have been quite important to us. In fact we still celebrate the anniversary of the day we started dating and she officially became my girlfriend.

Over the last 9 years Clara has become my fiancée, with many choosing to call her my partner, then officially she became my civil partner, which we never used as a title as to me from our wedding day she was always my wife. But in the eyes of our UK law she only recently became my official wife.


Wife, a title I adore. I love being able to talk about my wife whenever the opportunity arises. Especially in official documentation, I get to write down my wife’s name as my next of kin. Ask them to contact my wife if they need to and discuss my wife during tense moments, for example on the operating table awaiting surgery.

Which is why I found it odd when the lovely lady in charge of me during my visit was adamant that every time she referred to Clara, she called her my girlfriend despite me never using the title.

I even went over conversations in my head to see if she was misunderstanding me.

Lady – Do you have someone to take you home?
Me – Yes my wife is waiting for me.
Lady – Great so will your girlfriend be looking after you at home?
Me – Yes my wife will be there.

After surgery;

Lady – Is your girlfriend picking you up?
Me – Yes I have called my wife
Lady – Make sure you get your girlfriend to bring up a wheelchair to help you to the car

I was quite clear in expressing the title I wished Clara to have, but there was just something not processing when the lady chose to talk about her. I have no idea why, I know no harm was meant and I was not in the least offended, it was just a bit of an odd encounter.

I did consider that if she were discussing someone’s husband if perhaps she would make the same mix up, but until I hear that conversation I can’t make that judgment. I will never know why she found it so hard to say wife.

But so many people have moved mountains in our country so that I have the pleasure of not only having a wife, but being able to officially use the title in all important documents. Which means so much to me.

So this post is just a little poke for those who perhaps don’t pay much attention to titles, they mean so much to those who haven’t always been able to use them. So please be mindful of the titles someone personally chooses to use, it can mean the world to someone.

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This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. chantelle hazelden Reply

    It’s a title that anyone who is married should be allowed to be proud of. I can see why the replies calling Clara your girlfriend were rather annoying for you. Ok you didn’t get married just for the title of ‘wife’ but you’ve made the commitment and it is only right that others should recognise that too!!

  2. Donna Wishart Reply

    How bloody weird! Some people, I think, still have such strong stereotypes that they just can’t get past them. I’m glad you reinforced Clara as your wife as much as possible. This is most definitely the woman’s problem and no reflection on either of you x

  3. Toni Hargis Reply

    You’re being very generous is assuming no harm was meant. It seems quite a deliberate thing to be dong. As if she didn’t agree with same sex marriage and was making a point.

  4. Munchies&Munchkins Reply

    I think that thinking about it in the way you do ( assuming she didn’t wish to offend) is the best way because you will never know otherwise. You can only carry on doing what you do and repeating it whenever you can and at some point hopefully the rest of the UK will begin to catch up. I hope all is ok following your surgery and that you and your wife are as happy as you have always been when I’ve seen you x

  5. Innocent Charms Chats Reply

    I think you are being way to kind as Toni said. You were very clear and I think that is rude.
    Although I will say it always shocks me the amount of times people call Ashley my partner. He is my husband and like you I like that fact.

    All I can say is the people who love you most know very much you are both awesome wives xx

  6. TheBoyandMe Reply

    The commitment deserves the recognition, after nearly 15 years of married life I’m determined of that fact! I think it’s probably best to think the way you are, I’m sure she didn’t mean to offend and until we ask then we don’t know someone’s true intent.

    Hope you’re recovering well?

  7. Julie's Notebook Reply

    I think she was a bit out of order honestly – she had *just* been corrected to wife, its not that hard to get right a second later. I mean I can understand defaulting to Partner when they can’t remember what you said as Partner is a sort of coverall term, but they sound like they were dismissive of your marriage. 🙁

    Ps, get well soon.

  8. Amanda Reply

    Not sure you could have been any clearer, so why on earth she failed to take notice is beyond me. I’d like to think that no harm was intended, but really, how can one misinterpret wife and girlfriend?
    Hope you are feeling well after your surgery.

  9. Sarah MumofThree World Reply

    How very strange! I know as a straight, married woman, my husband is usually referred to tentatively as ‘partner’, which seems to cover all bases, but once I’ve confirmed he is my husband, that’s what he is referred to. You couldn’t have been clearer that Clara was your wife! As you say, she probably didn’t mean any offence, but she should have responded to what you were saying and used the word ‘wife’.

  10. Siena Says Reply

    That is weird. I never like to assume with anyone to be honest as I know some people could be offended if I say husband or wife and they’re not married.

    I suppose at least she didn’t say your ‘friend’ !

  11. scarflife Reply

    This blog post has really struck a chord with me, not least because it’s really nicely written. I have a wife (and I am a wife!) and I am immensely grateful to live in a society where that is both legal and, for the most part, accepted. My wife was my friend, then my best friend, then my partner and finally my civil partner before officially becoming my wife early last year. We bypassed the girlfriend stage partly as a product of our accidental progression from friends to partners and partly I think due to stage in life. We also bypassed the fiancée phase as having always discussed marriage as a dream we decided together, without an elaborate proposal, to make our commitment official and arranged a small CP ceremony with only three weeks notice! To me she is my partner and that is mostly how I will refer to her, and her to me. It fits how I feel about our relationship and our approach to the world: we are partners, a team, we take on the world together. Also, we were a couple prior to civil partnerships being an option, and then civil partners before being spouses became an option. I suspect we also subconsciously defaulted to partners as a title because my wife had been a wife (to a husband) before and so it was nice to have our own different partnership. That said we were both absolutely certain that we would convert our CP when that became possible, and I’m proud to be able to officially and legally say that we are married.

    I think the thing that struck me about your blog post was the woman’s lack of acknowledgment towards your committed relationship. Everybody knows that to have a wife (or husband) means that you have made a permanent commitment to someone. Not that girlfriend in any way suggests lack of commitment, but it is undeniably an earlier stage that comes before (or sometimes instead of) marriage. To ‘undo’ your reference to Clara as your wife, although quite possibly absent minded on her part (I’m a generous and forgiving type…), was such a callous gesture. It’s only a little over two years ago that you, and I, weren’t able to have a wife. However one feels about same sex marriage there is no denying that it’s a privilege for us to live in a time and place where we can have, and be, a wife. When we proudly declare that we have a wife surely that warrants respect?

    Respect! 🙂

  12. Ella Davis Reply

    Lovely post and I think you’re right to give people a bit of a poke. I’m sure she didn’t mean harm, but like you say it can be really important to people. Sadly in many settings people often hear what they expect/want to hear not what is actually been said!

  13. Bex @ The Mummy Adventure Reply

    I almost have it the other way as people refer to Ed as my husband when I have called him my partner – I think some people see or hear what they expect to rather than the truth. She sounds like a bit of an idiot for not noticing when you couldn’t have made it any clearer, but thank goodness your wife was there for you x

  14. Susan Mann Reply

    Aww what a lovely post. I can imagine it must be annoying, people should listen to what they have been asked. I can imagine it’s the same with those who aren’t married, they assume are. There are so many different dynamics, people should be open to them. Good luck in the BIB’s lovelies xxx

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