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Errm, he is my …?

Loving elephants

The running joke is, if something’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen. After F and I got PACSed, I made an announcement – first time ever that’s related to my relationship status – along with a photo of us together. Congratulatory messages poured in (thanks again everyone for the well wishes), along with a good deal of confusion of the following variety:

– What is PACS?
– Are you engaged?
– Did you get married?

The answers to the latter questions were simple – no, we are not engaged and no, we did not get married. However, it wasn’t easy trying to explain the concept of PACS to people who are not French and/or don’t/haven’t live in France (before). The mention of civil partnership means a form of marriage to some, especially those living in countries where civil partnership equates marriage between homosexual couples. For others, it ranged from common-law spouse to the new form of engagement. I am sure there are still some who remain confused despite my best effort to clarify the situation.

In between all these, I had a question of my own. How should I refer to F from then on? He’s no longer merely mon copain, but neither is he my fiancé nor my husband. I’m not a slang-sprouting youth so let’s forget about mon mec-type of variation altogether! A friend suggested “mon pacsé” but that sounded odd to me. And remember, using “partenaire” could be construed for a more fleeting relationship.

The best option we have is mon compagnon (or for F, ma compagne). To me, this sounds nearly as awkward as mon pacsé. Maybe it’s the English connotation that I could not escape; the sense of advanced old age when one is being referred to as a companion. I am slowly getting used to it though, but it still takes me a few long seconds to reply to the question of who is F to me. Life used to be simpler when mon copain just rolled off my tongue without hesitation. ;)

I am not the only one struggling with my so-called “couple identity”. There is a large demographic of unmarried couples in modern society, be it of opposing- or same-sex in nature. A couple of relatively recent articles come to mind: NYT’s Unmarried Spouses Have a Way With Words and NYMag’s How Old Is Too Old for ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Girlfriend’? – the former discusses the situation of the unmarried couples, and the latter a list of terms that decipher the situations.

After reading the second article, I have one last question on this – where does “significant other” (SO) stand? It doesn’t sound like it’s on par with “other half” so perhaps more inline with “partner”?

Do you have a tricky-to-describe unmarried relationship status?

Category: Local lingo, Ma vie en France

Tagged: , , ,

12 scribbles & notes

  1. Céline says:

    When referring to Benoît, I usually say “mon compagnon”, or “mon copain”. But “mon copain” is less formal. I also sometimes say “mon mari” when I am speaking to people I won’t see again and I don’t care to describe my personnal life (eg : the plumber) : it’s easier this way.
    I like “compagnon” or “compagne”, because it brings the idea of walking together on the same path, and sharing food and life.
    I am not fond of the “significant other” : does it mean that only one people among the other that share my life, is significant ? I don’t like either “ma moitié” (the other half of myself), usually used by elderly men speaking about their wife. I never understand if they feel that their wife is only a part of themselves (in a Adam’s rib way of thinking) or if they feel that their wife is the other half of the “couple”, which I found scary too.

    But the official word for speaking about pacsed or married people is “conjoints” ;)

    • Lil says:

      Huh, I thought conjoints are only for married people.

      I’m not a fan of anything that says “half” because it implies I’m somehow not a complete person. On the other hand, I did think it was cute that someone I know calls his partner his better half :p

  2. Chloé says:

    I overall agree with Céline*. For me, “compagnon” is similar to “partner” and while I must admit to not using it quite naturally yet, it is my favourite option at the moment.
    * Actually, I agree with the whole thing, except I didn’t know “conjoint” worked for “pacsé” (I was wondering though), so thanks Céline for the tip!

  3. Med says:

    Hmmmmmm. ….doesn’t matter. As long as both of u knows what u are to one another yah ;) interesting though….I just tell Emily that u guys are an official couple legally hehehehe

  4. CL says:

    I am confused, you are not married, but in a partnership? eh .. your family is ok with this arrangement? then what is the difference between this PACS and marriage?

    • Lil says:

      Legally speaking, yes, F and I are in civil partnership. My family is ok with this, and to be honest, my family doesn’t question me on legal recognition of my relationship so long as I’m happy whichever way I conduct it.

      In a way, looking at PACS/marriage – PACS is a subset of marriage. It confers certain couple-based benefits similar to marriage, such as joint taxation filing, rights to residency, rights for corresponding holiday times (i.e. if one partner applies for annual leave in one workplace, the other partner applying in another workplace gets priority on being granted time off at the same requested period), etc. On the other hand, things like automatic inheritance in case of death or splitting of properties in case of divorce, they don’t happen to people in PACS.

  5. CL says:

    Thanks for your reply .. this PACS thing is new to me .. I would like to find out whether in Germany, there is such an arrangement.

    Sorry, another q, why did you choose PACS and not marriage? It seems like both are roughly the same rights. What if one party wants a separation, u still need to sign some kind of paper to end the union right? So, in this concept, you dont call divorce right?

    • Lil says:

      I believe PACS is something rather unique in France, but I could be wrong.

      There are a number of ways to dissolve a PACS: (1) marriage of one of the parties, (2) death of one of the parties, (3) by request of one of the parties to the local tribunal. [Note: not sure if there are others, but these are what I am aware of] And no, it is not a divorce, and there is no involvement of legal counsels required either.

      Both F and I felt PACS was appropriate for us (we don’t have any children, nor joint purchase of property, among other personal factors) and we had no wish to rush into marriage. We are happy the way we are, and at the same time we are also mindful about practicality of things, such as joint tax filing to reduce our tax liability (thus able to save up more for future). We certainly did not choose PACS because it’s easier to end in comparison to marriage. We take our commitment seriously.

  6. CL says:

    Thanks for taking the time to explain the PACS concept to me.

    I have no doubt that both of you are committed in this relationship. Otherwise you would not go into this partnership.

    • Lil says:

      You’re welcome. It is a rather peculiar concept, and more and more young couples nowadays use PACS as a symbolic engagement/marriage, so the boundary does get a bit blurry. :)

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