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What Should Couples Older than 50 Call themselves?


In the 24 years of writing newspaper columns about age 50-plus dating and relationships, there is a question for which I’ve never had a good answer.

What do unwed, older-than-50 couples call themselves?

I was reminded of that question last week by Mark Flannery of Fullerton, who emailed, “Donna and I have been together for eight and a half years. We were having lunch in Dana Point with Wally Horn and his partner of 30 years, Bobbi, and this question arose: ‘What do we call ourselves? Partners? Companions? Significant others? Boyfriend/girlfriend?’”

My partner Greta and I have been together for 20 years. We aren’t married. I still find myself wondering how to introduce her. Often, “life partner” comes to mind. It’s an OK term, but I still get a puzzled look from people who seem to be wondering what the heck a life partner is, or they think it’s a lame explanation for why we aren’t married.

Greta and I enjoy taking cruises. We always opt for open seating in the dining room, which means we are usually seated with different people every night. Frequently, table mates ask, “How long have you two been married?” Greta and I look at each other and one of us responds, “We’ve been together for 20 years.”

It’s easier to leave it that way than trying to explain that we are significant others or life partners or whatever we are calling ourselves at that moment.

When Greta and I would visit my mom in her retirement community in Santa Rosa, when we were out socially with Mom’s friends, Mom would introduce Greta by saying, “This is Tom’s Greta.” That was her way of saying we were living together and not married, which she probably wasn’t entirely thrilled about.

The fine folks at the Sea View Pharmacy in San Clemente know Greta and I aren’t married. When I pick up my prescriptions there, they don’t ask “Do you want your wife’s prescriptions?” Instead, they ask, “Do you want Greta’s prescriptions?”

In his email, Mark Flannery added, “Donna and I are a LAT (living apart together) couple. She is 69, still working, and lives in Irvine. I’m 71, retired and live in Fullerton. We go back and forth between the two cities a lot.

Our friend Wally is 84 and Bobbi is 75. They are both retired and have been together for almost 30 years. When we were talking about what to call ourselves, I floated an idea I’ve had for some time: “semispouse”.

It received a favorable response from our foursome. It isn’t perfect, but it seems to have qualities the other labels lack. The term is even included in the Urban Dictionary.

At first, I thought the “semispouse” term a little bizarre, visualizing a semi-truck driver with his wife riding with him in the cab.

I looked up the term in the Urban Dictionary. Its definition: “A significant other that plays the role of a spouse without being legally married.”

And then I decided, when written, the term “semispouse” would look better with a hyphen inserted: semi-spouse.

While semi-spouse for unwed age 50 and older couples will work for now, still, I’m all ears to hear suggestions from readers for what to call mature unwed couples. Just don’t call us, “Two old fogies living together.”

Upcoming speech
Tom Blake will be speaking about age 50-plus dating at the Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club at the Marriott Hotel, 25135 Park Lantern in Dana Point, at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at their breakfast meeting. Guests are welcome.

To sign up online, visit, then go to events and there will be a drop down of special meeting presentation by Tom Blake. People can pay on-site. The price is $20, which includes a buffet breakfast and coffee served from 7 a.m. Guests can pay at the door as well. Tom’s speech begins at 8 a.m.


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