What's In A Label: 10 Differences Between A Partner And A Boyfriend

by Dorothy Chan

In our mid-to-late 20s, we're bound to fall into more serious relationships.

We're now more sure of ourselves and our futures, and with this territory comes the factoring in of someone special.

At the same time, not everyone we date in our mid-20s is our “soulmate,” and many of us still have our fair share of rebound relationships, one-night stands and other non-serious affairs.

But in general, the mid-to-late 20s shows a dating shift: We're closer to finding “the one,” and anyone we take seriously will, for lack of a better word, be taken seriously.

And this isn't high school serious (“Wow, he gave me his class ring!” Do people even do that anymore?), or college serious (“I'm so sad we'll be apart for winter break, but we have spring break to look forward to!”), but adult serious (“I've already met his siblings and we're having a nice dinner together on Saturday night.”).

Millennials, welcome to the adult relationship.

When we find ourselves in this serious adult relationship, confusion may exist when we have that dreaded DTR, or “define the relationship” talk with our significant other.

Many times, this confusion doesn't stem from “what are we?" but instead, “what do we call us?”

True, the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are age-old and synonymous with a committed relationship.

But, what term(s) exist for couples tired of high school monikers and want their label to show the “adultness” of the relationship?

This is where the term “partner,” short for life partner, comes in.

Not to diss serious boyfriend/girlfriend couples, but the term “partner” carries with it not only a relevant non-gendered reading, but also its own degree of seriousness and initiative.

Think about transitioning from boyfriend/girlfriend to partner labels? Wondering when your boyfriend turns into your partner?

Or are you confused as to what level of commitment he meant when he chose the term?

Here are some reasons why the partner is the upgraded boyfriend:

1. A partner takes initiative.

While it may be hard for some guys to even become someone's boyfriend, the partner label takes that initiative a step further.

If he insists on calling you his partner, it's an early sign you guys could be in for the long haul.

Keep in mind that partner is short for “life partner,” and it's a word synonymous with significant other and soulmate.

It's easy to be someone's boyfriend; we've had boyfriends and girlfriends since middle school. But a partner is a fresh love phase into adulthood.

Now think about this scenario: A guy asks his boss for work off so he can pick up his girlfriend from the airport vs. a guy asks his boss for work off so he can pick up his partner from the airport.

The latter certainly sounds more serious and will certainly be taken less lightly in a professional setting than the former.

You can probably already feel the weight of the term partner. It sounds official.

For example, company parties often address invitations as “spouses and partners welcome” rather than “spouses and boyfriends/girlfriends welcome.”

2. A partner will pick you up from the airport.

Think about all those TV shows and movies where the guy rushes to the airport to bid the love of his life farewell or tries to win her back.

Sure, we don't live in a fantasy world, but you have to admit the airport is an oddly romantic place. After all, this is where we come and go on our long journeys away from loved ones.

So, a man who picks you up from the airport is definitely a keeper. Have you seen how stressful that place is?

On a more romantic note, even if you haven't combed your hair or put on your lipstick, you have to admit that the first person you want to see when you get off that plane is him.

Picking someone up from the airport is what you do when you're in love, not when you're in a fling or some kind of weird juvenile monogamous yet open relationship.

If he offers to pick you up from the airport, he's showing you a couple things:

He also can't wait to see you first thing, he cares about you enough that he'll get up early to be the first person to see you and he cares about your safety and wants to treat you like a princess from the time you get off the plane to the time you go home together.

3. A partner gets creative with distance.

At some point or another, you'll have to deal with distance away from your beau, whether it's a weekend girls getaway, a long trip back home to visit your parents or a year abroad pursuing a fellowship.

It's not an ideal romantic circumstance, especially in relation to intimacy, but partners not only deal with distance, they also get creative with it.

While a boyfriend may give up on you because of distance, a partner will step up his game. If he's the creative/literary type, he might text you poetry quotes all day and night.

If he's the humorous type, he might text you memes or silly anecdotes. If he's the romantic type, he'll tell you he's constantly thinking about you.

Bottom line: a partner can and will deal with distance in such a way that you won't feel a growing distance (despite geography).

Despite this lack of growing distance, geographical distance unfortunately exists.

To cope with that, partners get creative in simulating physical intimacy: on the phone, through texting, Skype, whatever works for you.

It's not ideal, but words have power, and hearing each other late at night will definitely spice up the romance. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.

4. The level of comfort will be at an all-time high.

Are you meeting his parents this weekend? Did he catch you in the morning without any makeup? Has he seen how messy your apartment gets?

If he's your partner, all of the above is a no-sweat situation.

Partners are comfortable with each other. They are also comfortable in each others' spaces and around each others' friends and family.

Any part of him is an extension of you, and you will love every part of one another. Partners are also past that boyfriend/girlfriend stage of impressing each other.

And that isn't to say you should start wearing sweats around him. No, still surprise your man with a new lingerie set every now and then.

All it means is you shouldn't sweat when meeting his family and friends. They probably already know all about you because he'll be talking about you nonstop.

5. A partner is always reliable and will help you problem-solve.

Even when you're past the honeymoon phase and not necessarily chatting every day, you can always rely on your partner to pick up the phone.

Boyfriends let texts and calls linger because they're “not in the mood” to chat. But partners put you as a priority and will therefore get back to you quickly, or within a reasonable amount of time.

If he's too busy to talk, he'll be direct and not keep you waiting. If he's out with his family or friends, he'll let you know ahead of time or give you extra attention once he's home.

And if it's an emergency, he'll be there right away.

Bottom line: He will be reliable and there for you. If you're upset and he's not the best at showing his emotions, he will help you problem-solve and get past the crisis.

6. A partner is always supportive and will help you through the highs and lows of your education and career.

Boyfriends get petty and jealous. Partners are supportive of your education and career. Gone are traditional gender roles of men being the success breadwinner.

Partners are mature and past that phase. They understand you are now one unit. You want him to succeed and he wants you to succeed.

It doesn't matter who gets there first, since if you're both mature, driven, intelligent and confident, it's understood that both of you will eventually get there.

Always trust your gut. If he's jealous of your success, he's not a keeper. If he's frustrated because of himself rather than of you, talk it out with him and find a solution around it.

But make sure these talks aren't frequent; otherwise, you might have to reconsider. Never let anyone bring you or your success down.

If you're always there cheering him on, he should do the same for you.

No excuses.

7. A partner kisses you “good morning” and “goodnight.”

A partner also kisses you in the middle of the night. He'll whisper, “Where are you?” and pull you in even closer.

Intimacy will be achieved on all levels, whether you're holding hands while sleeping, snuggling close to each other or holding each other naked.

You might catch him stroking your back and saying, “I love you” in the middle of the night. He'll stroke your hair, get it out of your face and stare at you for hours (at least it'll feel that way).

If you're not the sappy kind of girl, it might be too hard to handle (myself included), but suck it up. He's being cute.

8. It doesn't matter who said, “I love you” first.

It just matters that you've both established this.

Boyfriends play games. Partners are in it for the long haul, and are just as happy to say “I love you” first as they are to hear the words come out of your mouth.

Though you've probably felt it for a few weeks already, hearing it out loud makes all the difference. So keep open communication and express affection regularly.

This makes those special moments even more intense, giving you thousands of butterflies.

9. Partners discuss their issues.

Boyfriends and girlfriends fight and this leads to breakups. Partners fight and this leads to improvements in the relationship.

On a side note, if you're fighting nonstop without any resolution, it might be time to call it quits. But fighting is also known as a sign of caring.

We only indulge ourselves in front of people we care about and accept us for who we are. No excuses, but fighting may also show that we care.

It can also mean we're invested in the relationship. But again, watch out if you're fighting a lot with your significant other. Make sure fights don't come from malicious intent or for differences in life philosophy, rather than differences in ideas.

Investment is the key.

If after a fight, your significant other needs space, give him space.

But make sure he comes back and you have a discussion of what went wrong, rather than solely resorting to intimacy to solve the problem.

Partners listen to each other, compromise and work toward improving the dynamics of the relationship.

10. Partners include each other in their future plans.

Partners don't have to discuss the future 24/7 (no one needs that kind of pressure), but they sure give each other important updates regarding school, jobs, family, etc.

If there's a possible relocation, partners discuss this in advance, whether it means taking a break from the relationship, having an open relationship or toughing it out through long distance.

If partners love each other as much as they claim, they will work through anything. Boyfriends give up. Partners rise to the challenge.

Continuing off number nine, partners have important talks discussing the future and make necessary compromises.

They may also test out different ideas or seek advice to see what works best for them.

This is an ultimate test of compatibility, and if your futures align, you're definitely in it for life.

So there you have it: 10 reasons a partner is an upgraded boyfriend.

A label isn't everything, but initiative sure is.