There’s a term that is used frequently in Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK), though more sparingly in the United States (US) to define what was once girl-/boy-friend, soul mate, significant other, live-in, sweetheart, and when in doubt, spouse as well. The term is partner.
Whenever I hear the term partner connected to a person, instead of the warm breeze one would normally associate with a love interest, it is replaced by an icy blast of indifference.
I suspect the word’s popularity developed as a bridge between heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Its heavy usage in Ireland and the UK could also indicate a language bridge to cross over to the continent. Another potential reason could be “significant other” was just too much of a mouthful.
Of all the possible words one could choose to describe a love interest, I would have to say that partner would be near the bottom of my list. For me, the term conjures images of a business-like association based on economics, practicalities, possibly legalities, and/or duty. While these terms may also apply to a personal relationship, they lack the emotional punch that should arise when referring to the person on whom you have bestowed love and devotion.
I would much rather use a term that at least has some implication of affection such as paramour, which comes from the Anglo-French par amour or “passionately, with a strong sense of love or desire” although some dictionaries define that term as an illicit or adulterous love. Another alternative could be beloved for a person who is dearly loved. At least these terms conjure warmth rather than indifference.
If we can take a business term like partner and twist it to mean love interest, surely we can start a new trend with a term that is still politically correct but no longer emotionally bereft. Pick something that resonates with you and start using it. Make one up if you have to – people make up new words all the time. (Post it as a comment, we could have a contest.)
When I do finally find my soul mate, I will be doing my part by making a concerted effort to change this trend by not calling him my partner; regardless of my expectation that he will be an equal participant in household duties (though I suppose that last bit just struck a whole set of potential candidates off the list – such is life).