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Significant other? 重要的另一半

中国日报网 2024-01-30 11:37


Reader question:

Please explain “significant other” in “a perfect gift to your significant other for Christmas”.

My comments:

A perfect gift to give to your wife (or husband or partner, as the case may be) for Christmas.

“Your significant other” reminds me of “your better half”, i.e. your wife.

Better half?

Well, in a marriage, husband and wife each represents half of the couple. Half and half together makes their marriage whole.

Considered this way, your wife is your “other half”. And people show their love and respect for their woman by calling them their “better half”.

Better, that is, than they themselves are – let’s just put it that way.

This shows that you value their role in your life.

It’s nice.

I mean, it’s nicer than otherwise. You know, some men in casual conversation call their wife “my domestic”. Fewer and fewer people dare to do that nowadays, it’s true, but they did that a lot in the past.

I consider this progress.

Anyways, people likewise politely refer to their better halves as their “significant others”, meaning they’re their significant other halves.

Significant, as in important?


I consider this progress, too.

“Significant other” is relatively new in terms of linguistic history. This, from Grammarist.com:

The phrase actually originated in social psychology and was popularized by a psychiatrist named Harry Stack Sullivan in the 1940s and 1960s. Sullivan studied mental disorders and the behavior of relationships.

He used it as a neutral term to describe someone who holds substantial importance in someone’s life that might be suffering from mental disorders. The term has since broadened in everyday language to refer to one’s romantic partner. I guess love really does make us crazy!

You said it, Mr Grammarist.

All right, no more ado. Here are media examples of “significant other”:

1. Log on to Tinder and soon enough you’ll see a bio that includes a version of the line: “Trump supporters, swipe left.”

Most people are open to dating someone who doesn’t share their political beliefs, but views on specific issues and personalities (such as President Trump) can be dealbreakers. This week, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, released a survey of U.S. adults, taken in January, on how politics is changing dating and relationships in the Trump era. Here are five fascinating takeaways.

Among political issues, abortion is the biggest dealbreaker.

When given a list of issues and asked “how difficult would it be to date someone who does NOT share you own views on the following?” 24 percent said it would be “impossible” to date someone with differing views on abortion. Another 44 percent said it would be either “somewhat” or “very” difficult, and 32 percent said it wouldn’t be “too” difficult or wouldn’t be difficult at all. The issue is more of a dealbreaker for women than for men, and more so for Republican women (38 percent) than it is for Democratic women (27 percent).

Other issues that were dealbreakers were religious freedom (20 percent said it would be impossible to date someone who didn’t share their views) and LGBT rights (19 percent). Slightly fewer said the same about gun rights and gun control (16 percent), climate change (15 percent), immigration (13 percent), and affirmative action (12 percent).

Republicans are more open to dating someone who disagrees with them on Trump than Democrats are, the AEI survey, conducted by YouGov, found. However, Trump is mostly an obstacle for those with strong feelings about him. Of those with very unfavorable views of the president, 83 percent wouldn’t date someone with a different view. Among those with a very favorable view of Trump, 59 percent wouldn’t date someone who disliked the president.

For most American adults, sharing political views with a romantic partner isn’t a priority; less than one-third said politics is one of the most important things or very important to have in common. The two most important traits in significant others were that they have similar views on having children (59 percent said it was at least “very important”) and that they do not smoke (58 percent).

- Strong views on Trump can be a big dating dealbreaker, and other takeaways from a survey on love and politics, February 7, 2020.

2. When you spend most of your waking hours at work, it’s very likely you’ll meet someone, and sparks will fly. Research shows that when we’re in the same proximity as someone for a long time, our preference for that person could spike. Simply put, the more often we see someone physically and have interactions with them, the faster our interpersonal attraction builds.

Dating at work isn’t new; it has existed for decades. While just over a quarter of Gen X thought dating a colleague was okay, Generation Z and younger Millennials are much more open to the idea of dating a colleague. (One out of three think it’s okay.) A recent survey indicates that 75% of workers have had an office romance.

When done right, your office romance could end like the Obamas, who met at a Chicago law firm where Michelle was assigned as Barack’s mentor. They’ve been married for three decades now. But when it goes wrong, working with your significant other could damage your love life, your job, or both.

Yet many couples make it work, and we found ourselves in this situation about two years after getting married. One of us (Anne) was a year into an interesting position in a social impact consulting firm when the other one (Kabir) found himself looking for a new adventure away from the corporate world. Anne’s employer ticked the right boxes for Kabir – and he came (quite thoroughly!) vetted. All that remained was the question of whether joining hands in both marriage and work would result in a happily ever after or turn into a complete disaster.

So how does one go about making work and a relationship work when you are a couple at home and colleagues the in the office?

- Tips for Working with Your Romantic Partner, HBR.com, March 06, 2023.

3. Turkey is the centerpiece of almost every Thanksgiving feast, but when there’s someone new at the dinner table, most eyes fall on that person.

Inviting your partner to Thanksgiving is a huge step in any relationship journey. The invitation conveys to family members that this person is super important and worth getting to know, said relationship and intimacy expert Dr. Viviana Coles, author of “The 4 Intimacy Styles: The Lasting Physical Intimacy.”

In an ideal world, every one of your relatives would welcome your partner with open arms. But some may judge your partner right away, others might ask a lot of questions, and some may not want to interact at all. A holiday meal can also put immense stress on the partner to make a great first impression with everyone.

Coles advised meeting with one or two relatives before the holiday. Of all your relatives, your significant other should meet your parents or other important family at least a few days earlier. Doing so gives your partner an opportunity to create important connections and have familiar faces to talk to during the celebration.

“Establishing a relationship between your person and the most important family member beforehand can make them feel more comfortable with your family dynamic,” House said. “It’s a great way to prep before they go into the whole group dynamic.”

Your partner can feel even more at ease for Thanksgiving with tips on how formal to dress and what conversation topics to avoid. Politics and religion are usually taboo, but it’s especially important to avoid these topics if your partner’s beliefs are at odds with the rest of the family. Additionally, House said, give your significant other a rundown on family members who are attending, especially the ones with whom there are strained relations.

- Thinking about bringing your significant other to Thanksgiving? Here’s what to consider, CNN.com, November 20, 2023.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣  编辑:丹妮)


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