Originally Posted by gort
A side note: some states have "domestic partner" laws. They are really aimed toward gays but are very much available to straight people too.
So, it could actually indicate a legal status.
. . . or it could just be a kind of progressive distaste for the traditional language of marriage. The terms 'husband' and 'wife' are very, very patriarchal in their origins: husband = manager, man in charge; wife = woman, possibly rooted in a term meaning shame
. 'Spouse' seems legalistic and cold.
'Partner' suggests both equality and consent. It does not, in itself, reveal anything of whether the partnership is exclusive or open, or on what terms it is open.