Thanks for the discussion.
Very thought provoking. Really interesting to read everybody's responses and takes on the subject.
I think it's a good point, that partnership means different things to different people. To me, a "partner" is someone with whom I am consciously cultivating a relationship with the intention of continuing to know each other more and more deeply, supporting each other's goals and development, and finding meaningful ways to include one another in our lives. Very similar to friendship, and yet more charged, more deliberate. It comes down to a combination of intimacy and commitment that's mutual and acknowledged.
AnnabelMore - thank you. That's a fabulous way of describing why partnership is different from friendship (it's a distinction I struggle with). Plus good cartoon.
SchrodingersCat - thanks for the link. I have to share that with some of my friends. I think a ton of them would appreciate it.
I suppose that my own take is that to consider something a partnership, I'd need there to be the things that AnnabelMore describes above and a sexual element to the relationship. If the sex has stopped for good, I would stop thinking of it as a partnership.
If it stopped due to a permanent illness I'd consider myself to be my former partner's carer. I wouldn't necessarily leave them to fend for themselves but I would not consider such a relationship to be a partnership any more. I might even marry a former partner suffering from a long term illness (especially if it was degenerative) - just so as to be their next of kin and be more easily able to deal with medical professionals.
If it stopped due to an emotional problem which isn't being addressed, I'd be sad but would end the partnership and seek to remain friends.
I know it's different for everybody but I think that for me, that's how I see it.
I'm not fixed on the notion of there needing to be a partner in my life. There wasn't for years and years. During that time, I built a life that revolves around around non sexual friendships of varying degrees of closeness. C, living companion and I intend to stay together, his needs are considered in all of my decisions, both he and I regularly adjust our wants so that we can help each other achieve what we want. We regularly hug each other and often spend long periods gazing into each others eyes. We do things just the two of us that nobody else is invited to. As C is not a human being (he's a dog) we will never have a sexual relationship and I would never call him a partner - even though my relationship with him is hugely important to both of us.
I have a close friend, though, who when I first met her, introduced her very beautiful dog as her partner. Over the years, I've known her have a few FWBs but I've never heard her refer to a human being as a partner.
I have some human friends who I will hold hands with, hug, ruffle hair, go on dates with etc - I suspect that anybody seeing us would think that we were sexual with each other. I describe those people as friends. If the physical affection goes along with a lot of emotional intimacy too, I'd call them close friends.
I've experienced the stages of falling in love with friends before. One in particular it was very intense with. We used to meet several times a week and talk for hours. Quickly progressed our relationship until we were spending 4 nights a week together. Nothing sexual has ever happened between us - I'd describe us as being like sisters. Things are more settled now. We're older, have jobs. My friend is married. I have my friends, lots of interests, C, my SO in my life. We don't spend so much time together and the intensity isn't as strong but we are close and share our emotions, hopes and needs with each other. We are very committed to staying close to each other and we both work at it.
Starting a friendship with a new dog can be as emotionally intense as well.
I reckon I can go through all the stages of falling in love with individuals that I'd never call a partner.
Maybe that's just my own issues with the word, maybe other people would describe these relationships as non-sexual partnerships?