Difference Between Spouse and Partner

An acquaintance may come up to you and introduce someone as their partner, and this word may lead to some confusion. Do they mean a business partner? A close friend? Or their life partner? “Partner” is oftentimes used synonymously with “spouse”, but the two can be fundamentally different in some ways.

Spouse is generally used to refer to an individual that one is wed to, and has a legal implication on marriage. Spouse can be used interchangeably with “husband” or “wife”. A pair that identify with each other as a spouse can avail different benefits for married people such as filing a joint tax return or adding the other to a health insurance plan.

On the other hand, the term partner has a broader range of meaning. It can mean a business partner, a close associate, or anyone who associates with someone in a common interest. In the context of life partnership, the word can be used by people who are not legally wed. It can also be used to refer to a person involved in a domestic partnership, rather than a marriage. The word can also used in lieu of “husband” or “wife”, or the other half of a homosexual relationship.

A spouse can be called a partner, but a partner cannot be automatically referred to as one’s spouse.

Comparison Board

Spouse
Partner
Basic definition Used to refer to the other half of a marriage bound by law and/or religion Someone who works in a common interest in another; also used to refer to a member of a domestic partnership or a romantic relationship
Legal implications Can avail benefits for married couples such as joint filing of tax, health insurance plan inclusions, etc. Can avail benefits for states that acknowledge domestic partnership
Usage A reference to one’s husband or wife A reference to one’s romantic partner, but can also be used by married couples

 

Venn Diagram