Being an “Insignificant” Other

Have you ever been referred to, or introduced by, your partner as their “significant” other? Or perhaps you have heard your friends or acquaintances speaking about their “significant” other.

If a significant other is someone who has significance in your life, what, then, is an “Insignificant” other? I believe that an “insignificant” other is a woman, or man, who is in a relationship where they feel devalued, disregarded, and/or unimportant.

I came across this term when reading the obituary of Ann Birstein, a novelist. In the obituary it states “After marrying Mr. Kazin, less than two year later, she indentured herself for nearly three decades as his insignificant other.” The picture of Ann and her husband has him looking at the camera, while she looks to the side. The obituary states that Ms. Birstein was married to a powerful literary critic (Mr. Kazin) who seems to never to have expressed any appreciation, or scarcely any interest, in his wife’s writing. Thus, the term “insignificant other.” I felt sad reading about Ann’s life.

Feeling like an “insignificant” other, is a sign of unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships.

In healthy relationships, we talk and act in a way that insures that our partners feel that they are our “significant” other. It may be a good thing to check in occasionally and ask your partner how significant they are feeling. And, to ask yourself the same question.