He didn't want to fight in any war and she didn't want to have a child. They had been living together for three years and still didn't have a way to refer to each other that didn't sound stupid, false, or antiquated. Language follows change and there wasn't any language to use.
Partners in a pairbonded situation; that sounded neutral. Of course living with someone isn't a neutral situation. Julie and Joe aren't cavedwellers. They don't live together as lovers or as husband and wife.
How long would this century be called modern or, even, post-modern? Perhaps relationships between people in the l4th century were more equitable, less fantastic. Not that Julie would've wanted to have been the miller's wife, or Joe the miller.
-from "Living with Contradictions" by Lynne Tillman (1982). Hard to believe this story is as old as I am!