The Vine: January 8, 2014
My boyfriend wants me to take his last name when we get married. I don't. We are at a stalemate.
Briefly: We live 1500 miles apart. We used to date casually when I was home from university in the summers. That was over ten years ago, and we lost touch for several years. We reconnected a year ago. It's been great. But I can sense a potential landmine.
Some things that I think are important for you to know:
He's late 30s, I'm 30. We are not engaged yet, but we are planning on it in the next year or so.
Next month, I'm leaving the city I've lived in for 12 years to move back to our home state, to live together. Besides my best friend and my social circle, I'm leaving a somewhat underemployed, but still totally rewarding career in the arts, so moving means lots of networking to start getting jobs in my field again.
I already feel that he has a bigger personality than I do. Keeping my own identity separate has always been extremely important to me.
When we've talked about it, he uses the team analogy to state his case (we're going to be on the same team so we need to be wearing the same colour jersey). I am proudly feminist, so much of my reasoning against a name change is political. But also, I just don't believe we have to "show the world that I'm on his team." I am proud to be in a relationship with him, I think he's wonderful and I want to spend my life with him, but it seems so important to him that I prove it by taking his name. He doesn't want to take my name or create/pick a new name.
I like my name. Our surnames together with a hyphen sound silly; they start with the same letter as my first name. We want kids, but any name option other than his surname for future kids is totally off the table for him. I'd be willing to just give the hypothetical kids his name if he'd give in about me with my last name.
I just have no idea how to solve this. I am scared to call this a deal breaker, but I know in my heart that I do not want to change my name. He is just as firm in his belief (and this is a big shock to me, because we are quite aligned in most of our other beliefs, and very open to compromise where we disagree). I think we are both being careful not to give each other ultimatums, because we are both strong-minded. I don't need to get married; it's more important to him, but I'm totally happy to do it if we can figure this out.
As I see it, unless one of us makes the compromise, our relationship will play out in the following ways:
- 1) We break up (we don't want this)
- 2) We stay together but never marry or have kids (we don't want this)
- 3) We never marry but he's willing to have kids (he doesn't want this)
Is there a way around this that you can see? How can I show him the unfairness of expecting me to take his name?
Thank you so much for reading this,
And Why Is It HIS team, Anyway?
Oh, boy: the name-change. It brings up so much other stuff that's pretty much only tangentially related to the actual issue. I mean, it didn't for me — if you mush my husband's last name and mine together, it becomes "Bundy," which given our shared enjoyment of true-crime became a running gag during the wedding planning, but I never considered changing it and Dirk never brought it up in the first place. I have a "professional" name; I saw what my SIL went through logistically to become a legal Bunting and it's a major hassle; Dirk and I don't want children, so naming the aegis under which we all exist isn't a factor. I myself don't consider it a feminist issue, because I already have a man's last name (and middle name), and I didn't care enough to go change it to…I don't know, "Cheesebook" when I turned 18. But people have all kinds of reasons for changing or not changing when they get married, or wanting their future wives to change them, or wanting other people to do what they did so they can feel better about their own decisions, blah blah blah.
Alllll that to say that our names, what we call ourselves, how we think of ourselves and our alliances in the world, mean a lot to us, though we don't think about that meaning on a daily basis, so the strong and opposing reactions you and Boyfriend have had to it seem normal to me and I don't think either of you has to apologize for that, but at the same time that isn't even what jumps out at me in this letter. What struck me on first reading is that you haven't conducted your relationship in the same city for any length of time yet, never mind that an engagement is apparently not even imminent; it's just something under discussion. You're planning on getting engaged "in the next year or so," and I know that this is how some people do it, and my whole Aries get-drunk-and-propose short-date MO is not for everyone, but the thing is, engagement is the plan. "Engaged to be engaged," "we'll talk about it in X time" — again, it's fine to have a shared idea for that and it's not necessary to hide a ring in a dessert. Do you.
But it's also not something that, for example, you dangle in front of your long-distance GF to sweeten the "she has to move here" deal, which is kiiiiind of the vibe I get here, that when it was time to put up or shut up, you put up and agreed to pull up stakes and make a go of it in your home state, with him…if he saw it going somewhere. And he did, maybe partly because you made the compromise and he thought you would keep doing that, and now you think maybe he's inflexible, doesn't hear you, won't fight for you. Again, just spitballing here, but the bottom line is, you're both waaaaaay ahead of yourselves with this right now. You don't live together yet; you don't know how that's going to be. You're not engaged. You don't co-own property or pets. It's a bit premature to wrangle over who's changing what when you get married.
You can't unring the bell, though; you can't unknow that you don't agree on this issue and a middle way doesn't seem likely. Still: table it. You don't have to settle it today, or even in a month; don't try. Focus on your move, on adjusting to a new home and on the roommate shit couples have to go through; leave your names out of it. If you can, consider seeing a counselor, on your own or with him, to talk about your own boundaries and sense of self, and why the fact that he's a strong personality keeps coming up, and why you repeat in this letter that you don't want Us — meaning Him — encroaching on You, and whether it's possible for the two of you to accept certain things about the other and/or fight about them kindly and productively.
But the name isn't the real problem. The real problem is that you're afraid you've already given up too much in this relationship, and you don't think he respects that or cares about balancing that. You need to name that, to yourself and to him, and get right with taking a risk and trusting yourself. It's fine not to want to change your name, but both of you need to come clean about what this is really about, to wit: the fear that, in the end, you two aren't really on the same team.
…Y'all should just become the Cheesebooks, though. Come on.
Tags: boys (and girls)