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The Vine: January 8, 2014

Submitted by on January 8, 2014 – 12:19 PM71 Comments

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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?

Dear His,

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.

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71 Comments »

  • J says:

    This is tough. I faced a similar dilemma 10 years ago, when I got married. I felt like I was already compromising on so many things: I moved to his town, into his house, we switched to his bank, I had to find a new job while he kept his, etc etc etc. I really felt like taking his name would be one too far in terms of losing myself to his life. He is pretty traditional, and strongly preferred that I take his name, but didn't push, and gave me space to sort things out the way I wanted to. That space seems to be what's missing with your situation. I guess none of this is particularly helpful to you, except to offer sympathy. I do agree with Sars that you have plenty of time to table this for now, and by the time this is *really* an issue, several years from now, you may have already arrived at a solution.

  • Sue says:

    I, too, saw a red flag in the moving into a new relationship without a formal understanding of where things are. You don't know, yet, and that's not necessarily a deal-breaker to everyone. It would be to me, though. I was in a similar sitch (although already living together) when BF (now husband) was offered other positions. We had to really talk through what would be involved in moving to another city and starting a new life together, and part of that was the legal/formal implications. Engagement grants you some access/powers in medical and legal situations that living together does not. And it's a significant change to move and begin a new life (professional and personal).

    Moving onto the name change – my name is fairly unusual, and I've worked hard to develop my professional and personal network. I didn't consider changing my name when I got married – I'm pretty identifiable through my last name on LinkedIn and professional networks; his last name is less so. Don't know if that's the case for you, but people can be aware that you're a team without the name uniting the two of you. It's fairly common in our creative field and with our friends that people keep their own names; I have seen people keeping their maiden name as their middle name to ease identification. This is a later and lesser issue, though – see how the move goes and how the living together is first.

    Side note that it gives my husband's family pleasure to address things to Mr & Mrs, so for them that's fine.

  • Maria says:

    Yes to Sars' analysis. I think that until you live together in the same town for a while, it's too soon to be wrestling with this. I actually did the long-distance/show up and get married thing. Don't be like me. Make sure you know what you're getting into. An awful lot can be hidden in a LDR, and you owe yourself the space to be there and be sure it's right. Little things you think you agree on can become huge things once you're together and you see that you meant different things when you said the same words. You have a lot of doubts about being consumed here, and that is what you should get working on. I know that being 30 has a lot to do with the feeling that it is TIME, but you know what they say…marry in haste, repent at leisure.

  • Kelly says:

    Obvious lead-off: Bunting's right about everything.

    I just wanted to reiterate the "tabling for now" idea. I have a feeling this seems important because, either for one or both of you, it speaks to bigger issues and bigger differences than you maybe realized you two had. But I think your first few months of living together will give you both a better idea of how you compromise on things, make decisions together, etc. There will be so many decisions to be made if you share your lives, boring decisions, legal decisions, money decisions, important and unimportant decisions. It's very possible you'll drive each other bonkers for a few months and come out the other end of it stronger and with a much better idea of who the other person is. Once you've started making all sorts of decisions together all the time, I think it will be easier to come back to this one and understand better where the other person is coming from. It's very possible he's just never considered that his wife would have a different last name from him, and he needs some real time to get used to the idea. (I could say something here about the weird wiring of the male brain needing a Long Time to come to grips with an idea, but that would be aimlessly sexist.) Try not to make this thing, though it is an important thing, into The Thing. There will be plenty of things. I'll stop saying thing now. (For the record, laziness was the reason I didn't bother changing my name – when I looked into it, it just seemed hard and neither of us cared enough to bother. Add in making sure professional connections still know who you are/how to find you, blah blah blah, and there are some very practical, unemotional and apolitical reasons that it doesn't always make sense.)

  • Elizabeth says:

    I recognize the value in what everyone is saying about tabling this — I thought this part from Sars was particularly apt:

    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.

    … but I have to say, it just really raises my hackles for someone to think they can tell you what your name should be.

    He gets to choose, too: he can choose, for example, whether he cares more about you two having the same last name or about keeping his own. But it would bother me very much if my partner felt like he should have a say in what name is, and if I didn't feel like he was willing to understand and really engage with why that bothered me so much… well, for me personally, that would be a deal-breaker. YMMV.

  • Yoshi says:

    My fiancée (we're both women) was deadset on our having the same last name. I appreciated her reasons but didn't want to change my name. We tried lots of blended names and whatnot, but nothing worked for both of us, and in the end she decided to take my name. It works for both of us: she gets the sense of unity and family identity that she wants; I get to keep my name but my feel like I'm blocking her from having something she really cares about. I know it's easier to discuss the other partner changing her name instead because we're both women and there isn't the patriarchal name tradition influencing our opinions; but it just seems like if what he really wants is for you to have the same name, he could… just take yours. There is nothing standing in his way except a cultural habit.

    But also: worry about sharing a post code before you worry about sharing a name. For serious.

  • IsisUptown says:

    I agree with Sars' advice.

    Some young friends of mine just got engaged; the man has both parents' surnames, hyphenates, let's say "Johnson-Merkel". The woman has just one surname, let's say "Rodriguez." Although I understand they aren't planning to have children, I'm enjoying imaging what a child's surname might be. "Johnson-Rodriguez"? "Johnson-Merkel"? "Johnson-Rodriguez-Merkel"?

  • Jane D'oh says:

    Given that I was previously married to a man who sounds a whole lot like your boyfriend, I can't even pretend to be unbiased. However, my instinct stays that you should think really hard about your path ahead. You're leaving your best friend, social circle, and a career, then you're going to try to reestablish yourself with a new life with a man who has a "bigger personality" than you? Trying to set up a new set of friends and career is already incredibly fraught, and then you're going to have to try to balance this out with trying to learn what it's like to live with this big personality. I really don't see this working out well. In my previous marriage, I never realized how every time I thought we were compromising, I was actually just giving into what Mr. Big Personality wanted and calling it a compromise. I'm not saying that this is what is happening in your situation, but you might want to think about it.

    As to your specific question, have you considered that you can have one legal name and go by a different one socially? I use a different name for business than the name I use socially, it works out fine. Also, I legally changed my middle name when I was married the first time, and it's been awesome. I dropped my original middle name and took my maiden name as my middle name, and I lurve it.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I wasn't going to change my name when I got married, but it was important to my husband, so I offered to hyphenate, and he happily went with that. (He recently sweetly confessed that he loves watching me sign restaurant tabs with "our" name and I got all mushy.) I asked him if he'd hyphenate too, but he's a Name Name the 2nd and didn't want to mess that up and I was fine with that.

    However, this isn't your problem. Along with Sars' excellent as usual advice, Kelly said this:

    . "I have a feeling this seems important because, either for one or both of you, it speaks to bigger issues and bigger differences than you maybe realized you two had."

    And I think this is the heart of the issue.

    The fact that you two have had the essence, the roux of your relationship so far, as your only long term experience of that relationship, and the idea of combining the pots and pans and dirty socks of everyday warts-and-all life is freaking you both out. So you've latched onto this name thing, both as a distraction and to make the whole thing seem more legit–"Yeah, I'm giving up X,Y and Z, but we're getting MARRIED!"

    You're not getting married yet. You really haven't even figured out if you want to. I mean, you want to, you want to be together, but you haven't experienced each other 24-7, and you're afraid you'll be swallowed up, and he's got his own fears, and the fears are making you wonder if all this isn't a HUGE MISTAKE OH GOD, so the name thing becomes a place to hang your anxieties hat.

    It's okay to take this a step at a time. It's okay to have your own place for a while when you move. It's okay if it doesn't work out, and it's fabulous if it does. I have a feeling that the stiff-neck-edness of this will unkink of its own accord, at least partially, once both of you have done the work of re-establishing your identities.

    All that said…

    There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep your own name or wanting to go by Ms. It is a feminist issue, and it is an important choice. Don't let anybody talk/wear you out of one of the most important pieces of your identity.

  • jennie says:

    *I* would like to become the Cheesebooks. I think Sarah's right – I get the sense that you feel like your entire identity is being obliterated, kind of: you're giving up your career, your home, being near your friends. All this and your name too? And, you know, maybe in real life it's not as dramatic as all that, but it's a not-insignificant deal and a lot of change all at once and it's easy for it to get torqued up to that level pretty quickly, even if it's only in your head. Or even if it's not.

    Friends I know who've found themselves in this situation have handled it by trading off other things, sort of "I'll change my name if you grit your teeth through a church service" style. Or… "You move halfway across the country and I'll give up this thing I have about you changing your name." As a random example. All the things can't be equally important and uncompromisable to one party. If they are, that's not a partnership, that's… I don't know. But you'll figure out what's too important to you to compromise on, and what you're willing to live with, and how much of either is too much. Good luck.

  • Heatherkay says:

    If he says that his real impulse is that everyone should have the same name,and he also says that he doesn't want to take your name or create/pick a new name, then his real impulse ISN'T that you all of the same name. His REAL impulse is that you have his name. That's what he's said to you. Really consider if that's the relationship you want.

  • Clover says:

    Amen to everything everyone else has said about taking your sweet time and spending some time in closer proximity before making anything official.

    I'm just gonna put this out there, and I could be wrong. But a strong belief that a woman SHOULD take a man's name at marriage kind of doesn't exist in a vacuum most of the time. That kind of belief tends to fall along certain lines regarding tradition, gender roles, and similar kettles of fish. I'd worry about what other thing a man who believes this also believes. Does he believe the wife should stay home with the kids? Does he believe the title to the house should be in his name? Does he believe holidays are spent with his family? Does he believe his wife should cook dinner for him? I'd want to scratch those surfaces, if this were me.

    I took my husband's name because I think it's a nicer name, but it was my choice. If he'd been adamant about it, I'd have been really uncomfortable with that, and I would've worried about what else he might have adamant feelings about.

    Strange but true: his first wife, with whom he had two children, did NOT take his name. So he, the kids, and I all have the same last name, and the kids' mom has a different one. Since the kids and I have the same coloring and similar features, I'm often assumed to be the mom, and their mom is assumed to be the stepmom (or, once, in a really weird instance, my female partner–awkward!).

  • attica says:

    I'm going to side with the team that thinks his intransigence on this question will manifest itself in other areas of your relationship ere long. I'm not optimistic for you, I'm sorry to say. I do agree it's too soon to freak out over it, but it's a big enough data point to inform you going forward. Keep your eyes peeled.

    I have a friend who, when getting hitched, came to the Name Question. The Bride-to-be thought that his friends were objectionable, and didn't want them to be invited to the wedding (…yeah.) She attached inviting them to her taking his name: she would remain HerName if he insisted they be invited, she would take HisName if he relented and snubbed them. When I suggested he call her bluff and invite them, he looked at me as if I were from another planet. There was NOWAYNOHOW he was going to marry somebody who didn't take HisName, however dastardly he considered her ransom. He relented, the buddies were snubbed. That marriage didn't work out, surprise!

  • drsue says:

    When i got married 8 years ago we were both 35 years old. I didn't want to change my name for several reasons, 1) my name (Slechta) is uncommon and interesting, and his (Stevenson) is very common, and pretty dull. 2) I had earned my PhD with my own name and it really chapped my ass to think of people calling me "Dr. Stevenson". 3) I really don't see the point of the whole thing.

    My situation was similar to J's. We live in my husband's home town, a mile away from his parents (who are NOT easy to deal with) and his flat out refusal to move out of state caused me to move back here from 2 other positions out of state. I felt i compromised enough on our lives together so i felt this wasn't too much to ask.

    My husband didn't push me on the matter, i know he would have LIKED me to do it, but i just couldn't. I told him he could change his name to mine if he REALLY wanted to have the same last name, and he bloviated about "tradition" etc. but i was firm and he realized i wasn't changing my mind. He still feels he needs to explain to people about my different last name and professional publications etc., even if that was only part of the reason. I also don't get my panties in a twist if people send things to "the Stevensons", even MY mother and aunt do it all the time.

    My younger sister, who DID change her name when she got married, is now spending a ton of time and money trying to undo it now that she has gotten a divorce. Nobody likes to think about the possibility that their marriage won't be successful, but it does happen and if i were to get divorced i certainly wouldn't want to keep the name of the man I no longer shared a life with.

    We don't have kids so that issue hasn't come up.

    I also have some friends who not only have their original family names, but the husband is Icelandic so their kids surnames are based on the Icelandic tradition xxxsson, and xxxxdotter with the xxxx being the father's name. They manage to still maintain a family unit with 4 different last names.

    You can be on the same team without having the same last name.

  • What Elizabeth said. Your partner gets to express an opinion, but getting married gives your partner no say in the name by which you choose to be identified for the rest of your life. And I'm saying that as someone who did change her name on marriage. If my spouse had been insistent about it, I would have refused (and would probably have called the whole thing quits). Names have power, and trying to control another person's name is NOT COOL.

  • Miss Sparrow says:

    @IsisUptown: this is what happened with my sister and her husband–she kept her last name, he has two, kid has her name hyphenated with one of dad's. Seems to work out just fine!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    "I also don't get my panties in a twist if people send things to "the Stevensons", even MY mother and aunt do it all the time."

    For whatever reason, people tend to err on the side of addressing him as "Mr. Bunting," but the occasional "Mrs. Birthworthy," who cares.

  • Angharad says:

    Something that sticks out to me a bit is the age difference going on here. It's not so much the 30/late 30s as it is the late teens/late twenties the first time you guys dated. I know that I changed a lot through college and my early twenties, becoming more secure in myself and what I believed, and I'd hesitate to reconnect with anyone I dated prior to that point in time. It sounds a bit like there might be some disconnect, even with a year of long-distance dating, between who you've become and how he sees you. If he's still thinking of you as someone who'll always give in to what he wants, or someone who isn't quite an adult yet and doesn't have fully-formed opinions on anything, the relationship won't work.

    And if it really is just the name thing, I'll point out that there are plenty of cultures in which the woman never changes her last name. I got a bit nerdy about naming conventions a few years back and was interested to find that it's nowhere close to a global thing that a woman must take her husband's name.

  • Chesh says:

    Ugh, if this was about "being on the same team," he'd happily take your name. If he doesn't want to do that, but also considers your feelings about your name equally as valid as his feelings about his name, he'd let it go entirely. But no: he thinks he should get his way, regardless of what you want. I'd call that a red flag–you're already uprooting your life for this guy and he won't compromise on this thing that really only affects you?

  • StatMom says:

    Your reasons for wanting to keep your name as is are ideological/philosophical. But let me add some practical reasons. As Sars said, the legal bit can be a real pain in the ass. Every time I need to prove my identity (i.e., when a birth certificate is required), I also need to present proof of marriage as to why my name is no longer the same as it was when I was born. It just so happens that our official marriage documentation looks sketchy. The local authority where we were married has partially hand-written documents with some odd-sounding labels. Not the most earth-shaking reasons, I suppose, but trips to the DMV are bad enough without always needing extra documentation and a consultation with the higher ups. ("Yes, look! There's the raised seal thingy!")

  • Morgan says:

    I'm a slightly militant feminist and yet I did change my name, and it was a pain in the butt, dealing with all the paperwork. (4 years in and I still have at least one bill in my old name.) It was important (although very much *not* a dealbreaker) to my husband, but I did it mainly for selfish reasons – in part to be the only Morgan T**** in the entire world. (How rarely does that happen? That your name can literally be that unique?) If he had pushed hard, or frankly done much more than talk through his thoughts and listen to my thoughts, I'd have refused on general principles.

    I used to be engaged to a guy who flat out insisted that when we marry, I take his name. He also insisted on a lot of other patriarchal bullshit, and I worry for you that the two might be connected. I nth the suggestion that you spend time living with him before over-stressing these kind of details. Borrowing trouble from the future isn't always helpful.

  • S says:

    There are those that subscribe to the "Policy of Joint Agreement"…that is, don't do anything as married couple without both of you being enthusiastic about it. The reasoning is that the resentment for having to do something (change your name) lasts much longer than the resentment for the other person for you to not do it.
    And the default is to do nothing (e.g., not change your name).

  • MizShrew says:

    The fact that he's NOT willing to change his name while insisting you be willing to change yours would piss me off immensely if I were in your shoes. But of course, Sars is right on. Test the waters of the in-person relationship first. The name issue is a red flag for the kind of stuff you should watch out for.

    Hopefully, when you're living together, he'll become more invested in your views, and the idea of YOU being with him will become more important than someone who becomes Mrs. Guyname. But don't let him tell you that the name change is not a big deal. It's part of who you are, and he needs to respect that.

  • Kerry says:

    I just want to agree with everyone else here. Has there ever been such across-the-board unanimity before?

    It's YOUR name. He's allowed to have an opinion, and to even have a strong opinion: but ultimately, it's YOUR name, and he needs to respect whatever YOU want to do with it.

  • karen says:

    I read this article in some terrible blog and the author kept referring to "Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton".

    That gave me a chuckle, because it made it clear how TERRIFIED he was of her. Not saying that your BF is a right wing blogger, His, but you know same concept.

    Adults get to be called whatever they want, and if it was all about being the "team" he'd be cool with being Mr. Cheesebook.

  • Carrie Ann says:

    I totally agree with HeatherKay above. It's not the SAME name–the ultimatum you're afraid of is HIS name or no marriage. If you're right, then he's showing you that he cares more about control/tradition/public appearance than he does about having a life with you.

    My feeling about it is that the person whose name is being changed is more affected by the decision and therefore has the ultimate say. The other spouse is free to express their feelings, but that's as far as it should go. I would feel that any potential spouse who would try to force/strongly coerce their intended into changing their name against their wishes ultimately doesn't respect them as an equal. Especially if it comes at the cost of the relationship. At that point, it seems like a control issue at worst, or a critical difference in values at best.

  • Cimorene says:

    Not saying that you should dump him or anything, but if I were a betting gal I would feel comfortable putting money down that this relationship will not work. He is not willing to compromise, he's only willing to make you do what he wants and then accuse you of inflexibility when you don't want to do what he says. It's not so much that he really wants you to take his name–though I will admit to being suspicious of men who feel Strongly about Upholding Patriarchal Traditions–so much as the way he tries to convince you is so creepy and gross. It's like, the fact that he uses the "teamwork/we're a unit/family" thing as an explanation–proof, evidence, legitimation–for why you should change your name. But it's so obviously not that. If it were about being a unit, then he would happily take your name, as your reasons for not changing your name are about your ideology and your politics (which, when it comes to feminism, tend to be about how we live our lives and what we value and so on).

    My point is that he's lying to you (probably to himself, too, but that doesn't make it ok). He's lying to you in order to emotionally manipulate you. That is what it's called when someone lies to you and suggests that you're less committed to the relationship than he is (not wanting to be a unit and all that). This is like the biggest red flag any dude could ever wave.

    Also, what if you have a daughter with this dude? Would you want a daughter to learn from your relationship that it's appropriate for a man/father to get what he wants at the expense of what his wife finds important? Do you actually have the kind of relationship you'd want to model for your hypothetical daughter? Or your hypothetical son–would you want your son to, eventually, get in a relationship with a feminist only to watch him refuse to budge on something as important to her as your name is important to you? Because things like changing names–these things teach our children how to be in the world, what is right and common and appropriate and good. And normal. This behavior is normal for your dude. Do you want to have children who think this kind of behavior is normal or good?

    I suggest thinking long and hard about giving up your network, fulfilling job, and friends, to move to a city with a dude who's cool with you giving up your identity (professional, geographical, nomenclatural) without ever giving an inch of his.

  • Barb says:

    How curious.
    The New York Yankees ARE a team, but don't share a last name.
    That is true of every college and professional team I can think of.

    So being on the same team does NOT mean you should or must have the same name. I know i am being nit-picky about this, but his very best reason for his insistence ( on his last name) is. well. nonsense.

  • RC says:

    I would never change my name, and any man who insisted I do would be out the door like *that*, and only partly because I am actually the only one of me in the US (there's somebody who spells her name with a Ch instead of a K who apparently posed for Maxim and who irritatingly comes up if you Google me without quotes… also a woman from Australia messaged me on Facebook once all "hey my married name is the same as your name [even though I'm on Facebook with a different name]!" and I was like "ha ha ha neeeeat… [grr you know that doesn't count, this is MY name, yo]"… this parenthetical got away from me). I second, third, whatever, everything that everyone else said, especially about his attitude being a red flag/symptom of something larger. It's not about "the team." It's about HIS "team." You don't want to wear, say, orange jerseys (as an example that would look horrible on me personally), and he refuses to use your colors or pick something more flattering together. It's one thing to *want* to change your name, but he's imposing an identity on you when you strongly feel otherwise… so what else will he try to impose on you and your life together? (and from your letter: a lot, it seems) Think about it, all of it: the relationship, and what you want, and what's important to you. Take your time, and don't let him force you to do anything you don't want to do, because that is a recipe for a resentful marriage, IMO.

    And for what it's worth, as someone who has done it and regretted it, I would strongly discourage going straight from long-distance to living together, if you can financially get around it. It absolutely can cloud your feelings/make you ignore things you should have just dealt with 6 years ago/sunk costs/etc etc. YMMV, of course, and I hope yours does. Good luck with everything!

  • Jennifer says:

    I would flat out dump a guy who categorically demanded that I take his name. It is 2014. I am not a cow, and you cannot brand me in the ass as your property. Just because YOU got born with the almighty penis does not mean you get to own me or get dibs on me or are superior to me or get to force me to join your "team." The law doesn't force you to take his name and you don't bloody have to, period.

    I do second the other people here who strongly suspect that a guy who's this demanding and uncompromising and traditional is going to be like that for a LOT of things about marriage, and getting his way, and you already seem to feel that he's a dominating personality as is. I think at best you need to proceed with caution here, but it does worry me that you're giving up everything to move to him, which gives him the upper hand if he is the kind of guy who always has the upper hand or wants it.

    As Heatherkay put it: "His REAL impulse is that you have his name. That's what he's said to you. Really consider if that's the relationship you want."

  • M. Nightingale says:

    "Nightingale" is my real last name; I didn't change it when I got married; it was the correct choice for me.

    I have some kids in my life who got really upset when they figured out I have a different last name than my husband. They asked me "How do you know you're married, then?" I told them that if I didn't know I was married just because spouse and I have different last names then I had bigger problems to worry about. Same thing here, if the two of you don't know you're on the same team because of different last names, you have bigger problems.

  • ferretrick says:

    I agree with Sars' take that the name issue is just a symptom of the real questions here and think you should give the bigger picture a lot of thought. Not that you shouldn't get engaged or married, but think about the larger issue.

    FWIW, though, on the name issue-i have a close friend who kept her name when she married. It was an important feminist issue to her at the time, and her husband supported her. Ten plus years later, they have kids, she's still a feminist, a good one, but not as passionate about this issue as she used to be and she's found that not having the same last name as her husband and kids is a massive pain in the ass not really worth it. People ask her nosy questions, mail comes addressed to the wrong last name, school forms and legal matters are a nuisance, etc. She wishes she had just changed it.

  • Nicole says:

    Long time married gal – I took my husband's name for a very practical reason – it moved me up the alphabet. I was always at the end in grade school and HATED it. One year, I didn't even get the same textbook because they ran out. Had I gotten married after I started my career, I may not have changed my name. But, like everyone else said, it was my choice. He didn't pressure me – he actually probably would have preferred we pick a totally different last name but I did not want to go through the choosing process. A wedding involves enough choices. As for kids and teams – anyone who has kids in school can tell that there is every possible combination of surnames. I know a set of twins – one who has mom's last name and one who has dad's. In this day and age, people roll with it.

    One thing I would caution you on – right after I was married, I moved cross-country with my new husband. It was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. We were both in post-grad programs and I transferred to be with him. I gave up everything you mentioned and I resented the hell out of it for years because things did not go well for me in the new place. It almost destroyed our marriage. Before you upend your whole life, you should really think about what is going to happen if things don't work out. Can you find a job? Live on your own? Make friends there? Or are you going to be forced to stay in a less than ideal relationship because of lack of options?

  • Georgia says:

    @karen, Re: Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton, I remember once, as a kid, cracking up over a piece of mail that came addressed to "Mrs. Charles Mylastname," and telling my dad that someone thought he was a woman. I was deeply disappointed (and bewildered) to learn that, actually, it just meant the mail was for my mom.

  • IsisUptown says:

    I didn't take my husband's last name, and we get mail addressed all kinds of ways – Mr. & Mrs. HisLastName, Mr. & Mrs. MyLastName, Osiris & Isis HisLastName, Osiris & Isis MyLastName. We don't care.

    The only time it's an issue is when his generous and very old grandmother gives me checks – she misspells my first name (it's unusual) and uses his (and her) last name. I have to alter the first name on the check, then endorse it with both last names.

    When it looked as if my son (he's from my previous marriage) was going to be getting married, I assumed the woman would keep her own family name, but did jokingly suggest they combine surnames, as doing so would make the name "Walkerree." Since that relationship has since ended, so have the chances for that cool surname.

  • Cora says:

    As I was reading your letter, I said to myself, "Table it," and then read Sars' same words. Here's the point of it, though: okay, you and he agree to table it. Can both of you stick to that? The answer to that question is part of the real answer of whether you and he can make it. You say you're both strong-minded. If you agree to table it until X date or when X issue arises, and then either one of you breaks that agreement, that's a violation of trust. I know that sounds like an overreaction, but it's not. One thing I know from seventeen years of marriage is that you must be able to trust each other's word, no matter how small the issue, because that demonstrates respect. You can love each all you want, but if you don't have trust and respect, you will not have a viable marriage.

  • Kemmi says:

    My mum kept her name, so I grew up thinking that was more natural a thing that happened when you got married than not.

    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).

    If he wanted to be on the same team, he'd be willing to think about changing his name. He wants you to be on *his* team. And he has a lot of culture telling him that he *is* his name– that his name is *his* name- but a woman's name isn't really hers– it's her husband's, her father's. On some level, he doesn't think that you giving up your name matters, not like his does, because it's not really yours. It's a placeholder.

    Which, I suspect, a lot of men feel on some level, because that's how we've been culturally conditioned to feel, but you know what? When they're confronted with that, they should be embarrassed about feeling that way.

    For what it's worth, my mum kept her name, I (and my brothers) got my dad's. My dad's sister did the same (kid's have her husband's name, she has her own). My dad's cousin kept her name, and her kids also got her name, for reasons that are possibly political, but are more likely personal. My best friend got a hyphen. I know a couple that literally tossed a coin on it (she took his). When one of my friend's got married, she was really stressed about it, because she did want them to present as a unit, but her name mattered a lot to her, because she and her mother had reclaimed it– got their name changed by deed poll to her mum's maiden name, away from her (horrible, toxic, vile) father's.

    So her fiance thought about it, and in the end, they both took her name.

    The issue isn't, in the end, what name you end up having. It's that he can't think of it being anything other than his decision. Eitehr you take his name or… there is no or. He can't accept other options, and he needs you to proved that you're "on his team", but honestly, he's not on yours and I'm not convinced that he thinks it's his job to be on your team as much as it's your job to be on his.

  • Kemmi says:

    @M. Nightingale I envy your last name. My name just means "middle class person whose ancestors used pretentious spelling."

    The only positive of having such a common family name is that I'm virtually impossible to google.

  • RJ says:

    I will add that before any naming decisions are made, you'd do well to discover the process in your local jurisdiction. I think it may be done at a state level in the US, but there are different rules as far as what name change you can make due to marriage, versus what name change has to be done by court order. I was able to change my middle name to my maiden name, but some states will not allow you to change your middle name without going through the court process. The same may apply for merged names, or for the husband changing his at all. Not that it can't be done, but it could be more cumbersome than a regular marriage name change.

    I would have mildly preferred to keep my name just because I got married in my 40s, but my husband really wanted me to take his name. He didn't insist on it though. And in the end, he was the one who relocated to be with me, who had to find a new job, who had to suck it up and deal with the Catholic marriage counseling and ceremony, so I felt like this was a reasonable concession for me to make.

  • Marie says:

    I grew up in a very traditional family and never considered not changing my name when I got married UNTIL, upon finding out I was engaged, one of my mentors looked at me very seriously and said "You know, if you don't change your name, no one can ever take it away from you." That struck me as very profound and thus, no name change.

  • Jen S. 2.0 says:

    Agree with the Nation so much; it's your decision, period, full stop.

    His announcing (in 2014, to a grown-ass woman, whom he purports to love) that his opinion about a decision that is yours alone is the only opinion that needs to be considered is a capital-P Problem.

    I'd also love to hear his good reasons about why he won't take your name. On what planet is his not wanting to change his name more important than your not wanting to change your name?

    I'm single with no prospects in my late 30s, so I may never need to face this issue, but my feeling on it for me always has been that I'll take his name if I like it and I won't if I don't. I'm not going to be Mrs. Awfulname, but I'll consider — consider! — being Mrs. Prettyname.

    Also, with regard to the mail issue, I've always thought that Mrs. John Doe is whoever is married to John Doe…even if her name is Jane Smith. It's not wrong to call her Mrs. John Doe; that's a title, not necessarily her name. It's like calling someone Madam President. Her name isn't Jane President.

  • Jaybird says:

    I changed my last name when I got married because a)I haaaaated my last name growing up; it was forever being mispronounced and misspelled, and b)it was near the end of the alphabet, and like Nicole above, that got old with a quickness. Taking my husband's name (Jackson) moved me up in the alphabet, removed the "Well, THAT'S a weird name" burden from my shoulders, and made me feel normal for a change (relatively speaking). Also, the traditional thing didn't bother me whatsoever.

    All that said, yeah…this looks to me like a symptom of a bigger problem, akin to that bit in "Vertigo", where Stewart's character is making over Novak's, and says, "It can't matter to YOU…" Well, obviously, it can. And does. And will. And if he doesn't seem to be listening to that, or to care, chances are there are a lot more things he won't listen to or care about, and THAT gets old with a quickness, too.

  • Kristin says:

    I agree with everyone that you should keep your name if that's what you're comfy with, and BF/future hubby needs to suck that one up. That said, you're putting the cart before the horse, I think. Move to the town, give yourselves some time to spend together that's mundane and see how compromise goes in the real daily grind. Then you'll know if this is a one-issue stubbornness on his part or an indicator that you're going to be his sidekick rather than his partner. Then you can decide whether or not that's acceptable for you.

    PS – Sars Bundy, Deadly From Every Angle sounds pretty fun to me…

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Kristin, hee. My monogram, SBD (Silent But Deadly), would stay the same, too.

  • attica says:

    Besides all the showbiz and politics people that survive marriage with differing surnames, I was recently tickled to learn that musician Jack White took his wife's name on marriage, and kept it when they divorced. His 'maiden' name was Gillis.

    Which raises (but does not beg) the question: Shouldn't we have a new term in English for a dude's original surname? Or a new unisex term entirely? "Birthname" is too broad, I think, as it includes first names or names pre-adoption, etc. We could do like the French do and go "Jack White né Gillis" but seems to me this is something Americans can do!

  • Artemesia says:

    I have been married for over 42 years to my second husband. We each kept our own names and hyphenated our kids. My daughter when she married created a new hyphenated name with her husband that they both took and gave their daughter.

    First of all, I am a big believer that each couple gets to decide. I understand that there are traditional approaches and some conveniences in having one last name and I don't criticize anyone for choosing to go that way. For me, it is about being a person and not chattel or an appendage of someone else. A man like my son in law who says — we need a family name — has a stronger case IMHO when he is willing to create a new or hyphenated family name. My name or the highway from a man, I suspect hides a bunch of other ickiness like 'I earn more money, so I get the final say.' or 'we need to move because of my job (without negotiation on that)' or 'I'm glad to help you with your work (YOUR work being the housework).

    I had one traditional marriage which was thank god brief. I worked, supported him in professional school, got my own masters and did all the housework. Enough of that.

    Keeping my own name (back when you couldn't even get a passport in your own name if you were married — we postponed our international travel until I could) was a simple statement to me that I was a human being and an equal, not someone's property.

    At 30 and with a professional presence I think it is also a lot to ask for someone to change public identities. I personally would not have married a man whose masculinity was tied up in stamping his name on me.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    "manden name"? "maidude name"?

  • lsn says:

    I kept my own name, for similar professional reasons to drsue, although my name is much more common. (My husband's surname was even more common though, so not a lot of point to changing from that perspective.) I'm fine with being called Mrs [husband's surname] or getting mail addressed to Mr and Mrs [husband's surname], mostly because it's only really elderly relatives who do that. (Oh and telemarketers – it's occasionally very useful to be able to say "no, Mrs [husband's surname] isn't here…")

    Friends of mine wanted the shared family name thing, and their compromise was that she took his surname and kept hers as a middle name, and he took her surname as a middle name. Other friends of mine went back a generation or two, picked a name that was common to both of them from there and both changed to that.

    I do agree with the advice of live in the same place first and bring it up again a bit later – but your name is important, and it is your identity and you really shouldn't change it unless it's something you absolutely want to do.

  • LizzieKath says:

    Hoo boy. When we were engaged, we talked about this, and Hubs said he'd like for us to have the same name. He and I had very similar last names – same number of letters, both ending in S, and hyphenation would have sounded ridiculous. I thought his name sounded worse with my name than mine with his, and so I took his. But he made that a point of preference, not an insistence.

    There is Sars's good point about already having a man's last name (probably, at least). When I changed my name, I decided not to keep my maiden name as my middle name because again, the two names sounded bad together. My mom later told me that made her kind of happy, because her first name is my middle name, and she liked that I kept "her" name and actually jettisoned my dad's name (my old last name). I thought it was cool and it made me feel like my new name was, for me, more feminist than the old because it was based on who I chose to spend my life with (and the lady who birthed me!) rather than the old default of Dad. Not that I don't love my dad or anything… but patriarchy and all that.

    Word to Artemisia and the others who have pointed out that your professional status matters. I got married young, after my first year of law school, so my law diploma has my new name on it and everyone in my career knows me by my new name. The only thing that doesn't match is the college degree, and that matters less now. If I had an established career, I would have at least had to keep the old last name as a pseudo-middle name and append that to everything. It would have been pretty annoying.

  • Matt says:

    "Bachelor name"? Is there a dude-side word for "maiden"?

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