Just a few decades ago, it was entirely expected that when a woman got married she would take her husband’s name, and possibly spend the rest of her life being referred to as an addition to him, as Mrs. John Smith.
Well, times have changed, but we’re still not sure just where we should go next with name changing.
Let’s be honest, we are not living in the same society that we were 50 years ago. Even 10 years ago, the world was an entirely different place. Women have gone from being property bought and sold with livestock to being valued and equal members of society. This is how it should be, and we all know it. But there are some traditions, and expectations, that women just can’t shake, and one of the major ones is changing your name after marriage.
It seems that every time the debate comes up, claws come out. Some women can’t understand what the big deal is with a simple name change, isn’t it indicative that you’re committed to your family and your husband? Others feel that their name is a part of their identity and that giving it up is no different to giving up their individuality to become nothing more than a ‘wife’.
Let’s look at both sides, and see if we can figure it out.
Why You Shouldn’t Keep Your Name
We’ll start with what certainly appears to be the unpopular opinion among modern women: giving up your name and taking your husband’s name. For some women, this is the option that makes the most sense. It’s not always because it’s traditional, but rather because it can make some things easier.
One reason women are often drawn into taking their partner’s last name is their children. Many mothers don’t like the idea that they might have a different name from their children, and there have been cases where issues have arisen from this, particularly when it comes to international travel. Obviously, this is something that partners will need to discuss together, with some feeling that the same last name helps to create a sense of family unity.
But in reality, there are a lot of reasons you might choose to give up your name. You might have never liked your last name, or you might feel that your partner’s surname fits better than your current one. Changing your name is also a fresh start, something that many young women look forward to when they get married.
Why You Should Keep Your Name
Now, let’s represent the other side: keeping your own name. In the end, it’s a woman’s right to keep her name when she gets married. After all, a marriage is not a company merger, and it’s not going to be less successful just because you don’t share a last name. However, you might need to put up with some expectations from society, but remember that just because it’s tradition, doesn’t mean it’s right. Bride price was a tradition for a long time too, but how often do you see that happening now?
There are so many reasons a woman might choose to keep her name when she gets married. First off, she might really like her name, or she may also really dislike her partner’s name. After all, you can love the man without being in love with his surname. Many women feel like their name is a strong part of their identity, and giving it up would mean giving up a part of that identity. There’s also a case for those women who are the last in their family that will carry that name, i.e. single child of single parents, who feel like it shouldn’t die with them.
Beyond that, the biggest reason to keep your own name is likely to be professional. People get married later in life than they ever have before, and the side effect of this is that many women have flourishing businesses and reputations based around their name. It can be a serious stress to change the name (and we aren’t even talking about the paperwork), because it means starting that reputation from scratch.
The Middle Ground
So is there a middle ground in the battle of the name, somewhere that couples can meet to sort out something that works for both of them?
Actually there are a few.
The first option, and one of the most popular, is to hyphenate both your last names. You can choose to either hyphenate your names, or simply give your children the hyphenated name and keep your original name. That way, there is a common thread, but both parents are represented equally. However, this becomes more complicated when you already have a hyphenated name. In this case, you’ll need to figure something else out, or selectively hyphenate.
The second option is that your partner takes your name. After all, women have been taking men’s names for years, why is it so difficult to imagine it going the other way?
The third option is that you take your names and mash them together. When you think about it, last names are really something of a modern invention, often so designated because of where someone lived of what they did. There’s nothing stopping you from putting together your name and your partners to make something new, something that’s unique to you and your family. It might not be the popular option now, but with no sign of the name game changing in the future, it might be soon.
You’ve heard the arguments, and both sides of the story, but the true question remains: