Name Change Help
April 27, 2009 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I hate my married name.

I had a beautiful given name. I was the only person in the US with my name. It was phonetically easy and rolled off the tongue. I received compliments constantly. Then I got married.

At the time, my husband had what I considered a beautiful name - San Nicolas. He failed to disclose what a pita it is.

I was 45 y.o. and had never been married before. I took his name because I thought it was nice and unique. I have learned to hate it.

This name is constantly misspelled and mispronounced. I am in the military and have a 1" x 5" name tape over my right boob and yet people will still write down my name incorrectly. I get called "Saint" constantly. People always put an "h" in the middle and often drop the second "a" = Nichols. Spelling it over the phone makes my blood pressure soar. No one seems to understand the "you know, it's like San Francisco, San Diego, San Antonio" reference. The usual response is "hyphenated?" Argh!!!!

Worse yet, the Army personnel system does not recognize blank spaces. Although my ID card is correct, I just learned the pay system and security system have me named "Nicolas San." That is going to be a nightmare to fix.

I held out changing some of my personal accounts, but due to travel, I just had to change my passport, leaving my social security account and library card as the last hold outs.

I've approached my husband about returning to my maiden name several times. I've pleaded, reasoned, conjoled and attempted bribery. He steadfastly refuses to agree to a name change. I've offered to move his name over to my middle name and replace my last name. I've offered to hyphenate it, which would be even worse than now, but my thought was that I could drop the San Nicolas for all practicle purposes. All were no gos.

I need to figure out a way to convince him that I should go back to my maiden name or find a compromise. Some way that I could keep his name, but not use it.

Please help.
posted by Juicylicious to Human Relations (85 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
He steadfastly refuses to agree to a name change.

Um, hate to tell your husband this, but it's YOUR name. You can do whatever you want with it. Change it and let him sulk. It's your identity. YOURS.
posted by meerkatty at 8:01 AM on April 27, 2009 [101 favorites]


He's your husband, not your keeper. Just go ahead and change it. If keeping your current name is making you unhappy and he loves you, he'll understand. If he doesn't, you really have much larger problems.

Sorry to be so blunt, but that's how I see it.
posted by Nick Jordan at 8:02 AM on April 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've pleaded, reasoned, conjoled and attempted bribery. He steadfastly refuses to agree to a name change.

Maybe I'm too modern, but why do you need his approval to change your own name back to your given name? Is he threatening to divorce you or something astonishingly backwards like that?

What if you agreed to continue to use his name socially, and use your name only on official documents and in work-situations?
posted by muddgirl at 8:03 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has he said why he doesn't want you to change it? Does it represent some sort of commitment in his mind, perhaps? I was thinking you could trade getting a tattoo as an act of commitment in "exchange" for the name. But I agree with others that you don't need his permission to change your name back.
posted by XMLicious at 8:03 AM on April 27, 2009


Just change it. You don't need his permission.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:03 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


You've made an effort to live with your married name as your legal name, and it's not working for you. This isn't something you need permission for. I mean, yes, obviously it's not that simple, and clearly it has a lot of meaning for your husband, but if it's to the point where you're having trouble getting paid and otherwise conducting your business as an adult, your husband's macho attitude needs to change. More to the point, you don't need him to agree to the name change in order to change your name.

What if you changed your name legally to Firstname Maidenname, but used Firstname Maidenname San Nicolas socially? That way, you could be on payroll and whatever other legal documents as the "easy" name, but not totally give up San Nicolas. You could even try to do something symbolic, like have "San Nicolas" engraved on your wedding ring or another piece of jewelry you wear all the time (if you have something like that).

Maybe you could also post a little bit more about why this matters so much to your husband. My immediate reaction to your post was "Geez, why not just go ahead and change your name and tell him to deal with it? If he's being this unreasonable, he shouldn't get a say in it." But that's not really helpful to your situation. I guess I just can't imagine my partner caring so much about it. Why does he think he gets to dictate something that so clearly inconveniences and frustrates you? And why does he not mind inconveniencing and frustrating you?
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:15 AM on April 27, 2009


Agreed with the "Just change it", but also understand his perspective. Maybe he's proud that you took his name. In the United States, at least, we're sort of given this understanding that having a woman take your name is sort of. Continuing the bloodline. It feels like an obligation and an accomplishment.

This doesn't excuse his pigheadedness about this name change, but I highly doubt he's being difficult just to be difficult. It's a psychologically complex thing, I think.
posted by GilloD at 8:16 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"He steadfastly refuses to agree to a name change."

Is this because you are trying to get both of you to change your names together? If not, then I agree with the others, that you should just change it. Just because he's your husband doesn't mean he owns you.
posted by Grither at 8:17 AM on April 27, 2009


Look, I'm a guy, and that kind of patriarchal bullshit really pisses me off. Maybe the dynamic of your relationship just is this way, but it strikes me that it's your fucking name and you can change it if you want to change it and your husband may not like it but too fucking bad.
posted by kbanas at 8:18 AM on April 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Big fan of taking control of one's life here....

Your own name is your first step. It is not working out for you and this is a damned good test of how things will go when you need something critical from the spouse. Frankly, I don't consider it a good sign.

Marriage is not ownership, or at least, it shouldn't be. Hell, married or no, unless you like being controlled, treated as a child, treated as an owned object, considered incapable of making your own decisions, then I suggest you should resist.
posted by FauxScot at 8:18 AM on April 27, 2009


It will be awkward if you change it on your own, given your description of his response so far. For the sake of bliss and union, make sure he understands why you are doing it explicitly (not a rejection of him or his family).
posted by Pants! at 8:20 AM on April 27, 2009


I can simpathise, I have a name that in another culture most people spelled correctly on the first try (even though it's pronounced differently than it's written) but in the past year I moved to a different part of the country where people weren't familiar with it. It didn't take long for me to adjust and now I don't even hesitate in answering questions about my last name preemptively by saying "Lamothe, that's spelled L-A-M, O, T-H-E". I'm sure you could come up with a similar routine, much like you had to repeat your Name, rank, number every time you showed up at the instructor's door during your recruit course.

You can't expect people to know the spellings of all the names out there, and you are still getting used to your spiel, that's normal. As for your military pay, who cares whether it's A B or B A, as long as you can figure it out (and being in the military you should totally be used to the "COAT, WINTER, GREEN" way of doing things.).
posted by furtive at 8:22 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to wonder if this is only about the name. I have a name that is often mispronounced (but have learned to live with it) and told my wife that she didn't have to change her name if she didn't want too (she did anyway). Even though I am open-minded about that sort of thing, if my wife now told me she hates my name, I would be a bit taken aback.
posted by TedW at 8:24 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Two questions below:

He steadfastly refuses to agree to a name change.

1. To clarify, you're only talking about changing your name, correct?

I need to figure out a way to convince him that I should go back to my maiden name or find a compromise. .

2. Have you tried this: "Honey, this is making me unhappy and causing endless problems. Can we find a solution that will make us both happy?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remember Ulysses S Grant? He used to be Hiram Grant before the US Army had its way with his name due to error on the part of a Congressman's recommendation letter to West Point. This is serious stuff here and even now almost two hundred years later things probably haven't gotten much better.

He steadfastly refuses to agree to a name change. I've offered to move his name over to my middle name and replace my last name.

It's not really up to him is it? In the interest of good relations though it probably is important to get at least some acceptance out of him. I think you will need something more than difficulty with the name to convince him. You can imagine all the ways in which this might make him feel insulted and perhaps even question your commitment to him. It will be harder for him to counter arguments along the lines of you valuing your own family name, you being an independent woman and not wanting to submit to male hegemony, etc. In the end you will probably have to tell him that it will be done with or without his approval, but then don't rush to do it but let the idea take hold with him for some time, let him get more comfortable with the idea although during this time he may outwardly persist in his current train of thought.
posted by caddis at 8:29 AM on April 27, 2009


Lots of people use their husband's name socially, but their own name professionally. Lots of people don't change their names at all when they get married. (I didn't.) But changing your name and then changing it back -- well, I can see how that would be troubling to your husband.

After all, what you're experiencing with the new name is a nuisance at most -- it's not as if you're now on the No Fly list or have the same name as a celebrity or something. And getting married requires adjustment on both sides (or so I've heard). You joined the team, but don't want to wear the jersey any more, you want to wear your old jersey -- but you're completely committed to the new team, right? Well, I can see how it might be hard for him to fully believe that.

I am as feminist as anyone, but I think screw-him-it's-YOUR-name is not the way to look at it. You know that you don't need anyone's consent to change your name back, if you want; you just want your husband to like it. Maybe this is about more than the name -- yes/no?
posted by Methylviolet at 8:30 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Absolutely echoing others that you don't need his permission to change your own name.

However, given that your objections to the name seem to be that people frequently mistake it with Anglicized versions (rather than the loss of the previous name specifically), I'm wondering if this is in fact an issue related to different cultural background? The name might be a point of cultural pride to him, one that makes navigating bureaucratic mistakes for the sake of it seem small to him, particularly if he grew up in an atmosphere where it the name was accepted as common and natural. He might just be a hurt/confused that you aren't willing to have this attitude too.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't change the name if it is really a problem, but perhaps you should talk more and get a better understanding of what his objections are? If you can identify an underlying issue like this, it should be easier to figure out a compromise that everyone can live with.
posted by susanvance at 8:36 AM on April 27, 2009


Okay, enough already with the it's YOUR name, YOU can do whatever you want. That isn't helpful and is rather insulting. I know that I don't need his permission. However, I love my husband and I am sensetive to his feelings.

My husband is from a small island where there are a limited number of surnames. Knowing someone's surname tells you who they are, who their relatives are, and their standing in the community. Even first names are very important to them. Babies are always named after someone in the family, usually combinations of names. For example my husband's first name is a combination of his father's first name and uncle's first name. Our nephew was born last week and his name is a combination of both grandfather's names. Get it? Names are important in his culture.

This is a very important issue to him. I had no idea how emotionally connected to my maiden name I was until after I got married. I'm trying to figure out a way to comprimise so that we are both content.
posted by Juicylicious at 8:37 AM on April 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


It sounds to me like he doesn't see your problem - he's been dealing with the name all his life and seems to manage okay. The symbolism of your switching back to your maiden name is probably much more painful to him.

But yeah, I agree at the end of the day it's your identity.
posted by Dragonness at 8:41 AM on April 27, 2009


I want to add this is more than annoyance at having my new surname butchered by everyone. It's about me, my identidy. I had no idea how important my name was to me. I want it back without hurting my husband in the process.
posted by Juicylicious at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2009


I'm with Methylviolet on this. This is a very occasional nuisance, but not the big deal you're making it out to be. I'm wondering if something else is going on too.

I'm a guy who changed my name when I got married. My former name was highly uncommon (as was/is my new name). My new name is hyphenated and that has been a cause of a lot of hassles that I never used to have (no-one ever gets it right, databases can't cope, etc), but it never struck me as that big a deal. It was part of my commitment to the relationship. Admittedly, my wife made the same change/commitment, which is not the case here.

The underlying issue isn't really a practical one of the "hassles" of a name (he's had it all his life and seems to have survived unscathed I assume), but how you both feel about your names. I think that's the conversation you need to have.
posted by idb at 8:47 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it possible you're having so much trouble with the name change because your entire identity developed under your maiden name? If so, you're husband might understand this reasoning.

I ask because my adult personality developed under my married name (married young, divorced after 4 years). I kept my married name for a long time after we split because that name just felt like 'me'.

Your name can feel like an expression of your entire being - especially if you've had it for 45 years. If that might the root of your dissatisfaction, it could be a new angle in speaking with your husband.
posted by jenmakes at 8:47 AM on April 27, 2009


It sounds like a lot of your problems are coming from having a two part last name. Would dropping the 'San' and leaving the 'Nicolas' be a good compromise? (Apologies if this is a very silly idea)
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 8:48 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that my mom was only using her new husbands name "socially" until she had it changed officially many years into the relationship. Tons of everyday items from bank accounts to drivers license (actually I'm not sure on this one) allow you to use aliases (may not be the exact term) as long as you aren't impersonating someone else and it's a name you really go by. She had credit cards, bank cards, mail, utilities, all under her (not legal) married name. Explain to your husband that it would be a legal change only, mail would still come to the house addressed to Mrs San Nicolas (probably also Saint Nicolas, San Nichols, etc), telemarketers will still ask for Mrs San Nicolas, and your friends will still know you as Mrs San Nicolas. Any kids? They'll be San Nicolas. I'd go so far as to have your will or whatever changed to specify your headstone will read "San Nicolas". You'd only be known as Ms. Maiden-Name to a computer in a closest somewhere far away, and that small concession on his part is why you are proud to be called San Nicolas.
posted by syntheticfaith at 8:49 AM on April 27, 2009


If you're not willing or able to alter it without his blessing, then from what you just said it sounds like it will be far easier to change your own mind than to change his.
posted by hermitosis at 8:50 AM on April 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I need to figure out a way to convince him that I should go back to my maiden name or find a compromise. Some way that I could keep his name, but not use it.

It seems to me that the simplest way to handle this is to change your name officially to your maiden name, but use your married named socially. This isn't as hard as you're making it. My mother was named Miriam, but her brother--my uncle--always called her "Sue." And it stuck. She's been known as Sue all of her life, even though all her official documents say "Miriam." Sure, there are occasional headaches, but it's only as hard as you allow it to be.

This may not be helpful in your argument, but it's very common in Hollywood to use a married name in privacy and have a single name professionally. You're suggesting the opposite, but I don't see why that wouldn't work.

Okay, enough already with the it's YOUR name, YOU can do whatever you want. That isn't helpful and is rather insulting. I know that I don't need his permission. However, I love my husband and I am sensetive to his feelings.

I don't think anyone is doubting your love for your husband, but they're questioning the fact that he seems so immovable in an argument where compromise is the only recourse.
posted by ColdChef at 8:51 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Previously.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2009


I'm with the "just change it" crowd. I don't really see what the big deal is here. Mrs. Deadmessenger kept her name when we got married, for no other reason than the fact that if she had taken my surname it would have been pretty much a phonetic trainwreck, with the same vowel sound repeated at the end of her first name and the beginning of my surname. It would have sounded like a stutter at best, and a cough at worst.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2009


I know that I don't need his permission.

This wasn't clear from your description of "begging, pleading, cajoling, and attempting bribery." In fact, that reads as quite the opposite.

Names are important in his culture.

This was not mentioned at all in your original post.

The respondees to your question are answering in good faith to the best of their ability based on the information you provided them. There's no need to assume the tone in your followup. With that said:

I'm trying to figure out a way to comprimise so that we are both content.

If you're not willing to simply act on your own and tell him to deal with it, and I can understand why you would be reluctant to do so, then the only two people who can figure that out are you and your husband. There are some good suggestions in this thread beyond the reminders that it's your name to do with as you please, so maybe you can use some of those as a starting point for a discussion with your husband, but ultimately the answer to your question is going to come from the two of you, and not from AskMe.
posted by owtytrof at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2009 [18 favorites]


I have a difficult last name, and my wife changed from her common and easy surname to mine without issue. I even told her I wouldn't mind if she kept hers and she was almost offended at the idea. She now signs it beautifully and is very good at spelling it over the phone when she needs to. I'm not saying you're being unreasonable, but I do believe that you'll get used to it. I think once you find real pride in it, then will be be less of a chore. If your husband is intent on your keeping it as it is, then it's going to take a change of perspective, so maybe spend some time researching its history.

As for administrative problems, would he be amenable to changing it to remove the space? Sure it will look a little odd, but so what? Most names do. You can even keep the capital N if you like, but I doubt that would be helpful.
posted by monkeymadness at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2009


Knowing someone's surname tells you who they are, who their relatives are, and their standing in the community.

Names are important in his culture.

Why doesn't this apply to his appreciation of YOUR name, then? He and his name are a product of his culture, you and your name are a product of your culture. Both of you rely on this to know who you are. If he can't understand an argument based on this, then it really is about something else -- his desire to project his own culture and ideas onto you, regardless of the effect it has on you personally.
posted by hermitosis at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


What you've told us is that having your maiden name is important to you, for sentimental and emotional reasons over the fact that your married name is an inconvenience.

You have also stated that it is important to your husband that you have his name, for sentimental and traditional reasons, over any practical objections.

Your question is how you can use your married name to an extent that he is satisfied, but use your maiden name for reasons of convenience and your own satisfaction. Then you stated that the convenience is secondary to your own satisfaction.

This seems to be much more about personal satisfaction, and staking out territory, than it is about a practical concern. If your question is about how to convince him, then you know your answer -- to be able to look at him and tell him that this is about your personal satisfaction, that you value your own name as much as his, and tradition be damned, you want to strike out for a new tradition.
posted by mikeh at 8:58 AM on April 27, 2009


Names are important to him: great! So you aren't asking him to change his, and you're naming your child after his father and uncle, and using his last name for your children. You are taking his wishes into consideration. Now you're asking him to take your wishes into consideration, which is that just like his name is important to him, your name is important to you, and your family connections are important to you, and you intend to use your birth name again, because it feels more you. If you want to use his name socially, that's one compromise; you could also see about hyphenating your name.

But really, that's all you compromising on what your own name is, and very little of him compromising. Which is one way of doing things, but just make sure you know who is and isn't compromising here.
posted by jeather at 8:58 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let's try a little perspective here.

My maiden name was a nightmare--only one person in my entire life ever pronounced it correctly on their own, and most people couldn't remember how to pronounce it correctly even after several tries. I always, without exception, had to spell it out for everyone. When I got married, I thought "Hooray! I will adopt my new husband's white-bread Anglo name and all problems will be over!" Except they're not. It is a name that is exceptionally, almost laughably easy to spell, and yet I still have to spell the damn thing every single time.

The lesson here is that most people have this trouble. I think your view of the PITA-ness of your new name is skewed by having had an unusually easy maiden name. If that's all it is, and you really do like the name San Nicolas (which I think is beautiful), then give it a little time, and notice how common it is to have to deal with the spelling/pronunciation issue.

If you really just can't deal, then the simplest solution will be to use his name socially and your maiden name professionally. People do it all the time, and especially people who get married a little later in life and have already established a professional identity.
posted by HotToddy at 8:58 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless your husband looks at your passport and driver's license every day and is also in the military, what about drawing the line of compromise between documentation and actual daily usage?

In other words: You get to change your name in the areas where it will make things easier for you, everyone else continues to send Christmas cards and be introduced to Juicylicious San Nicolas.

I've been situational with last names for about eight years now for different reasons, and no one has really batted an eye.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2009


Ask him to change his name and you'll change your name to the new name. This fixes your problems and also keeps you honoring your marriage to him or whatever the reason people give for wanting to have their name changed to that of their spouse.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2009


Names are important in his culture.

More important than his wife's opinions, feelings and desires?

I hate it when one's "culture" is used as an excuse to be bullheaded (or worse).
posted by sageleaf at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2009 [16 favorites]


I want it back without hurting my husband in the process.

Evidently, you want something that you can't have. You are emotionally attached to your maiden name. Your husband is emotionally attached to your married name. These are two simple facts; there is no magical formula you're going to get from the internet that will make his emotional attachment simply disappear so that you can act on your own without anyone being hurt. Whatever you choose to do, someone is going to feel some hurt. Period.

So, a more realistic question becomes not "what can I do so there is NO pain and still get what I want?" but rather "what can I do that will help the pain of this transition become bearable?" Looking at it this way might help you consider various options in a different light. For example, can you make his name your legal MIDDLE name? So you become FirstName San Nicolas MaidenName. On a day-to-day basis, you can therefore go by FirstName MaidenName to make things easier on you, but officially you still have his name, which you can also use for more formal purposes.

My sister uses this exact convention personally/professionally -- her husband's last name is now her middle name, and this is the full name she uses when she publishes (she's a historian), while on a daily basis, her students/colleagues refer to her simply as Professor MaidenName. Is something like this possible for you?

Your husband might indeed still be hurt that you're not going to both share the exact name, and you might be hurt that he's hurt. But perhaps this is a middle ground where the pain can be minimized.
posted by scody at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


However, I love my husband and I am sensetive to his feelings.

He does not seem to be nearly as sensitive to your feelings. Is it due to machismo? When I act all hurt over something I really need to man up about, my wife's response is universally (in a mocking tone), "WAAAAAh my pussy hurts!" which is to say, he needs to man up and deal.

It's your name. It affects you primarily. It's his problem secondarily. Therefore, you override him.
posted by notsnot at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another point of clarification, please: There seems to be an unspoken implication from you that the wife takes the husband's name, yes, and that's something you're happy to do, yes? And previously you had agreed to this, correct?

I want to add this is more than annoyance at having my new surname butchered by everyone.

Ah, you're based in the South. Has your name always butchered or is a recent thing, being done by the locals, is that what's bothering you?

I want it back without hurting my husband in the process.

Maybe you need to look at this in another way. Taking his name is deeply symbolic in his culture and there may something in that which you can learn from. You are no longer just you, but part of a wider family and that definitely changes your identity.

You were 45 and never married and possibly never thinking you'd be married. You had a lot of time to just be YOU and not have to think about sharing anything or changing your identity. You don't say how long you've been married, but maybe you're still going through the process of internalizing that you're married? Is your anger over the butchering of the name related to you struggling in some other way with the changes in being married?

Rather than viewing every mis-pronunciation as problem, view it as an opportunity to declare to the world who you are now, with your fabulous new husband. Take a more positive view of, allowing you to set the tone and terms on how you deal with it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Like most people, I don't really see what the problem is with you changing your name back with or without his consent. But since it's an issue, here are some thoughts on the honest discussion you'll have to have.

- You may want to think how to approach it. Would the practical/ financial argument matter more to him or the one about identity? If the practical, I'd suggest not bringing up the difficulty of spelling the name. Screwing up the US Army payroll database is a much more convincing reason than having to spell it out on the phone which he's dealt with all his life.

- If he is from a culture where names are important, you're an individual for whom your birth name is important. He should be able to understand that: after all, by now you've left a name trail 45 years long and one that reaches back to your ancestors.

- What are the problems from his point of view? Is he concerned that his name won't pass to his children? (Reassure or discuss as needed) That his friends and family will ask questions? (They may not have to find out, or they can be told you keep your maiden name as a middle name or for work. There are probably countless face-saving ways to deal with a problem that isn't worth a confrontation)

- The best compromise really does seem to me to use his name as a middle name, and let his friends and family think that's the name you go by.

- And finally, aside from issues of identity, is it really worth the name change? By the sound of it, you'll have a problem cleaning up the army databases anyway. Your passport is changed. Once you're used to the PITA of spelling out 'San Nicolas' for official purposes, maybe it's better to just retain your birthname as your middle name (rather as others use their nicknames) and consider San Nicolas the equivalent of a social security number: something that is associated with you, but has nothing to do with your identity.

Good luck.
posted by tavegyl at 9:08 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


He steadfastly refuses to agree to a name change.

What the bloodclot? It's a last name. Who really gives a fuck. Well, your husband I suppose.

A compromise might be to change it legally, to avoid some of your headaches, but still go by his last name informally.
posted by chunking express at 9:08 AM on April 27, 2009


I agree with ColdChef. You could legally change your name back to your maiden name for your job purposes. But you could continue using your married name when you are with family and friends. It's true your name wouldn't legally be the same as your husband's, but that's just it. It's a legal construct and doesn't have much to do with what you consider to be your real name (unless you let it). People will call you whatever name you tell them to call you. If people find out that that isn't your legal name, just tell the truth that for job reasons you didn't take your husband's name professionally. Lots of people do this (my mother's friends both work at the same place, and are both doctors. To simplify things, the wife uses her maiden name at work so when people refer to Dr. So-and-So, it's less confusing).

I understand that your husband is very attached to his name. But it sounds like you are asking for ideas for a compromise with someone who does not want to compromise. All the common solutions of using his name as your middle name, etc. seem to be shot down. People are not trying to insult you, they are just stating a fact -- it's your name.
posted by bluefly at 9:17 AM on April 27, 2009


IN this day of tons of divorces i can see why he doesnt want you to change it.He probably sees it as the first step to a divorce.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:19 AM on April 27, 2009


My great-grandfather's surname was van Poppel, yet on nearly all documents it is VanPoppel, sometimes Vanpoppel. This is a centuries old issue with these types of names. If the Army can't deal with the space, just squish it together like everyone else does. You know what the real name is- it doesn't matter what's on your paystub.

I have to explain my first and last name to everyone- they are both common, 3-5 letter English nouns that no one seems capable of getting right. But spelling them for everyone is just part of having a unique name that no one else does, so that overrides the occasional annoyance.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2009


"My husband is from a small island where there are a limited number of surnames. Knowing someone's surname tells you who they are, who their relatives are, and their standing in the community. Even first names are very important to them.... Get it? Names are important in his culture."

I agree with those who suggest you use his name socially and your maiden name for "business" activities where you feel that is necessary. If you subscribe to magazines, introduce yourself to neighbors and new friends, make dinner reservations, etc. you can use your married name. On the job and in other arenas, go with your maiden name.

By the way, I have to say: Wow, over a dozen people took the time to answer your question using only the information you decided to provide in your original post, and you responded in a most ungrateful and churlish manner.
posted by Piscean at 9:30 AM on April 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


I guess the question I still have is, "If people got San Nicolas right would you still want to change your name?"

I have what I think is an easy name, but every one manages to get it wrong the first time.

It seems to me you are phrasing a great deal of this in terms of it being a big hassle, when just about any name has some sort of hassle attached to it. I bet yours did too, you were just used to it. If it's really is just an issue of hassle, you might want to think about getting over it. Normally people that get married are willing to put up with a bit of hassle to be with the person they love. And don't think for a minute that there is going to be absolutely no hassle with being married to a person whose name you don't share. Everyone will assume you share the same name and you'll get a bunch of official stuff made out the wrong names. Or at least my friends in a non-shared-name-married-situation do....

So, lets assume the real reason isn't spelling it. It is an issue of personal identification and how you view yourself, that's a whole different bag of worms. I think you need to figure out where the line is between the two name options is. Are you willing to just use yours professionally and his personally?... Do you still want to use yours personally? You ought to figure out were you stand on this, and why you stand where you do in order to best convey your feelings to him.

I'd also consider why you are attached to that name. A name does not define you unless you let it. What is your maiden name to you? (and don't say hassle free). It sounds to me like you either consciously or unconsciously see it is your independence as a long time single woman and letting go of it is too much like losing that independence. If I was your husband I'd be a bit worried about the marriage if that is the case. On the other hand if it holds some strong culture identity for you, or some strong family identity you might be able to make a case because that sounds like something your husband understands. But do not go around telling him that if it's not the truth. You need to be completely honest with him and with yourself.
posted by magikker at 9:37 AM on April 27, 2009


Oh, sorry, I read too fast -- I see that my suggestion (move his last name to your middle name) is one of the solutions you've already made, which he's rejected.

Increasingly, I think the issue becomes more how you can do what you want with your name, AND help him save face at the same time with friends/family who would have questions. This might be a tricky balance, but I think it's the only realistic option, given that there is no button you can simply hit that will override the deep social/cultural/familial importance names hold for him so that you can go back to your maiden name without any hurt involved.

If the problem continues to be intractable, have you tried seeing a counselor (together) about it?
posted by scody at 9:40 AM on April 27, 2009


Another thought: How has this been handled before in his culture, is there some official comprise?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:51 AM on April 27, 2009


How long have you been married?

If you only recently got married (say, in the past few years), then your sense of lacking identity with it might just be because of the recent change. 45 years is quite a while for someone to go with one name and then suddenly change it. It can be pretty jarring to realize the extent to which your personality is wrapped up in a few little letters on a birth certificate. It can also be jarring if you suddenly deal with issues you never realize you would have -- like having to spell your name and deal with forms of ignorance.

But, at the same time... Every name is hard to spell, for someone. Every name leads someone to ask for pronunciation advice. I'm willing to bet that you're sugar-coating the past a little bit--are you really saying that no one ever needed help with your maiden name, that never was it spelled wrong on forms, that you never had trouble spelling it over the phone? Because I have had several last names throughout my life, and I strongly maintain that no name can go unmangled, that everyone deals with the stupid spelling/pronunciation issues.

It seems like the matter is that these issues are new, and every time you have to deal with someone getting your name wrong, you are harshly reminded of how your name used to be and how it isn't any more. It's really easy to see your identity as closely related to your name, and to feel removed from yourself when it changes. Especially if the name-change is corresponding with a rather large lifestyle change, it can make you feel like you're losing yourself to have a different name.

But, as someone who has had names she hated and names she loved, I can guarantee you: you get used to it. With time, the stupid little ways that you have to deal with people getting your new name wrong start to feel like home. It becomes part of who you are, that you have the name with the space in it that sometimes leads to issues, but what're you gonna do? Your identity re-asserts itself, as you grow used to your new name. You grow into it, until it really does feel like you as opposed to something foreign.

So, if you really do not want to upset your husband, and you really are just struggling with discomfort in the new name, you might just want to try waiting it out. You might want to give yourself some more time to settle into the name, to get used to how it "fits," and to let your identity grow such that you feel like you are "Juicylicious San Nicolas" as opposed to "Juicylicious OldName." Put honest effort into understanding yourself as the person who has this last name, as opposed to that, and try to get used to the little quirks that having this last name leads to.

...Of course, if it's already been ten years or something, and you're still not happy with the name, then you're probably going to have to just change it. I'm only working off of the presumption that this is still a very new name for you.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:04 AM on April 27, 2009


I'm with Brandon Blatcher on this one. I think you should learn to live with a little inconvenience for the sake of cultural continuity. I don't see this as patriarchal at all. You took his name initially, hopefully having thought about doing so. Now, just because people are mentally lazy and butcher it you want your old name back? I can see why this would be hurtful to your husband, especially if his name identifies him culturally. (The same is true for my stepdad and my sisters. No matter where they travel, my sisters come across people from my dad's tribe and they immediately go, "Oh ... you are from Rivers State.") If my mother had decided not to take his name, it would have caused hurt and embarrassment on my father's part, not something I think my mother would want to participate in.

I have what most Americans consider a difficult first name (and yeah, I'm American born of two American parents but my name's not Ann (apologies to the Anns) and so people think my name is odd. That's their problem, not mine. I'd never consider changing my name.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2009


I think the people who are pooh poohing the signficance of culture have no idea how important it is to certain segments of the world's population. It's not simply some trend you're bucking, it's a connection to a land, to a people. Unless you're a hyphenated American you likely have very little knowledge of the role culture plays in some families.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:11 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seems like you're already halfway through the process. It's a hassle for a little while, but once you get it worked out, there shouldn't be much to worry about. Going back might actually be more difficult.
posted by electroboy at 10:15 AM on April 27, 2009


Keep your current name and get more forceful with the misunderstanders out there. You're in the military? Spell it using the military phonetic alphabet. "Sierra. Alpha. November. Space." etc... My granny (age 86 at the time) was having a hard time getting someone to grasp the V at the beginning of our last name. She went through the whole "No, not Bee -- Vee, as in Victor," and still they didn't get it. Finally, she shouted "V, AS IN VAGINA." That snapped 'em to.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:17 AM on April 27, 2009 [18 favorites]


To me, this is not about convincing him to be ok with changing you name. He has made it clear that he is not ok with it. You need to understand more about why this is a problem for him and what he would be willing to compromise.

Suggestions above (using his name socially) may be a solution, but only he can actually tell you what will work and what won't.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:27 AM on April 27, 2009


Take his last name as a middle name, use your maiden name as a last name.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:31 AM on April 27, 2009


I would encourage you to love it again. You've already changed it on many of your official documents; your husband is, by all other accounts, someone that you love & respect; and other people's ignorances and mistakes should not be reason for you to sacrifice part of your new identity and marriage.

My name is incredibly long because I come from a country where it is common to take second first names, lengthy middle names, etc. I am comfortable shortening my name for casual use, but however inconvenient its use may be, I am not about to change my name just so that someone else can more easily pronounce or understand it (i.e. Betty Brown). It's part of who I am and who my ancestors were, just like how yours is a function of your new husband and family. I can understand his pride.

Relationships are about mutual sacrifices, and this might be one he's asking you to make for him. I love my girlfriend and we've discussed marriage many times, but I would be quite offended if she did not want to take my surname, as that is something important to me. Conversely, I do not particularly enjoy spending a small fortune to buy her a shiny diamond, but if that's what she wants, I'm willing to go the distance.

I can tell that you love your husband dearly. Unless he's never done anything unselfishly for you before, is this really worth picking a fight over? Don't let this become an issue in an otherwise happy marriage. You have my best!
posted by gushn at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear your frustration. We'd made a deal when we got married to take each other's names. I did, he didn't. I neglected to change my Social Security card, which caused a bit of trouble with the IRS, but got smoothed over. The DMV has my married name as his, with my maiden name as my middle name. They can't do spaces any better than anyone else. And don't get me started on spelling and mangling.

So it's been almost 20 years for me, and it's evolved into this - my professional name is my maiden name, anywhere else it's my married name. I'll put my married name on business correspondence, but I'll answer to both.

Unless you're a hyphenated American you likely have very little knowledge of the role culture plays in some families.

That's an explanation, not an excuse. I changed my name precisely because of "culture", both mine and his, and because it was important to him. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't.

There's a large degree of unhappiness surrounding this, and it wouldn't surprise me if there were other issues. I don't think this is a yes/no question. I think it's more about "are we together on most things or not, and what can we be together on"?

It sounds not so much like you need his permission but maybe his assistance and acquiescence in the change. I think the key is going to be to see what the dealbreakers are - is he going to leave you if you do it? Would it help if he assisted some way with getting your married name straightened out? Would you leave him if he refused it all or in part? Why have you painted yourselves into these corners?
posted by lysdexic at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2009


I don't think women realize the impact that a name change makes until after they've done it and lived with it for a while. It seems romantic and expected and really, not that big of a deal. So you do it. And then, after a while...there's this sense of loss. And then you wish you hadn't. But you did. And you said you would. And then he says "But you said you would." And he doesn't understand the sense of loss, because he hasn't had to do it. And it's so simple to fix, but there's this argument, and you keep coming back to "But you said you would," and you say "But I didn't know it would feel like this." And you'll go around like this until you realize that you are close to tears every time you think about your new name and feel that sense of loss, and you finally go ahead and change it back. And he lives. And it turns out that that he loves you anyway and it really wasn't THAT BIG A DEAL.

Well, that was my story anyway.

Now, in your case, if it's really THAT BIG A DEAL to him or his family or gossipers or anybody else you're willing to defer to, you're probably stuck, and it's all on you to either swallow it down and put on a happy face about it or quietly seethe. I'm sorry.
posted by sageleaf at 11:20 AM on April 27, 2009 [13 favorites]


When I was married, I didn't change my name. I know several people who changed names and liked it, and others who changed names and regretted it. As far as the comments about "husband won't let me," it's a response the way the post was written.

Names are important. What's insulting is that people casually mangle and misspell names.

Want to use his name? When you say it, say "Jane San nicols, that's Sierra. Alpha. November. Space," etc., and say it slowly. If you listen to the way people talk, when they spell their names (or give phone numbers), they really speed up. Go slow, and then say, My name is often misspelled, and it causes me a lot of bureaucratic problems, so I'm going to spell it for you again, and then do that, maybe not quite as slowly. If you want, ask them to spell it back.

As consumers, we need to take back some control of transactions. Make the other person spend the time to get it right. It's insanely stupid that databases are incompetent about the many names with St, San, hyphens, etc., but it's a reality, so pick a spelling that works, like SanNicols, and use it consistently.
posted by theora55 at 11:42 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm newly married and went through all the name change hassle. I don't have any regrets about it, but I do want to say this: neither of our families or friends would have had any way of knowing if I hadn't changed my name. His mother didn't ask to see my driver's license. I don't show my social security card to my friends. So I could have easily kept my maiden name for legal/job purposes while telling everyone else I changed it. Putting aside the moral issues about lying, this is exactly what I would do in your circumstance.
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on April 27, 2009


My wife has four legal names (3-4 are hyphened). She did not take on a new name from me when we married. While birth records note her full name, as does her passport (but not! her driver's license), she uses a shortened version for social and business situations (including taxes). This has never been a problem. So, to build on the social name/business name idea, bury the name you wish to use in the middle of your new full name. Use the first and last bits for your husband's island etc. and use the first and middle bits for your career and other conveniences. To illustrate how flexible this can be, my wife uses her first and third name -- the third name being the first half of the hyphened 3-4.

My wife kept her french surname for use even in the US where it is butchered always -- even her first name is usually mangled (Antoinette). She could have taken my very common name (Anderson) for ease of life in the US (which the french also have no trouble with) but she did not.
posted by Dick Paris at 11:58 AM on April 27, 2009


If I were you I would hyphenate, with his last name first. (Then use your maiden name at work as the short version.) Don't stress too much about making your name and its spelling longer and more difficult if the issue really is that you miss your name.

He really needs to understand your attachment to your family name, and should be able to see that way as trying to honor both. Not sure why he would not be willing to bend a little to your wanting to honor your roots and family by combining both names. After all, that is what you have done, you have blended your families - he has joined yours and you have joined his, correct? I hope he sees it that way rather than you just being absorbed into his?

I assume he comes from someplace like Guam maybe? - so his last name sounds kind of Spanish but name conventions there are not Spanish? The reason I ask is that he might still be familiar with Spanish naming conventions, if he comes from a place that had a Spanish colonial presence. Spanish naming conventions usually involve (grossly simplified) the wife keeping her maiden name(s) and adding her husband's name (for a better explanation, see here .) Anyway, just asking if he is familiar with this concept, so he could find it easier to understand you wanting to still include your maiden name as part of your name.

Also, the advice to write San Nicolas as SanNicolas on military forms, and to use the military phonetic alphabet when spelling it out, is spot on, and will save you time and trouble.
posted by gudrun at 1:11 PM on April 27, 2009


It's part of who I am and who my ancestors were...

Relationships are about mutual sacrifices, and this might be one he's asking you to make for him. I love my girlfriend and we've discussed marriage many times, but I would be quite offended if she did not want to take my surname...


I don't understand how you can say these two things one right after the other without seeing the paradox. Your name is part of who you are, yet you would be offended if your girlfriend would not change her name? Doesn't your girlfriend have an identity?

I understand giving a kid the dad's name, since the kid doesn't get to be inside the dad for 9 months... but I don't see why the wife should be expected to legally alter the identity she has developed for all her life. To me, the traditional use makes sense, where it is only referential, i.e., where Anne Hathaway is Mrs William Shakespeare, but never Anne Shakespeare. And presumably if Anne Hathaway is known for something, Wm is Mr Anne Hathaway too - it's just a way to refer to the fact of coupledom, the way we sometimes do online, with user names. But expecting or even forcing someone to change their given name with no reciprocated change can really seem quite paternalistic.
posted by mdn at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have rarely been so angry as I am with many of the responses in this thread. All of you who are saying that she should keep her husband's last name because it's important to him seem to be discounting entirely that she now feels that it would be important to her to use her birth surname.

Why do his feelings count and her feelings not count? That's crap. Being married and having two different surnames--a situation I have been in for the last 9 years--causes very very little hassle, so the "oh, it's a hassle" thing is a red herring.

If the OP wants to use her birth surname, her husband should get over it. It's her name. The fact that she thought it would be OK to use her husband's surname instead is irrelevant--she tried it, and it didn't work for her, and now she wants to go back to the surname she's used for 45 of the last 46 years.

I mean, for Christ's sake, how is that unreasonable or thoughtless or rude?

That said, I think the OP should stop with the excuses "Oh, it's too difficult and my employers misspell it blah blah." If the reason she wants to use her birth surname is because it's her name that should be enough, and her husband should respect that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:41 PM on April 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Why do his feelings count and her feelings not count?

I don't think anyone who suggested she keep his name thinks her feelings don't count. No one said that, and as a woman, I certainly wouldn't suggest she simply ignore her own emtions but as someone said upthread, relationships are about compromise. It sounds to me like there is possibly a loss of identity issue here and it's natural for the OP to feel that way after 45 years of singlehood. But she also laid out some pretty substantial and rational reasons why this issue is also important to her husband. She didn't say he simply demanded she keep his name. She said it was important to him for cultural and familial reasons. Those do not sound like unreasonable justifications.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:54 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I totally agree with you, Sidhedevil. It's your NAME. It says who you ARE. If you don't want to change it, don't change it.
It's all very well to say it's a cultural issue, but you know what, people deal with cultural issues all the time. Personally, the idea of taking someone else's name is horrifying to me, like I wouldn't exist any more. I would never, ever marry someone who wanted me to do that.

Maybe for most people it's not that big of a deal, but for some people it is, you know?
posted by exceptinsects at 2:07 PM on April 27, 2009


Personally, the idea of taking someone else's name is horrifying to me ...

Well, the idea was obviously not horrifying to the OP because she already did it.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:21 PM on April 27, 2009


One of the problems with just changing it back is that if she does, it will be on all her work clothes. It's kind of hard not to notice someone's last name when you're confronted with it every time you see them. Having been a military wife myself, I know that if she does change it, it's likely that there will be assumptions made about the reason by her workmates and people who see her at work, and military people gossip like you wouldn't believe. If her husband doesn't want her to change her name back and she does, that will be very hurtful when people comment on it to him (assuming he's in the military as well). I can think offhand of the kind of jokes and comments people would make to him, and I'm wincing. It's not necessarily all about culture, or at least not culture from his home. The military is not a particularly egalitarian culture concerning social roles in marriage.

I don't see any way around it - either you change it and he is unhappy, or you find a way to deal with the loss. I am completely sympathetic to your problem, by the way. I didn't change my name at first when I got married, but he nagged me until I did, and then I was sad. It was my name, and then I changed it.

When I got divorced I didn't change it back, though, because I was too lazy to bother.

I wish I had a better answer, but the only thing I can think of is to change everything but the military records back to your 'real name'. But then of course you'll spend every day getting called San Nicholas and that will tend to defeat the purpose of reclaiming your true name. I'm so sorry.
posted by winna at 2:24 PM on April 27, 2009


Well, the idea was obviously not horrifying to the OP because she already did it.

Yes, and now she's having strong feelings of regret. At what point does her current distress rise to a level where it deserves to be taken seriously?

(For the record, my answer is that any distress deserves to be taken just as seriously as her husband's feelings. Tie goes to the person who has to use the name. Husband will learn to live with it, I promise.)
posted by decathecting at 2:26 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, and now she's having strong feelings of regret. At what point does her current distress rise to a level where it deserves to be taken seriously?

There's her decision to make. She's already plainly stated that she's aware she can do as she pleases, but she was looking for other solutions.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:31 PM on April 27, 2009


I also dont understand if you feel so strongly about not taking the guys name why get married in the first place?

Why not stay a couple but not get married?
posted by majortom1981 at 2:33 PM on April 27, 2009


She was fine with it at first, but eventually came to regret it and it looking to either change it back or find a comprise.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:37 PM on April 27, 2009


(For the record, my answer is that any distress deserves to be taken just as seriously as her husband's feelings. Tie goes to the person who has to use the name. Husband will learn to live with it, I promise.)

I see. So now the husband's feelings don't matter?
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:37 PM on April 27, 2009


She said it was important to him for cultural and familial reasons.

She also said, It's about me, my identidy. I had no idea how important my name was to me.

Why doesn't that count? Why shouldn't he have to compromise, for example by accepting her suggestion to put his last name as her middle name? Why is his culture more important than her identity?

My only suggestion is that, if you're primarily approaching the problem as one of convenience, then maybe changing it to a discussion about culture and identity would be more fruitful. I can kind of understand why he could be offended that you would change your name and then want to change it back b/c of a little hassle.

But if your name is as important to you as his is to him, then how can he continue to deny that you should change it back? After all, It's part of who I am and who my ancestors were... is true of women too.
posted by Mavri at 2:52 PM on April 27, 2009


I also dont understand if you feel so strongly about not taking the guys name why get married in the first place?

Why not stay a couple but not get married?


...um because marriage is more than a name change. Depending on where you live there are a variety of advantages (aside from the romance aspect) to being married over being a cohabiting couple.

(For the record, my answer is that any distress deserves to be taken just as seriously as her husband's feelings. Tie goes to the person who has to use the name. Husband will learn to live with it, I promise.)

I see. So now the husband's feelings don't matter?


Clearly decathecting is not saying that at all. They both have feelings and both their feelings matter. They both have rational and reasonable reasons for feeling the way they do, but ultimately its her name and she has to live with it and therefore her feelings matter more.
posted by missmagenta at 2:53 PM on April 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I also dont understand if you feel so strongly about not taking the guys name why get married in the first place?

There are many, many, many reasons and benefits (legally, financially, etc.) to get married. It's not mandatory that a woman take her husband's name in order to do so.
posted by scody at 2:54 PM on April 27, 2009


I see. So now the husband's feelings don't matter?

She's offering compromises which he is refusing. I posit that both their feelings matter, and it's a shame he doesn't seem to see it that way.
posted by Mavri at 2:57 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have had a penchant for dating men with easy to spell last names. Both my first and last names are foreign and seemingly impossible for people to spell or pronounce correctly (unless I'm back in the motherland, where its brilliant to say my name and not have to say Z like Zebra...)

I have been using a shortening of my first name for years, that I don't consider "my real name" and so I don't care if people pronounce it or spell it correctly.

When it comes to marrying and changing my name, I understand how difficult it is to part with YOUR name for that of someone else with which you don't identify and which then disconnects you from your idea of yourself and your blood relatives. I can see your husband's point of view also, as my family is proud of our last name, its heritage and its uniqueness. Lots of names have been passed on from relatives to children - I am named after my great-grandmother and my aunt.

But in the end, you have changed your name. The inconvenience of the name seems to play a secondary part to the schism you feel with your identity. And to your husband, your new name is a way of connecting you to what he sees as a very important part of his identity.

It's not a matter of who is wrong or who is right, because both of you have the right to feel as you do. Ultimately, you create your own identity as you please, no matter what name you have. All attachments are based on habit, and it seems that it's been a tough go for you to change yours.

If you're looking for a happy husband, perhaps you can cite Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

You will be you with or without the new name. You may find that if he says "Fine, do it." and you do, that you will then be dissatisfied with that decision as well, because all this time you have been slowly building an identification with your new name.

In the end, it seems like much more of a hassle to change everything back and upset your husband. You are not your name, or your finger prints, or your dental records. These are things that society uses to identify you for tax purposes and criminal records.
posted by anniek at 3:01 PM on April 27, 2009


If the OP wants to use her birth surname, her husband should get over it. It's her name.


Did you read this response from the OP? She's already well aware of this:


Okay, enough already with the it's YOUR name, YOU can do whatever you want. That isn't helpful and is rather insulting. I know that I don't need his permission. However, I love my husband and I am sensetive to his feelings.

posted by oneirodynia at 3:03 PM on April 27, 2009


You are not your name, or your finger prints, or your dental records. These are things that society uses to identify you for tax purposes and criminal records.

Ah, but you are discounting the importance of a name, since if it weren't important at all, her husband wouldn't feel so offended.

The husband here doesn't seem open to any compromises, so the OP should just follow her feelings and change her name back. Maybe it's theoretically "easier" to just keep the change since it's already been made, but it isn't just something she regrets now, but the hesitation in changing all the documents in the first place showed that this really wasn't something she was comfortable with at all, and may have been pressured into.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:16 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how you can say these two things one right after the other without seeing the paradox. Your name is part of who you are, yet you would be offended if your girlfriend would not change her name? Doesn't your girlfriend have an identity?

As is customary, I had assumed the OP would append her husband's name to her own. Hillary Rodham becomes Hillary Rodham Clinton. She's certainly no lesser of a woman, and her identity has in no way been diminished. There's no paradox here.

My vote is towards conceding this one. As long as he's making concessions elsewhere, of course. :)
posted by gushn at 5:02 PM on April 27, 2009


Thank you for all of the thoughtful responses. Reading them has helped me pinpoint what my true feeling are about my new surname.

Sageleaf pretty much summed it up for me:

It seems romantic and expected and really, not that big of a deal. So you do it. And then, after a while...there's this sense of loss. And then you wish you hadn't. But you did. And you said you would. And then he says "But you said you would." And he doesn't understand the sense of loss, because he hasn't had to do it. And it's so simple to fix, but there's this argument, and you keep coming back to "But you said you would," and you say "But I didn't know it would feel like this." And you'll go around like this until you realize that you are close to tears every time you think about your new name and feel that sense of loss ...


My name, my birth name ties me with my past. My parents are deceased and I just lost my last grandparent last summer. My siblings are persona non gratis. All I have is an ex-sister-in-law and a niece and nephew who share my maiden name. I feel that if I lose my name I will lose them too. Those are my honest feelings.

Yes, my married name is a PITA. I also had to spell out my maiden name as it is too is extremely uncommon. But it was my name.

My husband is a wonderful, sensitive man. He concedes to my lead on nearly everything, not that I ask that of him or expect him too. It's just his personality. He has taken a stand on this one issue.

Before I got married, I used my first, middle and last name on all documents and signature blocks. When I took my husband's name I tried simply appending it, as in Hillary Rodam Clinton. It read horribly and was confusing to people. I don't want to give up signing my middle name as that is also very important to me as I was named after my grandmother who recently passed away.

In order to set the military issues straight I will have to change it to Sannicolas. Though I can continue to wear it with the correct spelling on my uniform.

IN this day of tons of divorces i can see why he doesnt want you to change it.He probably sees it as the first step to a divorce.

It had not occurred to me that my husband may see my desire to go back to my maiden name as a step in ending our marriage. No matter what I choose to do about my name, I will reassure him that my love for him will remain as strong as ever.

I will play with hyphenating and see if perhaps we could compromise with that. I will also get more information on using "also known as" as well.

Thanks again. This was better than therapy :-)
posted by Juicylicious at 7:43 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it helps, a friend of mine went through a very similar situation recently. Her husband was worried about her rejection of his culture, and what it said about their marriage. She felt that she'd lost something, and was worried about continuity of her family name (not a big family). She reassured him as much as she could, went and changed all the paperwork, and didn't tell anyone except a couple of close friends, no family at all. On paperwork, she is FirstName Maidenname, which makes her happy, and to his family and anyone who has a casual need to know her surname, she's still Firstname HisSurname. And as worried as he was about it, once it was over he realised it was fine.

It was similar when I got married and didn't take my husband's name - he didn't mind, but his family were very put out, and felt rejected. And 3 weeks after the wedding they'd forgotten all about it, because honestly, it doesn't actually make any change to their day-to-day life even though it makes all the difference to mine.
posted by harriet vane at 4:36 AM on April 28, 2009


As is customary, I had assumed the OP would append her husband's name to her own. Hillary Rodham becomes Hillary Rodham Clinton. She's certainly no lesser of a woman, and her identity has in no way been diminished. There's no paradox here.

she's no lesser of a woman, but a man who changed his name would be lesser of a man, surely? "as is customary" only in a certain period / cultural history.

Seems to me if Hillary were standardly recognized as Hillary Rodham, and each party were referenced as "mrs clinton" or "mr rodham" only insofar as their coupledom needed to be clarified, Hillary's independence would probably be more distinct. There wouldn't be that notion that if we had elected her it'd be "two bushes, two clintons", since she was only married to a clinton, not genetically a clinton - not totally unconnected, but she has her own family history that she would have brought to the table, that gets usurped when she is thought of "as a clinton".

Name and identity can be strongly intertwined, just as word choice can have an impact on the meanings we give to things. Expecting a woman to take the man's name without noticing that it would be hard as a man to give up a name seems to assume that men and women have different senses of identity.
posted by mdn at 11:37 AM on April 30, 2009


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