“You worked so hard to get your name back, I never thought you’d change it! I am shocked!”
That is the text I got last night in response to my dear friend asking me if I am changing my name when I get married in two short weeks. My message to elicit such a text from my friend was along the line of, “Yeah, I’m going to change my name.”
For most of those getting married, a wife will take the name of their husband after the big day. I am still on the fence even though I did tell her I was going to take his name.
I divorced my daughter’s father almost eight years ago. My divorce was cut and dry and clean. There was a bout of bitterness, but that is to be expected at the end of a relationship. One thing I knew for certain when I got divorced was that I was going to take my maiden name back.
I distinctly remember telling everyone that I was never getting married again, and if I did, I was never changing my last name from my maiden name because it was a heck of a lot harder to change my name back to my maiden name than it was to change it to my ex’s.
It was an emotional day when I was finally able to use my maiden name legally again. There was a lot of emotional pain from my divorce that was starting to heal. To me, taking my maiden name back was claiming back my identity. It was so much more than just “going back to the maiden name.”
Fast forward to eight years later. Here I am, staring down the barrel of a wedding in less than two weeks. The planning process of this wedding has been pretty quick. We only decided less than a month ago that we were, indeed, going to get married, but here we sit with the date creeping up on us ever so fast. We’ve been together for just shy of seven years already, and we just decided it was time.
We got all of our paperwork in order. We coordinated the small number of people who are going to be involved and at our actual ceremony. We made all of the plans. The only thing that was left was the decision: do I change my name to my husband’s or keep my name?
Surprisingly, this is an emotional and hard decision to make. In my first marriage, it was a no-brainer. Of course I was changing my name. There was no thought that went into it—that is just what you did. Then, my divorce happened.
I was left hurt and bitter and the last thing I wanted was to keep that last name. Even though my daughter, obviously, has her father’s last name, I wasn’t going to keep it. When I gained my maiden name back, I gained my identity back. All of my recent successes have been made under my maiden name. All of the milestones and progress I have made as a person have all been under my maiden name. I don’t want to lose that part of me, but here I am, looking at the prospect of changing my name and in essence, losing a bit of me in the process again…or am I?
My maiden name has become so much more to me now as it represents everything I have had to overcome to reestablish me.
So, what are my options?
I could leave my name the way it is and not take my husband’s name. Except, I don’t like that idea, because I do want to honor the commitment and take his name as mine. Also, in our part of the country, it is customary to take your spouse’s name when you get married. It is just tradition.
I could hyphenate the two last names—I looked at that option, but it looks ridiculously long to me. That option is out and besides, it would be a lot to have to sign all of the time. I talked myself out of that one.
I could drop my middle name my parents gave me and make my maiden name my middle name. This thought crossed my mind, but my mother picked my middle name because it was one she liked. In my eyes, that wouldn’t be very respectful to her. She chose that name for me, and I have grown fond of it in 40-plus years as it is who I am.
Another option that can be looked at is the maiden name can be shifted to join the middle name. Thus, still having my maiden name as part of my legal middle name.
As I bang out this blurb of words, I also have other tabs open on my computer. Everything from, “Why you should change your name after marriage” to “the historical significance start of the wife taking the husband name.”
I have read articles on why I should change my name, and other articles that people have written as to why they have not changed their name after marriage. I have been reading how women in other countries handle marriage and name change, and the only thing I can conclude is that it is a giant pain in the butt and completely a personal choice (which I could have told you from the two times before I have changed my name from my first marriage and subsequent divorce).
Then there is the part of me that says, “Just change it and stop thinking about it.” My maiden name has come to signify all of the progress I made as a person, yes. However, if I hang onto it in any way, shape, or form and not take my husband’s name solely, am I living in the past? Am I clinging to the fact that my first marriage did not succeed and keeping my maiden name included somehow reflects that I am not fully ready to move on?
Let’s face it, I don’t have a sparkling professional career where my reputation is built up using my maiden name. I am not licensed as say, a doctor, in my maiden name. If I change my name, I am not having to establish my reputation again. In fact, most of my coworkers and those who deal with me professionally probably don’t even know what my last name is now, let alone if I decide to change it when I get married in two short weeks.
So here I sit, three days away from getting our marriage license. It is at that point I am going to be asked if I am going to change my name. I will have to have the final answer as to what that is going to be. At this moment, I do not know the extent of that answer. After all, I have three days to decide the rest of my life’s identity—no pressure.