She Won’t Change Her Last Name
My fiance and I have a great relationship, but there is one thing we cannot agree on. She made a promise to herself, when she was a child, that she wasn’t going to change her last name when she got married. Now that we are together, her idea of a compromise is to wait till she finishes college (four years from now) to change her name to the married name. This is very difficult for me. I am not old fashioned, but the one thing I want in our marriage is unity. I feel very strongly that having our name be the same from the get-go will complete that unity. She suggested hyphening our names, but this would make our combined name over 20 characters long. Am I just being an old-fashioned dinosaur about this? Am I so out of touch with reality to think that this compromise won’t be a good idea?
Advice: If you have this one issue causing you so much disturbance now, it is a prediction for the future. Neither of you will be happy in your marriage if one caves in on an issue of this gravity. One of you will be resentful and that’s a poor way to start a marriage that you want to last.
I don’t consider myself old-fashioned either, but, I do concur with you about the last name. First of all, when you become a married couple the name change that occurs is a symbol of the couple identity that the two of you are taking on. It’s a symbol of your commitment to one another and to “becoming one”. You love your wife so much that you are giving her your name. Your wife loves you so much that she is taking on a new name. Any children you have will bear that name and carry it into the future.
Secondly, the norm in our society is still for the woman to take on the name of her husband. If you decide to do differently, you will be stepping out of the norm and making it difficult for your children to carry on that name. Suppose your name becomes “Smith-Johnson”. What will a male child pass on if he marries a woman who wants to combine their names — “Smith-Johnson-Schroeder” ? It becomes more and more complicated.
Thirdly, the issue of last names raises questions about the roles of husbands and wives. If you want to take the role leadership in your family passing on your last name will signify that role. The usual role of a married man is that of leader and protector. Be careful here, I’m not saying that the husband is the dominant one or that the wife is not equal, but the last name issue signifies a question about the roles. Who will lead the family? How will decisions be made? Is your finance concerned that if she gives up her name she is giving up her vote in family matter as well? You need to discuss this. This issue is more than “what name shall we choose?” It is an issue with hidden meaning and assumptions about what your relationship will be like and what roles you will take on.
Don’t cave in, talk this through. It sounds like you have a deeper conflict of values and expectations regarding roles. I encourage you to begin working through this. This is really a test of what is going to happen in the years to come in your relationship. Stand up and be a leader. It may mean that you need to post-pone the wedding until you are both happy about the decision you make together. Working through this issue will lay a foundation for how you work through conflict together in the future.