17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, October 16, 2006

From the Tales Inbox: Keeping My Maiden Name

An Anonymous reader writes:

Here is my question for all you. I have been married for 4 years to a wonderful man. Marriage has been so good to us even at 4 years I have very few complaints. However I am struggling with one thing. I still have not legally changed my name. I always knew that it would be really difficult to let go of my maiden name. I have not only a very independant personality, but I also am so proud of where I came from and my family members who have carried the name.(might I add it is a very small family with only one brother to carry on the family name.) I am sure it is not nessasary to go into all the details, but it is something that has been important to me to keep.

My husband has been understanding of this, as we discussed it before we were married, but I think he thought it would eventually wear off.

Being married in the temple and active members of the church, I find this to be something that is not very acceptable according to other members.

I also realize that for church purposes and family history it makes it difficult to have different names.

I am never offended if someone calls me by my married name, in fact most do at church. I see no need to correct them, and I also try to be sensitive to my husband in those situations. But legally, and in my daily living I still go by, and introduce myself by my maiden name.

Am I being immature, or do I hold any validation to wanting to keep my maiden name? Just curious what other women in the church thought. I love this blog because I know I will get honest answers. Any imput would be great and I would sincerely like to hear others thoughts.

PS We do not have children yet!


  • I like keeping your own name better than hyphenating for sure. I might have kept my maiden name, except my new name was WAY cooler...and I thought I was lucky that I got to change last names again...(it's my third one so far). Last names have always been a little disposable for me I guess.

    My main dilemma was what to do with my middle name...at the time I felt strong connection to it b/c I was named after a family member and many of my close friends called me by both my first and middle name. That is no longer the case, and I don't have the same connection. I kept my middle name as my legal name, instead of replacing it with my maiden name.

    I have no prob. with women who keep their names for whatever the reason, and I would never judge you. It does confuse people though huh?

    As a kid I hated having a different last name from my mom but that was because it was a loaded thing (it represented everything about "the divorce"), so I was relieved when we again shared the same last name (I was adopted to her new husband, my stepdad). So....just be sensitive to the kids....it sounds like you will be if you don't care that people at church call you by the "wrong" last name.

    Be proud with your own last name self.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 10/16/2006 07:50:00 PM  

  • Here's a post from a few months back on the Exponent blog about this same issue. Lots of interesting comments.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 10/16/2006 08:02:00 PM  

  • I completely understand you! I was the same way, I never considered myself ultra independant or anything, but after I got married I was completely unable to change my name legally!! I felt like a part of me was being torn away, yet my new husband was getting to "keep" everything the same as before PLUS be married to me!!

    Strangely enough, I felt this loss like a death. I was angry, especially when I would have older people rudely tell me I COULDN'T be married and keep my maiden name!Then I went thorugh denial, and finally after about a year and a half, acceptance of my new name. I did finally change it, and now am happy with it. But I had a compromise. When I legally changed my name, I dropped my middle name,and my maiden became my middle name.

    I like it becasue I never really liked my middle name anyway, and now I am still all me PLUS my new name. I like that because, 10 years later, we have 2 chidren and we are all the same name. We match, so to speak, and there definately is a family bond we feel as ONE name.

    I think of it now symbollically, that I am 100% commited to our family, and that we are of 1 pupose and hopefully working to be 1 mind, you know in an ideallic way.

    Anyway, I think you can decide for YOU what's best, and don't let anyone GUILT you into choosing what to do. That's just my story and my conclusions.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 10/16/2006 08:21:00 PM  

  • I was thrilled to have a new last name and leave behind baggage when I married. So I've never really "got it" when it comes to women keeping their maiden names. Until now. See, I have one daughter, and she was utterly dismayed when she found out about the whole change the name thing. She's intensely proud of her name and its background.

    So now, yeah, I get it. I tell her she can do whatever she wants, so that's my advice to you as well. You've done it for four years--why stop now? And as far as family history, really, if everyone kept their maiden names, genealogy would be -way- easier.

    I had friends from Iceland in one ward, and no one thought it was weird they had different last names. So, if all else fails, just tell people you're Icelandic.
    posted by Anonymous Ahna at 10/16/2006 08:22:00 PM  

  • Seriously, whatever floats your boat- it's such a personal thing, you have to do what is right for you and your relationship (both with yourself and your spouse).

    I took my husbands name, but good golly, I hate it... but my maiden name was just as bad, so it didn't really matter.

    For the exact same reasons Kage gave, I'm on my third last name as well, and feel particularly attached to my middle name, instead. I went from a German name with a rude string of consonants, to a "color" name, to an american pop-culture last name. Ugh.

    At one point, I did suggest to my DH that we BOTH change our name- to something universally cool- maybe Armstrong, or Lightyear, or Disney. He didn't go for it. Oh well.

    Good luck.
    posted by Anonymous tracy m at 10/16/2006 08:40:00 PM  

  • I'm going to be honest about my point of view...I think there is great symbolic power in the fact that I took my husband's name. Like someone else said, it makes me feel more like we are unified. Especially with children...I really wouldn't want to figure that out and try to explain why they have two last names, or different last names, or whatever. We are a family, and our name shows it.

    I also think about the fact that names are important in the gospel and are connected with covenants. We take upon us Christ's name when we are baptized. We become part of His family. The concept of names in the scriptures are often tied with covenants, with a new life, with a new focus and purpose, which is what I see marriage as being. Names are a vital part of all the covenants we make.

    I also think it just helps avoid confusion in day-to-day life ("wait, I though you were married" (grin)) and also family history wise. :)

    I read somewhere (don't remember where) about a woman who wrapped up her driver license with her new name on it and gave it to her hubby on their 5th wedding anniversary, and what that meant to him, even though he was fine with what she had decided to do initially. I know each man is different, but I can't help but wonder if deep down inside, most men wouldn't appreciate that symbolic gesture.

    Sorry. Long response. Of course, in the end, you do what works for you, but you wanted people's points of view, so there is mine. :)
    posted by Blogger mullingandmusing at 10/16/2006 10:22:00 PM  

  • I have also been married 4 years, and have kept my maiden name. I didn't plan on keeping it, but like you, I just couldn't change it when the time came. Unlike you, I corrected everyone who called me by my husband's name (which I had to do a lot since my pressure wasn't sufficient to get my records changed). Now, I see the name adoption as a symbol of the sacrifice of individuality that women tend to make for a relationship. While men tend to sacrifice parts of a relationship if it comes against their individuality. This imbalance is unhealthy, since both parties *need* individuality for a respectful, egalitarian relationship. So keeping my name has been a reminder that, unlike 200 years ago, I am still my own person, and it is important to grow as such.
    posted by Blogger Agent Bucky at 10/17/2006 01:16:00 AM  

  • "I know each man is different, but I can't help but wonder if deep down inside, most men wouldn't appreciate that symbolic gesture."

    I also have to add that I think this is a cultural bias. A pro-feminist man may just be a little disappointed that you'd be willing to give up such a symbol of individuality, when he wouldn't.
    posted by Blogger Agent Bucky at 10/17/2006 01:19:00 AM  

  • I like the point about unification. This rang true the other day when my four year old was discussing names with her friend. Her friend had a different last name from his mom. As he asked her what all the last names were in her family she said...."We're all Glass....We're the Glass FAMILY!" And I had to smile. I know if I had kept my name that would have been just fine too, but she obviously really idenitifies with us all sharing a last name, and I think that's cool.

    As far as losing my identity b/c I took my dh's last name. I don't see it that way. If anything, by me being a Glass, I have added another pov, perspective, uniqueness to the family that wasn't there before...I have made that name my own.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 10/17/2006 05:31:00 AM  

  • Many of the commenters are exhibiting a really conservative bias in their assumptions. I am married, have a child and my whole family has the same hyphenated name. It is OUR name, and we love it. We love having the same name and we love that it represents both sides of our family. Why should a woman give up her identity to marry? It boggles my mind that anyone would assume that a man needs this to feel comfortable in his marriage.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/17/2006 07:09:00 AM  

  • Great topic.

    When I was a teenager I told my mom I was only taking my husband's last name if I liked it better than my maiden name. My parents aren't LDS, but she was a little scandalized.

    My husband's last name is WAY cooler than my maiden name, so I was happy to change it.

    I've known women who didn't take or use their husband's name, and I've never really thought about it much. I figure there's a reason and people can use whatever name they want.

    My best friend took her husband's name legally but doesn't use it---and it's entirely understandable. Who wants to be called Aycock?
    posted by Anonymous Susan M at 10/17/2006 07:28:00 AM  

  • I agree with Anon. I love the idea of a common name tying together a family. But why must it be the husband's name? Why not combine names, choose a new name, or randomly select either the mother or fathers' birth name. (I have a friend who did that before getting married. They drew a name out of a hat, and whether it was the husband or wife's last name, that was what they would go with.)

    Naming conventions are different throughout the world, and so the only reason men would feel emasculated or threatened with a wife who didn't take his name, or with the idea of taking another name together, is because of cultural pressures. Which can be very persuasive, it's true, especially from extended families.

    All that said, I took dh's name, so I suppose I'm speaking through both sides of my mouth. I wish, though, that we would have given it more thought, even if the outcome had been the same.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 10/17/2006 08:47:00 AM  

  • Personally, I don't think it's my name that defines me as an individual....although if you knew my real name you might think differently! ;o) I think that who you are as a human being makes you an individual. I took my husband's name when we were married, but I didn't feel my entire personality being sucked out of me because I did that. I think everyone has the right to choose how they want to deal with the maiden/married name issue, but I don't think that people who choose to go by their married name are any less individual than someone who choses to keep their maiden name.
    posted by Anonymous Eskinose Kisses at 10/17/2006 08:56:00 AM  

  • Ok, the idea that a woman taking her husbands surname is somehow "giving up her identity" is rediculous. Sorry.

    As ol' Wills said " A rose by any other name..."

    You are who you are, regardless of social conventions and traditions. I'm just as much me as I ever was.
    posted by Anonymous tracy m at 10/17/2006 09:01:00 AM  

  • I have to agree with Tracy M. At least for me, giving up my last name was not giving up my independence or individuality or losing my identity, etc. I guess there are cases, though, and women, who may feel this way for whatever reason. I also agree that this is a very personal decision for you & your husband. I definitely like the idea of the whole family having the same name, but of course this isn't necessary to have healthy thinking, functional children. That is in the work you do to raise them.

    I have two friends who made up their own last name. They took a part of his last name and part of hers and morphed them into their new last name once they got married. It was pretty cool. I also don't think there is anything wrong with hyphenating both names together. You guys will make the right decision for yourselves. Good luck.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 10/17/2006 09:23:00 AM  

  • Thank you mullingandmusing for your comment. For me it was a wonderful thing taking my husbands name because it symbolized that we were sealed together as an individual family unit. It never occured to me to keep my maiden name or create a new one, I was proud to now be associated with my husband - which doesn't mean I've lost anything at all. That's what marriage is - you cleave unto eachother and become one.

    In some ways I do miss the instant connectivity that comes with my maiden name to MY family, but I'm also glad to feel I'm now more of an individual than I was before.
    posted by Anonymous emilys at 10/17/2006 09:43:00 AM  

  • Changing or not changing your name is obviously a personal decision that either holds vert much or very little significance depending on who you talk to. If it symbolizes something to you that you don't want to let go of, then don't! But you also should understand that others attach different symbolism to the same thing and thus might not understand or agree with your choice.

    Go with what you feel personally comfortable with and don't let other people make you feel your decision is wrong or done with the wrong reasons. People just view things differently. More and more women are deciding to keep their maiden name which will make it more and more acceptable in the coming years. And I am glad there are options.

    And if you choose to keep it, I think there is nothing wrong with kindly and patiently correcting people at church as to what your name is. I know I would hate it if I found out later that you didn't go by your husband's last name and I had been calling you that all along.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/17/2006 10:48:00 AM  

  • i haven't "officially" changed my last name since marrying almost 6 months ago (has it been that long already?). Most of it is laziness in changing everything - license, credit cards, for work - business cards, letting clients know, etc - it makes my head hurt. The other part of it is I have a pretty cool last name now, but my husbands last name is "jones" - BORING. His family teases me about not changing my name name all the time, but DH doesn't mind. I've been confronted serously a few times about it by a few people and family members, but I don't let it bother me.

    My husband has three middle names, so maybe I'll just tack my maiden name as an additional middle name so I still have it and get to keep my middle name which I don't want to get rid of either.

    I guess it seems weird to me to change my last name but it also seems weird to not change at the same time. I guess ultimately when it comes down to it, its not really important to me right now, but when I do have kids, I definately want to have a united name.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 10/17/2006 11:14:00 AM  

  • As a sidenote, my maiden name is my middle name -- easy since I wasn't given a middle name to begin with.

    And since I come from a family of sisters, keeping my maiden name wouldn't have done much to tie me back to my fam cuz my sisters all changed their names. :)
    posted by Blogger mullingandmusing at 10/17/2006 05:11:00 PM  

  • Before I begin I feel that I should disclose that I did take my husband's name and do not regret it.
    -I can see the point about unity, but it seems a terribly one-sided sort of unity to me.
    -The point about geneology doesn't make much sense to me. Look at your Patriarchal blessing- it has your mom's maiden name on it. Request your membership records from the ward clerk- last time I got mine it had me listed by my maiden name. All changing your name helps with is making it clear that you married your husband, and it obscures the fact that you were born into your parents family and are related to your siblings.
    -The point about you being who you are regardless of your last name just doesn't resonate with me. Especially if you had any sort of professional life before you got married. I once nearly failed a class because the professor had half the assignments under my maiden name and half under my married name. If I had published papers under my maiden name, or established a client based business I would be very reluctant to let go of the profile I had worked for with my maiden name. Your name is only useful when people know it refers to you. Changing names mid-stream obscures that usefulness.
    -There are countries and traditions that are far more old-fashioned in regards to family relations than ours where women never have taken their husbands names. Thailand, I understand is one of these countries. It is only rebellious and a slight towards your husband in a strictly modern Euro-American context.

    All of that said if you and your husband will feel more comfortable, loved, unified, and 'married' because you changed your name then by all means go for it.

    I must say though, 'because the people at church won't like it' is a horrible reason to do *anything* you don't want to do. There is no doctrinal or scriptural reason for their disapproval, and if they say anything disparaging about it then that just reflects poorly on them.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/17/2006 05:53:00 PM  

  • I second what Starfoxy said, especially that last paragraph.
    posted by Blogger marian at 10/18/2006 03:33:00 AM  

  • Wow! Enough has been said for both parts, so I'll only add that I also kept my maiden name as my middle name. So many women drop their maiden name completely; I don't get it. Of course, I don't even HAVE a middle name, so keeping it was a no-brainer.

    p.s. I have to admit that I like having my husband's last name. I like that people identify us with one name. Plus, as tamrobot stated, that name is pretty cool. :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/18/2006 07:05:00 AM  

  • I'll third Starfoxy on the last paragraph, even if we disagree on identity... :)
    posted by Anonymous tracy m at 10/18/2006 09:44:00 AM  

  • I didn't change my name when I got married. Neither did my husband. I thought that was pretty fair. Now, what were the consequences?

    Church: People occassionally call me by the hubby's last name, but it proves pretty fruitless since I don't answer. If they're talking right to me when they get my name wrong, I just correct them. Some have been bold enough to ask why I didn't change my name, and I've given the answer I first mentioned. (Just so you know, the same people who are bold enough to ask you the question will NOT understand that answer.) More often than not, my husband gets called by my last name at church. He also corrects them; however, no one ever asks HIM why HE didn't change his name or why we have different last names.

    The other times this has been any problems in Church is in the temple. When we went to be sealed for ourselves and then for others, this really throws the sealers for a loop--bigger or smaller depending on their age, in my experience.

    Children: This is the issue my hubby and I discussed before the marriage, not whether he or I would change our last name. I wanted to combine our names in some cool way, but he said no. So we decided to hyphenate the kids' last names. I don't know what effect this will have in the future for my daughter, Sweetie Love Cutie-Patootie (that's right, we gave her a MIDDLE name as well! a mouthful in our American culture). We realized it means she will have a decision to make if/when she marries, but that was our best compromise. We haven't taken her to school yet, so I don't know what confusion we may be courting. But in an age of mixed-named families, I hope it won't be much of a problem.

    I think names matter a lot. I want my daughter to know that.
    posted by Anonymous newmom at 10/18/2006 10:25:00 AM  

  • I think it's interesting that keeping your name is labeled "liberal" and changing it is labeled "conservative." When did names get political?

    I have no advice. Do what you want. I think multiple hyphenations get confusing, but I'll still love you. I think that last comment is interesting, with hyphenating their kids names, but admitting it will be a pain for their daughter when she gets married, especially with their emphasis on names matter. Then she has 3 last names to choose from, and their kids get 4 last names, and the madness has to stop somewhere.

    But it will be their daughter's choice, and to me, it's just not that big a deal, it'll just be one more nuisance she has to deal with along with all the other wedding details.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 10/18/2006 06:38:00 PM  

  • I changed my name to my husband's and I have always regretted it. I took my maiden as my middle.

    My husband and I had the discussion before we got married and he was ambivalent on me taking his name, he didn't think it was necessary if I didn't want to. I wanted to at the time, but have since wished I could take it (give it?) back. He even mentioned that if I didn't give up my name he would be fine with our kids having my maiden name instead of his. He's a progressive guy, haha.

    I'm half Spanish, so when I cross the Atlantic, I have a totally different name comprised of my mother's last name and my maiden name. If you want to add your husband's name to that (by adding the appendage 'de' meaning 'of') you can, but a woman never changes her name. e.g., Betty Smith Stevens de Johnson.

    In any case, don't feel pressured to give up your name. I wish I hadn't.
    posted by Blogger Azúcar at 10/19/2006 10:48:00 AM  

  • I kept my maiden for two years. I hated my husband's last name. But over time, I didn't mind it so much. Like practically everyone here, I have my maiden as a middle name now. When I run into other couples who do not share the same last name, they seem to me to be two discrete people, not a unified couple. It's not that I would think harshly of them, but my gut reaction is that there is a separateness there.

    It's a whole new ballgame with children, and I would hate for them to have a different last name than me (I would be this satellite orbiting the family), or to hyphenate the last names (it's too long, and as someone wrote, the madness has to stop somewhere!), or even worse, give the kids MY last name (it would make their father seem like this distant moon, symbolically totally unconnected to the rest of us).

    In the end, I decided that for simplicity's sake, somebody's last name has to stay and one has to go when a new family is created. I'm okay with that and we're all one last name.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/30/2006 08:46:00 AM  

  • I am glad to hear all the different points of view regarding changing names. I recently had a long time boyfriend leave me because I said that I wanted to keep my name. He claimed that if I didn't change my name then I didn't love him, which was crazy. We are both older and there would be no children. I have no issues with women who change their name I completely understand, but is was just not for me. I am very proud of my birth name and it's history, plus I had no brothers so 8 generations end with me. I felt like leaving my name would be the death of a lineage.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/03/2009 08:04:00 PM  

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